Dreams of winning a maiden Cricket World Cup at the 11th time of asking may be a little unrealistic but for the England cricket team, progression to the final four of next year’s competition would resemble a real achievement.
Whilst Kevin Pietersen’s autobiographical comments about his former teammates dominates discussion in the sport the current crop of England players have to turn their attention to next spring’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
Led by Alastair Cook, they are faced with a group that includes Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan. They will need to finish above three of those sides if they are to progress through to the quarter-finals, and avoid a repeat of their
embarrassing World T20 showing earlier this year.
But before they embark on another World Cup campaign they must discover their best line-up and get that side to play as much cricket together as possible before the tournament starts.
With Stuart Broad out until the new year as he recovers from surgery, there is an opportunity for bowlers to stake a claim for a starting spot. The upcoming ODI tour of Sri Lanka will give Peter Moores and Cook a chance to check out a few more bowling options.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Alex Hales can make a successful transition from international T20 opener to to ODI star.
Despite winning the World T20 in 2010, England have never won the Cricket World Cup, finishing as runners-up on three occasions. With that in mind, it would be a success for the team currently ranked fifth in ODI cricket to reach the semi-finals in 2015.
In order to do that, they must turn up on the biggest stage in the sport. Whilst individual performances can single-handedly win a match, it is important for as many of England’s players as possible to contribute runs and wickets.
While there is a good chance that England can get results against Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan to secure progression to the knockout stages, they may well have South Africa, India, Pakistan or the West Indies waiting for them in the final eight.
All of those sides would offer a difficult challenge to Cook’s men but the change in the competition’s format could provide hope for England.
In recent tournaments, a super 8 stage has preceded and provided the teams that will contest both semi-finals. But now the Three Lions will only have to win one knockout game after the group stage to ensure they reach the final four of the competition.
Whilst England are often blasted for being inconsistent, they are capable of beating any side on their day, and with that in mind, it’s not out of the realms of probability that they can at least reach the semi-finals of next year’s World Cup.