Current ODI ranking: 1
Main man: Joe Root
Appearances in World Cup: 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 20011, 2015
Best: Runners-up: 3 times (1979, 1987, 1992)
Squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Dubai: England are one of the hot favourites for winning the World Cup and all pointers leading us to believe that the chances are bright as the hosts, unbeatable at home conditions, are No. 1 in One Day International rankings. After three failed attempts, this squad probably has the right mix of players to make it fourth time lucky. The team has been meticulously planned to target the showpiece since their rout in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Leading the renaissance of English cricket is an Australian, Trevor Bayliss, who took over the reins just before the start of the Ashes series. Despite starting as underdogs at home, England produced a gritty performance to lose the series 3-2 against the arch-rivals Australia. Since then, England has been making rapid strides in all formats of the game and has reached the pinnacle of the rankings in one-dayers.
Adding to that feat is by making the World Twenty20 Cup final in India, where the conditions are not favourable to them, England proved that they have the required skillsets to excel on all surfaces, conditions and in all formats.
The batting line-up is so long that it will be a Herculean task for the rivals to dismiss them. Starting with Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy as openers and followed by Joe Root, Jos Buttler, who is in the form of his life and shreds the rival attack to pieces with precision and orthodox shots like an artist — who wields his brush to create a masterpiece. Skipper Eoin Morgan will follow suit before the army of all-rounders, who can fit into any team as batsmen.
Starting with Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, who played at No. 4 after Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL) speaks volumes about his potential, while Tom Curran and Jofra Archer are no bunnies with the bat.
Chris Woakes leads the bowling, which has the right variety and mix to succeed at home conditions. Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Sam Curran and Archer, who was drafted into the final list after the Jamaican impressed with his pace during the series against Pakistan, complete the pace battery, while leg-spinner Adil Rashid and off-spinner Moeen Ali will come into play on dry surfaces.
This squad doesn’t have too many weaknesses and has been running on full steam like a well-oiled machine. However, the controversial exit of Alex Hales, who was left out of the squad after failing tests twice for party drugs, came as a late blow. That means the opening slot requires an alteration with Bairstow filling in the void. James Anderson, the leading bowler of England in Tests, will be sorely missed, especially when there is a cloud cover. Woakes will have a big pair of boots to fill in the absence of the strike bowler.
The hosts are aware of the opportunities to make this World Cup count. The players know the grounds and conditions very well and will be backed by a strong crowd, England will be as usual a tough nut to crack at home. In addition, England have had a proper preparation with a series against Pakistan, boasting one of the best bowling unit, and won the five-match series comfortably, even chasing scores in excess of 300. Though an under-strength England, without Root and Morgan, suffered a narrow defeat against defending champions Australia in the warm-up tie, it does not merit enough to ring the alarm bells.
England, who have done well in the past couple of years, have choked in the final hurdle thrice in the 50-over World Cup and twice in the 50-over Champions Trophy finals (2004 and 2013) at home. Almost all of them have come when the hosts were seemingly in a position of strength. The biggest threat, hence, will be to overcome their personal demons and believe that they can capture the coveted prize.
The only major ICC trophy in England’s cabinet is the World Twenty20 Cup, which they won 2010, but subsequently lost to West Indies in 2016. Playing at home, the crowd support will be a big boost, but it can also be counterproductive as the hosts have to carry the weight of expectations. Fitness of players will also be the key to their success, as many of them are injury prone. Even before the start, pacer Wood is under foot injury cloud while skipper Morgan has suffered a flake fracture to his finger during training but is expected to be fit for the opener. Stokes too has a history of breaking down and keeping himself fit in such a long tournament, especially as he comes from a gruelling IPL schedule, will be a tricky task. The hosts will be hoping against hope that they go through the without any glitches and get their hands on the trophy.