T20 World Cup 2021 – ‘We’ll back ourselves to beat any team’


England fly out to Oman with half of World Cup squad already in situ at the IPL

When England were beaten by West Indies in the final of the 2016 World T20, Eoin Morgan was the only player in their side who had made an appearance in the IPL. Five years later, the squad members departing the UK for the World Cup will hardly fill two rows on the plane between them, with eight of the 15 already in the UAE with their respective franchises.

It is a measure of the ECB’s shift in attitude towards the tournament in the last half-decade, a U-turn which would make any government wince. Four of the seven squad members flying out on Monday night (Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Chris Woakes) withdrew from their IPL deals ahead of a gruelling winter and the other three (Tymal Mills, David Willey and Mark Wood) have all played in it previously; James Vince and Liam Dawson, both travelling reserves, are the only exceptions. If England go one better than they did five years ago, their involvement in the world’s premier domestic competition will be justifiably be hailed as a major factor.

That is not to say that things have been going smoothly for England’s players in the desert. Sam Billings and Chris Jordan are yet to get on the pitch, Sam Curran has been in and out of Chennai Super Kings’ side, Liam Livingstone and Adil Rashid have both been dropped and Eoin Morgan is clinging onto his role as Kolkata Knight Riders captain after a lean run with the bat. Even Moeen Ali and Jason Roy, the two guaranteed starters, have not found things easy. England’s ultra-positive batting has served them well on flat pitches around the world in recent years but their players’ struggles raise the question as to whether it will be sustainable if surfaces are slow and tired.

Mills, returning to the squad after an absence of four-and-a-half years on the back of his performances for Sussex and Southern Brave this summer, has been a keen observer from afar – when childcare duties have allowed, at least. He revealed to ESPNcricinfo last month that “four or five teams” had been interested in signing him as a replacement for the UAE leg, but he had not registered for the auction earlier this year due to a stress fracture which forced him to wear a back brace for three months over the winter, rendering him ineligibile.

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