We are just a fortnight away from the curtain to be raised from the ICC Champions Trophy, which is the most prestigious and important cricketing event in this year. This will be the third occasion, England are hosting the tournament and this time all eyes will be on Eoin Morgan’s team to go one step further from their previous track records in this tournament, at home.
Previously, in 2004 and 2013, the Champions Trophy was played in England and on both editions, the hosts narrowly lost in the title clash, missing out on their first ever global One-Day International (ODI) tournament triumph. Thus, this time, England will look for their much awaited ODI glory and experts believe, this new-look English ODI outfit has a genuine chance to go all the way.
Recent track record
Since the group stage exit from the last 50-over world cup in Downunder following a defeat against Bangladesh, England have transformed their limited-over’s set-up drastically. They are playing a fearless brand of white-ball cricket, which is very much un-English by nature.
Following the 2015 World Cup, England have won seven out of their 10 ODI series. They have defeated New Zealand, Pakistan (twice), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies and most recently Ireland and went down fighting against Australia, India and South Africa.
Much of the credit for this success is given to the combination of coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Morgan. Under this partnership, England have switched from a conservative to an ultra-attacking style of play — they have posted eight scores of 350-plus in the 50-over format since 2015, having done so just twice in history before that period.
Depth in all three departments
The skipper Morgan has recently called the current England white-ball outfit the “most talented group” he has played with and having seen the kind of talent, potential and depth this team has, one has to admit that it is not an exaggeration.
The squad has every based covered.
In the batting department, they have the likes of Morgan, Jos Buttle, Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Joe Root — who are regarded as top ODI batters in contemporary cricket.
Their list of all-rounders are even more glittering. We all know what Ben Stokes is capable of. Along with him, the likes of Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes are more than utility cricketers.
In bowling, to utilise the home conditions, the selectors have included six genuine seamers in the 15-member squad for the Champions Trophy. The likes of Jake Ball, Mark Wood, David Willey and Liam Plunkett will handle the pace bowling workload along with Stokes and Woakes. Adil Rashid and Moeen will be the two designated spinners.
Most importantly for them, most their bowlers are well capable of contributing with the bat in hand as well, which provides an extra luxury for the team management. Also, with quite a few genuine all-rounders in the team, Morgan will have a lot of bowling options to choose from.
Another important aspect of this England team is their strength in fielding. There is not a single member of this team can be catagorised as a lethargic fielder, whom the captain has to hide.
Thus, like any great limited-overs team, this England side has hardly any weak link, which the opponent can exploit.
“The mindset has changed”
Recently, in a media interaction, Moeen revealed the success mantra of this team.
“The team we have at the moment, we deserve that tag. Playing at home is going to make a massive difference and hopefully, we can win the trophy. We have lost a couple of finals recently [2013 Champions Trophy final against India and 2016 World T20 Final against West Indies] but over the last couple of years we have played very well in preparation for this trophy,” the 29-year-old mentioned.
“Hopefully if we get to the final we can overcome the final step and win it. We have gained experience from the T20 World Cup so it will definitely help us.”
Moeen believes the change of mindset of the players is the primary reason for this success and he feels the influence of Morgan is responsible for this change.
“The mindset of the players has changed. He [Morgan] wants us to play without fear and to hit the lights out. He hardly panics and is very good at controlling his emotions. He is very relaxed which is good from a player’s point of view.”
The hosts are grouped alongside current 50-over world champions Australia, runner-up New Zealand and an impressive Bangladesh in the tournament which starts from June 1 at the Oval.
This Champions Trophy will not just be yet another ICC event for England, it will be a platform to showcase the Renaissance, which English limited-overs cricket has had in the past couple of years. Morgan’s boys are rightly tagged as ‘favourites’ and now the time has come for them to justify this tag.