Could England win the World Cup?
It’s a question that could be laughed off as ludicrous, optimistic or perhaps even imbecilic.
However, in just five days the World Cup will begin and so too will England’s campaign – against red-hot favourites and hosts Australia.
Given how hyped the build-up is towards any English sporting team in close proximity to a major tournament, is it too much to suggest that England could win the Cricket World Cup?
On paper at least, England have a chance.
Coach Peter Moores is starting to shape his side into a balanced, professional unit with both strength in-depth and the correct mix of emerging talent and established stars.
The most exciting of the talented players in England’s squad is Jos Buttler.
Buttler’s ability to play shots across 360 degrees mirrors the style of AB de Villiers, who is by far the world’s leading batsman at present.
Yet Buttler has a formidable journey to take if he is to morph into a cricketer capable of the destruction that de Villiers can wreak at will.
Not only that, his wicketkeeping skills must improve if he is to emulate de Villiers later in his career.
Aside from Buttler, England’s coaching staff will be hopeful of a polished display from opener Moeen Ali, who looks the perfect foil for Ian Bell, a player most at home when quietly accumulating runs at the top of the order.
Moeen is not a batsman of maniacal aggression, but his timing of the ball is majestic.
The Worcestershire man has also drastically improved his spin bowling and is the leading long-term candidate to replace Graeme Swann in all forms of the game.
England’s celebrated bowling unit is also worthy of attention, with James Anderson spearheading an attack comprising of Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan.
Throughout the winter ODIs against Sri Lanka, Australia and India, the bowlers outperformed the batsman in what has become an established trend over the past few seasons.
Worryingly for England it is a trend that extends to all forms of the game.
When Alastair Cook, a batsman who struggled for runs for a long period of time, departed as England captain it was Eoin Morgan who took over the reins.
Morgan’s own form at that time was patchy, but his batting record when captaining England previously was far better than when he wasn’t.
However, Morgan’s form has continued to decline into his tenure as permanent ODI captain.
After hitting 121 against Australia in the first match of a tri-series also involving India, Morgan was then dismissed for two ducks against their arch-rivals and only managed two runs against India, before another dismal duck during the defeat to Pakistan in England’s final warm-up game.
Despite Morgan’s scratchy form, he remains one of England’s most dangerous batsmen and could in the future form a mouthwatering alliance with the likes of Buttler if he remains in charge.
Morgan and Buttler are both ‘finishers’, meaning they can accelerate their scoring to win their side a match when chasing a total in excess of 300 runs.
Too often, though, they have been found out – particularly when chasing such lofty totals – and the World Cup will provide plenty of giddy run chases if England are to go deep into the latter stages.
If England were to be successful Down Under, plenty of work needs to be done on the mentality of the batsmen when chasing large totals – a fear of such run chases also seems to plague the England batsmen.
England’s middle order also needs to score runs faster, in greater volume and with a prudent balance of orthodox and unorthodox shot selection.
Perhaps they have been hindered by the ECB central contracts and the subsequent lack of experience in T20 cricket such as the IPL, where players such as de Villiers and MS Dhoni have both honed and revolutionised the skill set of a modern batsman.
World Cup victory may therefore be out of England’s reach, for now.
Looking at their squad, their recent performances and their ‘flair’ players they could reasonably expect to make the quarter-finals, but any result beyond that would be seen as a shock.
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