A four-year project awaits due reward

Azad Majumder . London | Published: 00:00, Jul 14,2019


(From L-R): England players Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan attend a training session at Lord’s in London on Saturday. — Reuters photo

World Cup final saw few upsets in the past in West Indies’ loss to India in 1983 and Australia’s loss to Sri Lanka in 1996 and an England defeat to New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday could very well be judged in the same way in future.

This was not because England were the host country and its team played better cricket than New Zealand on their way to the final in this tournament rather due to a project they undertook four years ago and carefully implemented that could not be denied a result now.

Since losing to Bangladesh in the previous World Cup in Australia, which ensured England’s elimination from the tournament, they revolutionised their game in 50-over cricket in a way that no other team could do in such short period.

The World Cup final will be England’s exactly 100th game since Bangladesh defeat and they won staggeringly 66 matches of them, the best win-loss ratio by any side during the period.

It’s, however, not the number of wins that made England a great team over the period, but rather the manner in which they came as they developed a ruthless batting unit and unveiled a leg-spinner who quietly did the job for the side.

England had to play one more game against Afghanistan after losing to Bangladesh in World Cup 2015 and had seen a game against Ireland abandoned in Dublin before they could finally start the project in Edgbaston, ironically against the same opponents that they were going to face in the final.

Three players who excelled in the game - Joe Root (104 off 78 balls), Jos Buttler (129 off 77 balls) and Adil Rashid (69 off 50 balls and 4-55) - played part and parcel in England’s revolution and should likely have another go in the World Cup final.

Rashid, who bowled Kane Williamson with a googly to proclaim England’s revolution, played 93 off 99 matches in England’s new cycle while skipper Eoin Morgan and Joe Root played 92 and 89 matches respectively.

The number of matches of Morgan, who could have increased his number if he had not skipped the 2016 Bangladesh tour, Rashid and Root played only indicated that England always kept their trust in a core group of players to revolutionise their game.

While other major teams like India and Australia suffered from lack of consistency in team selection and ball-tampering scandal, England used just 34 players during this period, the least by any team, to change their game.

They reaped the rewards, scoring over 350-plus total 18 times during the past four years, whereas they could do the same only twice previously.

All the hard work paid off as they now booked a place in a World Cup final after 27 years to give them another shot at winning their maiden title after defeats in previous three occasions.

‘It means a huge amount to me and everybody in the changing room,’ skipper Morgan summoned the mood of the team on Saturday before the final.

‘It’s a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication, a lot of planning and it presents a huge opportunity to go on and try and win a World Cup,’ said Morgan.

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