Rising like a phoenix from ashes

From the low of Adelaide to the high of Edgbaston, England’s journey from a World Cup disaster to a potential World Cup glory has been a fascinating tale of humiliation and pride, despair and delight.   

The defeat to Bangladesh in the 2015 event was perhaps the best thing to have happened to England insofar as their limited-over cricket is concerned. They couldn’t have plumbed the depths any further. The group-stage exit following the defeat to Bangladesh led to an outrage that forced them to reflect on their approach to white-ball cricket.

It was outdated which again was the result of Englishmen’s indifference towards the shorter format over the years. In the unstinted love for Test cricket and the attraction towards T20, one-day cricket had always got step-motherly treatment.     

The first step in reviving their limited-over fortunes was getting rid of a few players that didn’t fit into the scheme of things, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell being the notable among those axed. A fresh blueprint was drawn, keeping in mind the 2019 World Cup at home. A diffident and inhibited style of play gave way to bold and carefree method. The batsmen were given free run play aggressively while the bowlers could attack without any restraint. And the results are there to be seen.

“Yes, it's been a process for the last four years,” said Morgan about the turn-around after last World Cup debacle. “In 2015 we were way off the mark, we struggled against the top teams, and the teams that sat below that, so there was quite a drastic change in the way we played and the way we looked at playing our 50-over cricket. That has worked out extremely well for us and given the support that we've had throughout, the ECB, the backroom staff, as players we have taken that I suppose as far as we can so far,” he offered.

In the period between 2011 and 2015, England played 91 matches and they managed to win just 42 of them while losing 44 besides two ties and three no results. Post that, the Eoin Morgan-led side has won 63 of their 109 matches up until Thursday’s semifinal against Australia. They have lost just 33 matches while six of them have ended in no results. One of them was tied. Only India have done marginally better than England, winning 70 of their 107 games.

It’s been 27 years since England had entered a World Cup final since their 1992 summit clash loss to Pakistan in Melbourne. This is the fourth time they have made it to the final of this event, and given their history in the finals, there is a sense of apprehension as they take on New Zealand on Sunday for the coveted title at Lord’s.

“I think we're quite cynical people, who never quite give people credit when it's due,” he said. “There's always a different side to it. We grow up around it. It is the way we are, and we sometimes enjoy it too much. I think us, as a team, we have learnt to enjoy ourselves, particularly days like this, even if they don't go well. If you had offered us the position to play in a final the day after we were knocked out of 2015 World Cup, I would have laughed at you.”

Morgan also did a little bit off the field stuff just before the start of the World Cup, by launching a marketing campaign “Express Yourself” to popularise ODI cricket in England.

“Before the Pakistan series, myself and the head coach (Trevor Bayliss) went into the ECB offices and did a live stream Q&A with an internal one with all the ECB staff, either watching online or in the room in one of the Lord's stands,” Morgan began.

“It was an opportunity for us to launch our marketing campaign and to answer questions but also, you know, unite us a little bit. 50-over cricket has always taken a back-seat to T20 cricket and Test match cricket, so involving everybody, making sure they appreciate the work that they do behind-the-scenes is extremely important for us because -- particularly the social media stuff and all the online stuff, the guys love it, particularly the young guys. So, we launched the Express Yourself campaign that day and it went well,” Morgan said.  

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