The World Cup finally starts on Thursday. Are you excited? On balance I think I am. I’m not exactly pant-wettingly excited, because (a) I prefer Test cricket to the white ball stuff, and (b) I’m too old to get too excited about sport anymore. However, I do sense a certain tingling, which I vaguely recognise as excitement, in my bones. To be honest though, I tend to get paralysed with anxiety more than anything else these days.
You should’ve seen me at the end of the Championship Playoff Final on Monday. When the final whistle went, and Aston Villa – yes I’m a Midlander I’m afraid – had somehow survived Derby’s prolonged barrage at the death, I just collapsed back on the sofa in exhaustion. I couldn’t celebrate because I was emotionally drained. A shed a little tear, exhaled, and then started worrying about next season. I imagine that fellow Villa fans, Ian Bell and Chris Woakes felt the same :-)
Having said all that, home World Cups don’t come along very often so they should be enjoyed. The last time we held a World Cup on home soil I missed most of it because I was in Australia of all places. By the time I’d flown home England had been eliminated. I have a vague memory of Robert Croft looking forlorn, and the ECB having to explain why the team’s official anthem hadn’t even been released yet. This time, I hope, things will be very, very different.
Although I’m bound to be incredibly nervous at times – we will never have a better chance of lifting our World Cup hoodoo – I do think the cricket will be enjoyable. However, I think this will only happen if we see some variation in the surfaces. Personally I don’t want to see 350 plays 350 (or even more) in every game – even though this might suit England.
Cricket is a great game because of its variety. Football pitches are pretty much the same everywhere one goes. Cricket, on the other hand, can create vastly different contests that develop in different ways. But it all depends on the groundsmen refusing to prepare a succession of roads.
Over the next few weeks I want to see some green seamers, slow turners, pitches with pace and bounce, plus the occasional road. I don’t want England to win the World Cup as one trick ponies. Champions should be able to triumph in all conditions, face adversity, and grind out some ugly wins as well as some handsome ones.
Talking of which, what XI would you like England field? What do you think their best XI in normal circumstances would be? Personally I’d like to see an XI of (in batting order) Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Stokes, Moeen, Woakes, Archer, Rashid, Wood. I know the Durham man is a gamble but I’d be flexible according to conditions. Curran and Plunkett will surely play at some point in the tournament. Vince and Dawson will probably sit things out unless there’s an injury.
I like the XI above because it covers most bases. We have eight good batsmen, a couple of handy all-rounders, two quicks who shouldn’t need help from the wicket to do some damage, an experienced seamer in Woakes, a golden arm in Stokes, a reliable off-spinner, and a wicket-taking leggie. None of the bowlers are Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne, but I trust we’ll be good enough (now Archer has boosted our armoury) to defend the scores most expect our batsmen to make.
Will England win the World Cup? Heaven knows. Who thought Pakistan would win the Champions Trophy? However, if we play well, and get our fair share of luck (and every team needs luck) then we should do very well indeed. Funnily enough, I think Australia might end up being the team that threatens us most. Although I’m not discounting India.
In other news – and sorry I couldn’t resist this – the names of five Hundred franchises were leaked over the last 24 hours. Have you heard the names?
We’ve got the London Spirit (presumably because you need to drink copious quantities of vodka, gin, and absinthe to make watching The Hundred bearable), The Welsh Fire (presumably named so that Somerset and Gloucestershire fans feel suitably excluded), The Southern Brave (presumably because you’ll have to be a brave man to venture all the way into the Hampshire countryside to watch this bollocks), the Birmingham Phoenix (presumable because Warwickshire will rise from the ashes of this madness and restore some sanity to proceedings eventually), and the Leeds Superchargers (presumably because they’re just a little bit more ‘super’ than the Deccan Chargers) < cough > RIPOFF < cough >.
The name that really takes the biscuit, however – and this must surely be the worst name in the history of all sports – is the Trent Rockets. WTF?
Trent Rockets sounds like New Zealand’s left-arm seamer has had a firework inserted up his jacksie. The Notts players must be hoping they get drafted to another team. I mean, who wants the name ‘Trent Rockets’ on their CV?
If Alex Hales turns up at the Bangladeshi Premier League, or whatever its called, with ‘Trent Rockets’ on his Cricinfo Bio, his employers will assume that he was once employed by an U8 kiddies team that wore shorts and played with plastic bats.
Whoever thought this was a good name needs to be shot, then brought back from the dead, and then disembowelled. And that’s probably too good for ’em.