With the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) finally over, the focus has now shifted to the ICC World Cup slated to begin in England and Wales at the end of this month. Cricket pundits and former cricketers have made their predictions as to who are the favourites to win the coveted trophy. And one team which is touted to be leading the race is England — hosts for the prestigious quadrennial event. England will be going into the World Cup with an opportunity they have never had in the past. It can only be termed as a shame that England, who were the inventors of the game of cricket, have never been able to lift the trophy in the last 11 editions.
However this time round, the Eoin Morgan-led side have a great chance of creating history by becoming the first England team to win the World Cup. England have been in great form in ODIs in the last two years. Since the 2015 edition of the World Cup where England had a horrid time, they have won 55 out of the 80 ODIs they have played (excluding the 2017 Champions Trophy). During the course of these four years, England have won the ODI series against Australia, India, etc. They also set up the record ODI total of 481/6 against Australia in June 2018. England have almost all their bases covered. They have in-form batsmen like Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Morgan, Joe Root, Alex Hales, etc who have the ability to win matches on their own.
Bairstow was in tremendous touch in the just concluded IPL where he scored 445 runs in the 10 matches he played for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Buttler, too, has been in great form in recent times after showing his magic in the IPL. He scored a 50-ball hundred in the second ODI against Pakistan and rang warning bells for the opposition teams who will be participating in the World Cup. Their bowling department boasts of having the likes of Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and Jofra Archer (still to be named in the final 15). All these bowlers have been pretty impressive in recent times and have successfully defended huge totals set up by their batsman.
In Ben Stokes, they have an all-rounder who can clear any boundary in the world and can also pick wickets at crucial junctures of the game. In fact, England have so many options that even Morgan admitted that it would be difficult to trim the preliminary squad to 15. “Unfortunately, a couple of guys from this 17 will miss out, and it’s going to be a tough decision, regardless of how they perform in the rest of this series because of what they’ve contributed over a long period of time,” Morgan said.
All in all, England have their strongest ever squad for the World Cup, as pointed out by former captain Mike Gatting. “One-day cricket is as good as it’s ever been,” Gatting says. “It’s quite incredible the way the format has blossomed again over the last few years and it’s difficult to say who will come out on top this summer. “England have the strongest side they have ever had, and the inclusion of the exciting Jofra Archer is only going to strengthen that. England will not have a better opportunity to win it,” he added.
However, the biggest factor which goes to England’s favour is the home advantage. England, being the hosts, are well aware of the playing conditions and have thereby selected a squad which can perform on the big stage. England have reached the finals of the World Cup thrice but have never been able to win the trophy. And this time round, they would be aiming to make amends and emerge as champions.