Can England win the 2015 Cricket World Cup?

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A quick look at the One Day International (ODI) World Rankings used to decide which of the 14 teams contesting next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand paints a somewhat flattering picture for England.

At the time of the draw, Alastair Cook’s men were the top ranked ODI team in the world and by virtue of this, avoided meeting either of the other two top three teams in the ODI rankings, South Africa and India, in the Pool stages. That still leaves England facing a somewhat daunting task of taking on Australia and New Zealand on home territory, as well as Sri Lanka also in their group. Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland make up the final teams in England’s Pool A.

Pool B sees South Africa and India looking to have an easier time of it against Pakistan, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.

So being ranked first, it is reasonable to assume that England have every chance of ending their 40 year drought to win their first ODI World Cup title? Recent form and events suggests not.

England recently took on India in a six-match One Day International series on home soil. England won the final two matches by forty-one and three runs respectively, but by then the series was over as the Indians had thrashed their hosts in all of the three preceding games, winning the series 3-2; the first match was abandoned.

England’s high ranking stems from an excellent period between 2008 and 2012 where the team won far more ODI series than they lost, although there were a couple of thumping losses in there at times, notably to Australia and India.

Since their 2-1 win in New Zealand at the end of 2012 and going into 2013, England have lost five of the eight series they have played in; their only victories coming against Scotland, Ireland (both one game events) and a 2-1 win over West Indies at the end of 2013 and start of 2014. Such has been the drop in form that former England spin bowler Graeme Swann publicly called for his friend Alastair Cook to give up playing the one day version of the game.

Swann likened Cook’s captaincy of the ODI to a “poisoned chalice” and said that the “cricket England are playing 50-over cricket is outdated” adding that England’s current tactics equate to the team being “happy to tootle along in a two-litre diesel in a Formula One race.”

Cook reacted strongly to the criticism, stating that it was hard to take from a “so-called friend,” but the fact of the matter is that Cook’s form in the One Day game is not on par with some of the best one day opening batsmen playing the game at present.

In terms of strike rate amongst batsmen with 3000 ODI runs, Cook ranks 16th out of 20. Cook has not scored a one day century for two years and since July 2012, he averages just 31.6 with the bat with a strike rate of 72.66. Compare that to the likes of Shikhar Dhawan (92.63), Quinton de Kock (91.87), Hashim Amla (86.83) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (82.99) and Cook is way off the pace.

Yet it is not as if removing Cook from the equation would resolve matters. England have sorely missed the injured Ian Bell this series but new faces throughout the team have fallen well short of the standards expected. Only Moeen Ali has hit a half century in the current series against India, the highest average after that is a desperately poor 29 from Alex Hales.

England may be ranked 1st in the ODI rankings for the seedings of the group, but don’t let that fool you. This is currently a poor, disorganised and out of sorts one day England team. They are lacking the drive and direction that the team needs to challenge the top sides in the World Cup next summer.

Captain Cook’s latest trip Down Under this winter is not likely to be a successful one.

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