It’s been twenty five years since the English cricket team was last dubbed among the top favourites in 50-over Cricket, let alone possessing the coveted ‘favorite’ tag.
England had never been termed as the no.1 contenders for an ICC event, even when they were a good, handy one-day outfit.
This was- circa 1971-1992.
There were reasons
However, the current changeover of England- exemplified by redoubtable talents of Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Joss Butter, and their likes- has proven to be somewhat revolutionary in one-day cricket.
It’s an enigmatic reminder of an Arjuna Ranatunga-led Sri Lankan side that had reformed itself into a formidable unit of the mid-1990s’.
A team which was, until few years back, equated to a bunch of neophytes, who, seemingly played nothing but medieval- age cricket- have suddenly turned into blokes whose time, it seems has come.
Their current change, however, was long due.
It was only in the mid- nineties, where their string of failures, could no longer be ignored that England decided to claw back into the game it invented.
It took England two decades and 5 failed World Cup campaigns, where they couldn’t reach to single semifinals, to prepare for a mighty turnaround, now very much evident on the cards.
They were able to reach the finals of a Champions Trophy contest just once, having played in 7 editions.
Furthermore, apart from a solitary T-20 World Championship title in 2010, they didn’t have anything to boast of.
Here’s what changed
After the debacle of their 2015 World Cup campaign in Australia, the ECB had had enough.
The first step was about augmenting right kind of talent into a set up that could be both-scalable and remarkable.
With the talk about Alistair Cook’s return (who was dropped few months ago) shut down, indicating that England had moved on, the likes of Ian Bell, Gary Ballance and Ravi Bopara were done away with.
Interestingly, at the time of reviving England’s 50-Over Cricket, their Test squad was also put under reorientation.
The policy to preserve James Anderson and Stuart Broad for Tests began. Soon, one saw Alex Hales and Jason Roy being paired at the top with induction of what could be called dynamism.
In Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, who were already there but had hitherto never been preferred for the long run, return of Liam Plunkett, now- new and improved, perhaps a tear away, in David Willey, they found a 50-Over specialist.
Change now was surely around the corner.
With arrival of Mark Wood amidst young guys like Sam Billings and Jonny Bairstow were put into reserve. And at this time, the biggest change was the change in attitude.
Positive. Fiery. Determined.
Eoin Morgan stormed into the history books, giving a new, resurgent side freedom to play their game. Somewhat reformed and reinvigorated.
The Confidence shown in a young, newly structured English side, one given the freedom to express them did wonders. Soon, English limited over cricket- once somewhat lackadaisical like an old turd began to demonstrate exuberance.
A central highlight to this new phase was England’s routing of Pakistan, 2016. At Nottingham, on August 3, 2016- runs flew like Pink Floyd’s famous reference to a flying pig; wild in imagination, unreal in destruction.
Fans must ask themselves if they have yet gotten over that famous 444 run carnage at Nottingham. Sad thing, Pakistan might not have. Yet.
The current English team, it could be said, is as popular as an India. Or even, Australia.
But are fans giving them enough chance yet?
Do you consider England, now powered by Stokes and Ali, Root and Plunkett as a serious contender?
Even Kohli has revealed, “This English team has no weakness.”
Once again, English exuberance will the be at epicenter of high expectation and usual glib of a tournament as mighty as the Champions Trophy 2017.
So, one’s ought to ask- wouldn’t England be aware of the weight of expectations?
Can they make it count with a newfound mojo?
Will Root and Morgan’s men of capability be able to win their first ever tournament where grandeur is respected with a signature global attendance?
Here’s what seems exciting.
The opening pair of Hales and Roy have been giving explosive starts, though Roy would do well to return to normal ways.
Can the middle order- Root, Morgan, Stokes and Buttler- rally together?
The presence of Mooen Ali has given team a bowling option and his batting has grown over the period.
Then, there’s Adil Rashid, developing as a one day bowling specialist. It’s provided Eoin Morgan a wicket taking spin option.
While Liam Plunkett, David Willey, Mark Wood have formed a formidable pace trio, its heartening to note Plunkett who has immensely grown as a bowler.
So with form hardly being a problem, it this leads to one question.
If England are to lift this checkered trophy, thus becoming the only cricket playing nation to win mighty in the very game it invented- it’ll be a magnificent first. And should that happen, you bet, it’ll be England’s summer to remember.