Over the years, England have redefined how limited -over games are played. Probably that’s a reason they have been the most dominating of all the teams of late, and have more importantly, a successful track record in global events. Think the 2010 T20 world cup. Don’t forget the 2019 ODI world cup. However, a string of injuries and absence of some major players pose what could prove to be an enormous challenge for Her Majesty’s finest in the UAE. The key question, however, is can Eoin Morgan himself and his team rise to the occasion?
The World Cup qualifying round has started already, and the top eight teams have been gearing up for the event with some keenly contested warm up games.
And yet, surprisingly one of the most high-profile teams of the tournament has gone under the radar. So why’s that?
Eoin Morgan’s England have been centre of attraction of global events since 2015, when they introduced the world to a new brand of cricket. They have won the 50-Over World Cup ever since, 2019 to be precise, though lost the 2016 T20 finals due to the maniacal onslaught by Carlos Brathwaite, which perhaps the famous Bajan himself would not have seen coming, let alone the man who couldn’t have been stoked by it at all.
Remember that game?
Six years before that event they also won their first ever global event in the Caribbean.
Challenges: Truth be told, the team that opens its campaign in the next few hours is facing challenge on multiple fronts. For starters, a number of key players are missing from the team. These aren’t just any players; these are matchwinners of the likes of Ben Stokes.
Then there’s no Jofra Archer either- easily among the deadliest exponents of raw pace bowling. Moreover, there’s no Sam Curran either.
The absence of this trinity is going to put enormous pressure on the senior players, one of which is the captain, Eoin Morgan.
That the captain’s form has been a cause of concern for the team will not assist England and the cause one bit. So how’s that?
When was the last time, the poker-faced man, who’s a bit like Kimi Raikkonen of F1, in that he doesn’t express all that much, raised his bat to notch up a mega T20 score?
Morgan has insisted that he might drop him if the team can do better without him. The team though would him to turn both as a batter and as a captain who has inspired them to tremendous success in recent years.
The team also need to cope up with sluggish UAE pitches which might pose huge challenge for the team batting last, in such a scenario the challenge of this outfit increases especially the group in which they have been put.
England Team’s mental toughness and the ability to enjoy the moment rather than going for the result formula has been the reason for their remarkable success over the years. Eoin Morgan might have said that they are only contenders as India is the team which are bookmakers’ favourites but by doing this, he has tried to ensure that England enjoy every moment of the journey, just like they have done in 2016 in India.
Despite all its struggles, England’s top order still seems to be most explosive of all the teams in the tournament. With Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow making up a formidable top order, Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone’s presence ensures that there is no time for opposition to relax and if Morgan finds his touch, England’s batting might be enough to take them to semi-finals.
The big absences of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran, all three being match-winning players, England’s lower-order seems light.
Now if the top order fails, that being anything but a slouch with Bairstow, Buttler and Root then the bowling department will come under enormous pressure in having to defend what’ll likely be a below par score.
A lot, therefore, would come to have rested on Stokes and Curran, two of the finest hitters and slashers of the white-ball, one a proven star, the other, a fine one in the making.
That both are absent is going to hurt and endlessly so. Which is also where there’s this sense of gladness that someone like a Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes is around that can lift the team amid pressure.
It’s the useful medium pace of Woakes, combined with the alacrity of England’s national treasure albeit unrecognized so far- in Adil Rashid- that’ll pose an interesting challenge to the batters.
But beyond all of these telling aspects, the team’s confidence doesn’t look all that great or does it? Remember, England are in a group that can be dubbed the group of death provided the flair and firepower of teams like Australia, West Indies and the Proteas can make it into one.
With their batting firepower England have a great chance to reach the semi-finals, but going beyond that on their current form seems doubtful. That’s also because anyone who thinks T20 tournaments, let alone world cups can be won only on batting or boisterous hitting alone is either the next god almighty- albeit in his own mind- in the making or is living under a rock.
Not that this rock can be found in Gibraltar or anywhere on this planet.