May is here in a World Cup year
May is the best month. Not just because it contains my birthday, that of my wife or even that the birch tree pollen fades away. It’s the month when cricket and rugby collide and we can legitimately enjoy both sports without reproach. No, ‘but it’s winter you should be watching rugby.’ Or, ‘it’s not even the rugby season; you ought to be outside practicing your catching’. It’s back to back coverage of both. Armchair sporting nirvana.
Our very good cricket team are heading into a home World Cup at the top of their game and are favourites to win it. And, do you know what, they might just do it. There’ll be a slip up along the way no doubt. A dodgy pitch and a low total or two. It wouldn’t be the England cricket team if there wasn’t a melodrama around the corner.
Forget about it
If you looked back to the last Cricket World Cup and England’s dire performance, it would have been a pipe dream that they would be anywhere near winning the next tournament. Never mind lifting the World Cup. Mind you, if you had told Robert De Niro – yes that one – he would be appearing, dressed in a gold suit, in a Warburton’s advertising campaign for bagels then the response would have been the same: ‘Forget about it’. Tenuous reason number one why England will win.
No. 2 is that 2019 is the year of the English sporting teams’ success. Both European football competitions will produce an English club winner. Liverpool and Arsenal since you are asking. With that in mind perhaps if (when) England win the cricket their rugby counterparts will see off the competition in Japan later in the year.
Same, same but different
Indeed, there are similarities to both the rugby and cricket teams. Both had truly terrible World Cups last time out. It is debatable who was the most humiliated. It being a home tournament that prize probably goes to the rugby team. Having summarily dismissed home coaches both sides turned to an Aussie to get their fortunes back on track. One a genteel estate agent and the other a pugnacious bull dog from Sydney. Their methods differ but their desire to get the job done are unmistakably Australian.
The messages were simple from both and the results were very quick to change. Over the four years the win / lose ratio for both sides (ODI only for cricket given it is a ODI world cup) are as follows:
Cricket 51 wins / 20 losses (71% matches won)
Rugby 32 wins / 9 losses / 1 draw (76% won)
The rugby team began Eddie’s tenure with a bang but had a slump half way through the World Cup cycle. Apparently, we blame the British & Irish Lions for that. Meanwhile, the cricketers had their wake-up call at the home ICC Champions Trophy when a much-vaunted team lost in the semi-final to the eventual winners Pakistan.
The cricketers have really gone on to be unstoppable since then. Only the mighty Saltires have won a series (of one match) and, of the tier one nations, only the Windies have not succumbed to a series defeat and the extraordinary power hitting of England’s batting line up.
When you can score 481 in 50 overs and more recently chase down 359 with 31 balls to spare then what is there to worry about?! Another team fielding and bowling a bit better than Pakistan but we’ll gloss over that.
Predictably there have been some in the press who have being laying the ‘I told you so’ foundations by talking down the England team’s inability to play the conditions and how it’ll see them come unstuck in a low scoring game. There were a few in the Australian series last Summer but we did ok there – albeit against a weakened side. It’s going to be okay. Honestly, it’s going to be fine.
In this age of sharing tips and information across sports we would hope that the cricket team have at the very least looked at how the rugby management (mis)managed the Sam Burgess affair. They have had their own Burgess conundrum brewing for the last couple of years. When the ECB sped up the qualification process young Joffra Archer was always going to be lurking in the foreground.
Naturally, some of the players were asked how they would feel if he was parachuted into the side and quite naturally they were responded that it might upset the team a touch. At least that was what was reported. Dig a bit deeper and everyone has been welcoming and been pretty keen on the idea especially if it gives us a better chance of winning. England have been crying out for a fast bowler (other than the perennially injured Mark Wood) and we have one ready.
There is no story, however, in being welcoming. Just ask our favourite TMS correspondent who has waded into a rather unsightly ding dong on the above topic with a fellow journalist on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, it has been kept quietish but suffice to say the nuances of language, intellectual pomposity and journalistic spin are alive and well. Some of the language would not been out of place on the terraces of Baku or Madrid . And it’s just not cricket. Ironically.
Well, I say pick Joffra Archer. Sadly, someone will have to lose out. Shall we take a punt and say Mark Wood or Joe Denley? They’ll keep David Willey. We need a left armer and he’s bowling well. Moeen can cover the other spinners slot. To have Wood and Archer bowling in tandem will surely improve our prospects. And Joe Denley is hardly one for the future. So the case has been made. The decision has been taken. Joffra Archer for Joe Denley. Sorry, Joe.
Whatever happens it would be heartening to think that Joffra will not do a Burgess and disappear back to his county and, having ticked off a bucket list item, become a franchise player. We have the Ashes coming up after the World Cup. That is surely worth sticking around for. I’d like to see him up against Steve Smith.
Never one to shy away from making daft assertions, I say, let’s be positive. England will win at least one World Cup this year. Australia will not but will be much improved in the way they play cricket. Just ask Cricket Australia. They’ll tell you all is back in order. Best not ask the same of their rugby counterparts. It’s all a bit unsightly there. Just the way we like it. We must not of course give in to temptation and gloat. That would be the work of the devil…
What do I hope for? Genuinely, that England win the cricket World Cup for the Strauss family. Amongst the more human reasons, it was after all Andrew Strauss who set us on this road to redemption 4 years ago. Sure, there has been some help along the way but he put the foundations in place and saw a way to us becoming the best in the world. It is just a shame he cannot be at the helm when – hopefully – on 14th July Eoin Morgan lifts the trophy on a sun kissed evening at Lord’s. Now that would be cricket at its finest and worth all the glory that May offers.
Finally, go on I dare you… have a watch of this. It’s worth it and shows that anything is possible. As long as you promise to sign up for our cricket tour to South Africa. We’ve won our own gold medal too recently.