ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
England captain stressed the expectations won’t hamper his side’s performance in the World Cup. © Getty
In an ever evolving cricketing landscape, four years is a good amount of time to build a world beating team that revolutionised the way ODI cricket is being played. England are a living example of that. From failing to make it to the knockouts of the 2015 edition of the World Cup to possessing a star-studded side that has a penchant for record totals, England have come a long way in the last four years. Hence, it hardly came as a surprise when most of the captains who had gathered at the media interaction on Thursday (May 23) labelled the hosts as the favourites to lift the 2019 World Cup.
The last four years have been a period of revamp for England, who have only five players from the 2015 squad in the current set-up, including skipper Eoin Morgan. With a team brimming with all-rounders, hard-hitting batsmen, pacers who can bowl really quick and a useful spin attack, England have all bases covered in their bid to clinch their maiden title in the 50-over World Cup.
Looking at the numbers since the end of the 2015 World Cup, England have the most number of wins and are one of only two teams along with India to bag in excess of 50 victories in the said period. With a win percentage of close to 70 since January 2018, and seven 350-plus totals in the said period – three more than the next best – England have set a template heading into the 12th edition of the world event.
But with all that also comes the pressure of expectation, something that Morgan is aware of and hopes to handle it by sticking to the methods that have worked well for England in recent years.
“We always talk about why expectation is there. Expectation doesn’t come out of hot air. We have scored some high scores, particularly at home and that’s built a lot of confidence within the side. We certainly believe the expectation is there for a reason,” said Morgan. “Obviously we’ve prepared pretty well but World Cup is a different kettle of fish. You still have to play against some of the best sides in the world, all the best teams in the world, to earn the right to get to the latter stages.
“Like every other side, we’ll have to do that regardless of what has been before. Everything you’ve done, yes it does contribute – experience, performance, confidence going into the World Cup. But you still have to produce it then as well. We’re as best prepared as we possibly could be. We want the first game to be tomorrow. Get yourself into the tournament regardless of what happens. In many ways, you just want to play that first game. Put your head on the pillow ahead of the first game knowing you’ve done everything possible to prepare your best before the tournament and to go out and do your best to give a good account of your country,” said the England skipper.
For England’s opposition on the opening day of the World Cup, it’s a different label that they’re carrying as they enter the event. As several of their players have stressed, including captain Faf du Plessis, South Africa are flying below their radar as far as expectations are concerned. Star players like AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel have retired and although the team still possesses a fair share of experienced cricketers, there are some new names as well.
“Compared to the previous tournaments, teams that we’ve had, it’s a lot younger in terms of the names that we have on the team sheet. With that comes exciting opportunities for younger players. We’ve got some experienced campaigners that have been to World Cups. But there’s absolutely no guarantee that South Africa will come here and win the tournament. There are 10 high-quality teams,” said du Plessis.
The South Africa captain reflected on the importance of playing the best cricket and not worry about the result as he recalled some of the memorable and emotional matches that his team played in the last World Cup. “For us, there were some really good times when we have played in the previous World Cups. Really enjoyed that we started playing some of our best cricket towards the end of the (2015) tournament. Had a really good game against Sri Lanka in the quarterfinal and then a fantastic game of cricket against New Zealand, who were better than us on the day.
“As long as you’re doing that, that’s all you can control. If you’re playing your best cricket, if the opposition is better than you on that day then you hold your head up high and say ‘well done’,” said du Plessis, adding that the history wouldn’t have any bearing on his team’s performance in their latest quest for a world title. “You can’t control history. I’m a firm believer that you can’t control the past or the future. All you can try and focus on is what’s there ahead of you. If that’s good enough on the day then it’s great. If it’s not, as I said, as long as the opposition is playing better than you, then it’s okay.
“It’s about a year or two about planning, putting teams together, putting players together, putting game plans together. Just excited for the tournament to start actually now. It’s been a long process of looking forward to the World Cup and in a week’s time we’ll get there,” du Plessis concluded.