This week, Virender Sehwag came out on top of the Twitter debate against British Journalist, Piers Morgan with one simple salvo - the cradle of cricket, England have not won a single World Cup yet. That shut Morgan up for good.
But, if we are to go by the brand of cricket that England have been playing over the last one year, a World Cup may not be much farther than three years when the next edition comes up in 2019. England, or shall I call, New England have transformed them to a completely different entity within a year after their 2015 world cup debacle.
The English have always done much better in the purest form of the cricket than the other two. Following the blitzkriegs of Sanath Jayasuriya in the 1996 World Cup and the subsequent attacking displays of many others in the early part of 2000s, world cricket has transformed in the ODI format. 200-250-300-350 - the progression went on as average ODI scores kept climbing, aned even then they were nowhere close to defensible as teams chased down previously insurmountable targets. Australia and South Africa took the format to a completely new level with that one match at the Wanderers. But, England all along played with a defensive attitude in a bid to keep their excellence in the traditional format of the game alive - that only curbed their progress in ODIs.
When the T20 format arrived, many English cricketers in fact shunned the format to keep their technique intact in the longer format. Even as the world started to fall in love with the T20s, the founder of cricket persisted adamantly with its disdain for the format. Their string of dismal performances in limited overs cricket continued. But something of a watershed moment happened just before the 2015 World Cup.
There arrived a new zeal, one replete with promises, promises full of vision.
The determination was clear - they had to win that damned Cup sooner than later. But for that, they needed to take some serious steps. Steps that stopped nowhere - even if it meant a few heads rolled.
The England and Welsh Cricket Board (ECB) sacked Alastair Cook as the captain from the One day format and presented Irish young man Eoin Morgan, the duty, just before the World Cup 2015. It was the first of many steps in England’s grand attempt to bring home the glory by the then newly appointed director- Andrew Strauss. Notwithstanding the bad performance Down under, it was a decision that had to be taken to infuse fresh blood to suppress the overtly defensive mindset. Morgan is inherently an attacking batsman and does not shy away from a challenge at the crease. His attacking intent reflected in his leadership of the team as well, and he started bolstering the confidence of the side in the shorter format of the game which, for long, had been missing.
England have also adopted the ‘horses for courses’ rule to be successful in the shorter formats of the game. The Test specialists and the shorter format specialists have been assigned a particular job to do. While Cook, Anderson, Ian Bell have been assigned to keep the English dominance in the whites intact, a fresh batch of players like Moeen Ali, Liam Plunkett, Jos Butler, Jason Roy and Sam Billings have taken the English side forward in the ODIs and T20s.
As if the stars were aligning towards this special event, the rise of Joe Root has synchronized with the rise of England. The 25-year old Yorkshire batsman has taken on bowlers all over the world in every format of the game with his delightful stroke play and sheer brilliance. He has recently completed 3,000 runs in just 77 matches at an average of 46.28. The feat came against Pakistan, although it will be remembered more for England’s record of the highest-ever One Day International score. With Root and other players making a name for themselves for their attacking prowess, England’s hopes of conquering the world of cricket appears perfectly supported.
As much as the change of mindset gets mentioned, the statistics undeniably show just how brilliant they have been in the last one year. Following the World Cup debacle last summer, England have played 28 ODIs including two wash-out games. Amongst that, six 350-plus scores and another six scores between 300 to 349 have defined the coming of age of England’s ODI batting. The attitude of playing defensive cricket even in the shorter format and grinding down on the wicket as long as possible have all but disappeared to give way to a new-look approach from the side.
The presence of more than capable batsmen till number 9 has also made the cruise smoother for them. Ben Stokes has proved his mettle as an all-rounder on more occasions than one, while Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes can punch above their weight even in times of turmoil to deliver the sucker punch. The new-found resolve at the back has certainly helped the batsmen to bat freely without any inhibitions at the top of the order.
The stage appears all set as the Champions Trophy comes up in their own den just less than a year away. Remember 2013? They did not have the best team, but they still made it to the final. With such a team around, they might just stay on to deliver the last blow this time around. If England can keep their wits in place for another nine months, their first shot may end up as the perfect launchpad as they set sights on the bigger prize in 2019.