Every cricket World Cup, a number of Associate Member (a.k.a. second tier) cricket teams (a.k.a. “minnows”) get to swim with the big fish. This time around, Canada, The Netherlands, Kenya, and Ireland will be duking it out with Australia, India, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, the West Indies, Bangladesh, and . . . England.
Why the ellipsis before England? Because, in spite of hosting the competition twice and inventing the damn game, England have never won the quadrennial shindig. And, given that England almost lost to The Netherlands in the opening game of the 2011 World Cup, it’s a good bet they won’t this time. Which makes one wonder whether the team is quite as big a fish as it might claim to be. Nobody’s quite sure why this state of affairs should obtain: England aren’t that bad, they won the World T20 Cup in 2010, and usually make it through to the quarter- or semi-final stage of the 50-over World Cup before going down in flames.
It’s my bet that, apart from an exhausting cricketing schedule that has seen some members of the team on the road for the vast majority of the last four months, the hunger for it isn’t there. Test cricket is as popular in England as the shorter forms, and I fancy that, in their heart of hearts, these cricketers just think it’s a more worthy form of the game. They won’t tell you that, of course, and I could be very wrong. One way they could prove it, however, is by winning the competition. Shut me up, fellas.