Skipper Eoin Morgan says England’s preparations for the start of the World Cup on Thursday are a big contrast to the ‘chaotic’ build-up to the last global tournament four years ago.
Morgan declared his side fully prepared and ready to take on South Africa at the Oval with a settled formula and squad.
It’s a starkly different picture to the last World Cup when England went into the tournament on the back of a run of defeats. Then, newly-appointed captain Morgan inherited a team that was ill-equipped to play the kind of one-day cricket needed to mount a serious challenge.
Since that ordeal – which saw England knocked out in the group stages – Morgan has fashioned a side which has reached number one in the world. He has adopted a fearless approach, giving players like Jos Buttler and Jason Roy licence to play their natural attacking games, taking one-day cricket to another level.
Contrasting the preparations for 2019 with those four years ago in Australia and New Zealand, Morgan said: “The final three days before the last tournament were quite chaotic, trying to think about what we were going to do and how we were going to turn things around.
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“We’d just come out of a tri-series where Australia had beaten us up and down Australia. We beat India once at Brisbane which got us through to the final [of that series] where we were beaten again. We were constantly trying to find a formula that might work in the group stages of the World Cup.
“There were a lot of meetings and chats about how we could better, whereas today [Tuesday] I’ll be playing a lot of golf!”
Morgan added that England would be back practicing again on Wednesday, but the fact that he was able to give his players a day-off is a sign that that they feel relaxed and comfortable with their games ahead of the tournament.
Such a settled and close-knit squad raises comparisons with the England men’s football team who went into Russia 2018 with similarly clear game plans and a positive team environment. The approach helped them become the first England side to reach the semi-finals for 28 years.
Morgan will hope to go one better and emulate England women’s captain Heather Knight, who lifted the World Cup at Lord’s two years ago.
“We feel ready,” he said. “We’ve felt ready probably the last week or so. If we hadn’t played the two warm-up games against Australia and Afghanistan, we still would have been in a position where we felt confident enough to go into that first game.”
Morgan is encouraging his players to embrace the pressure of being tournament favourites.
“It’s a huge compliment. Pressure is actually quite a huge opportunity. I’d much rather be going in as favourites than not even considered contenders.
“Everyone’s going to feel that anticipation and that excitement of playing the first game on Thursday and it will be different than any other day. It will be great. I’ll be encouraging the guys to embrace it.”
England had a further boost on the eve of the tournament with pace bowler Mark Wood and Morgan himself both given a clean bill of health after recent injury scares.