Cricket World Cup 2019: Winning the title would be a massive facelift for England cricket – Eoin Morgan
England captain Eoin Morgan is hopeful of the World Cup drought ending at last. © AFP

LONDON: The country may not have a buzz around the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 – seriously, not many on the street seem to know or care about the quadrennial extravaganza – but for England captain Eoin Morgan the drive to win the coveted trophy is higher than it ever has been.

It is, after all, the day before the World Cup opener between England and South Africa at The Oval.

For England, ranked No 1 in ODIs and with an outstanding record at home since the summer of 2015 – nine of 11 bilateral series won – this is the best chance to win the elusive World Cup, many feel. It’s in the papers, on TV, all over social media. Former players and TV pundits cannot stop talking about England’s chances. The depth in the team’s batting is the hot talking point inside The Oval, with several former international captains discussing this.

According to Morgan, inside the dressing room there is simmering confidence.

“Yeah, we’ve spoke about it as a group. The level of expectation and favourite tags is there for a reason. Over the last two years, our form at home, in particular, has been outstanding, and that’s the reason it’s there,” he told reporters in the basement of The Oval on Wednesday. “A lot of the World Cups earlier I played in, a couple of the guys in the changing room have played in, we’ve gone in with very little expectation and not done that well, and I’d pick that position over any other.

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“It’s difficult to describe them unless you actually hear them say it, but I think there’s a lot of belief within the room. We’re very confident within our own game. I think it ahead of tomorrow, the first game of any World Cup or first day of a national series always feels different, and that’s natural for it to feel different because it will, accepting that, and finding a way of dealing with it on the day, is a challenge within itself. But one that we’re extremely looking forward to.”

Under Eoin Morgan, England have transformed as an ODI team since the last World Cup. © Getty

Under Morgan, since that disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign, England’s white-ball form has transformed dramatically. They have twice broken the highest total in ODIs and today can seemingly chase down huge totals or post them. Whenever England bat, it is as if the fans expect 400 to be scored.

While Morgan can today look back at England’s ODI transformation, winning the World Cup is what matters.

“I think we’ll need to win a trophy at some stage,” he said. “I think the transformation has been brilliant. I think finding some way of sustaining that and improving it over the course of however long we might see World Cups, 50 over World Cups played, whether it be 10, 20 years, whatever it is, we would like to be at a stage where we’re in and around this position right now on a consistent basis.

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“Because when you look at other teams around the world that have consistently competed for World Cups like Australia and India, in particular, they find themselves there all the time and it’s not by fluke. So building on this and moving it forward, a lot of it will have to be driven by the players, but it will have to be backed by the organisation, as well.

“It would mean a huge amount [to win the World Cup]. I think the World Cup alone raises, I suppose, the profile of the game, and a platform for every young kid in this country to have a hero or inspiration to pick up a ball or a bat.
So to go on and win it, I couldn’t imagine what it would do.”

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The England cricket team are ranked No 1 in ODIs and seen as World Cup favourites.

So is this a case of now or never, with the rise of T20 and the impending The Hundred on the horizon?

“I wouldn’t say it’s now or never,” said Morgan. “Yeah, just not something that’s crossed my mind. We made a huge amount of progress. Cricket at home is thriving. The women’s game is thriving. The impact of that World Cup two years ago was amazing. I think the impact of this World Cup can have, you know, not as big an impact unless we go a long way, but it will have an impact on everybody. We got knocked out of the ’99 World Cup early, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.”

Morgan, an Irishman by birth, to lead England in a World Cup in England is something he could never have envisioned as a child growing up in Dublin.

“I never dreamt as a kid that I would captain England at a home World Cup. I dreamt about scoring a Test match hundred. I dreamt about hitting the winning runs in a World Cup final, potentially. But I never dreamt not even in my wildest dreams that I would captain a home World Cup.”