The 2019 edition of the World Cup goes back home to where it all started in 1973 and the Englishmen will be hoping to finally add the coveted trophy to their cabinet as they host the top ten teams in world cricket. Interestingly, England go into the tournament as favourites and while many would think it is an added pressure, all-rounder Ben Stokes has his own take on the matter.
Speaking to IANS, Stokes said that the tag was a result of the performance that his team has put up day in and day out over the last few seasons. In fact, rather than feeling the heat, he just cannot wait for the showpiece event to get started on May 30 after demolishing Pakistan in the just concluded ODI series.
"I think we have earned the right to be favourites with the cricket that we have played in the last three or four years. Being world no.1 you will always come into the tournament as favourites. If India or Australia were the no.1 ranked team, they would come into the tournament as favourites. But we cannot take the no.1 tag into the tournament if we want to win it because as you saw during the Champions Trophy (2017) that we were playing great cricket and then we got onto a wicket against Pakistan which wasn't suited to our style and suited them more. But we have learnt from that and we are more capable to adapt to situations now than we were back then. We are a much better team now because we are able to read situations better," he explained.
The once in four years extravaganza also brings with it an opportunity to see the best in the business clash against each other as they chase ultimate glory. Talking of the best, two players who will be really looking to make it count are India skipper Virat Kohli and former Australia skipper Steve Smith.
While Kohli's form will be crucial for India to stay true to their favourites tag, Smith will want to use this event to once again show the world what it missed out on for the last 12 months as he served a ban after the Sandpaper Gate. For Stokes, it is about watching two high-class performers weaving their magic on the fans.
"They are both phenomenal players and have played quite a bit against both of them. You watch them play and they make the game look a lot more easier than others do. So, I am a massive fan of both the players. They have both got their own styles and they are both different in the way they play, but they are both very very effective. You obviously play against guys to win, but at the end of the day you got to look at it from an angle that I love cricket and I love watching both Virat and Steve go about doing their jobs so consistently," he confessed.
Coming back to the English team, while many have been talking about how Jos Buttler and Stokes will have a crucial role to play as England chase their dream of winning a World Cup, the all-rounder believes this English team is more about firing in unison than about individual stars.
"The reason we have done so well is that it hasn't been about one player. Different people have put their hands up at different times, whether it be with bat or ball. You have someone like a Moeen Ali who probably goes under the radar as a performer for us. He bats down the order and bowls his 10 overs very economically. To have a player of his quality lower down the order is amazing.
"We have Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, skipper Eoin Morgan and obviously Jos Buttler who go out and play these amazing innings. We also have guys who go under the radar but do their bits very consistently. And one person we definitely need to be firing is Morgan as he is a great leader of our team and when he is going, he keeps scoring. Both Buttler and Joe Root are high quality players who go about doing their jobs, but I feel Eoin firing is really important," he pointed.
Having home fans to cheer for you is obviously an advantage. But Stokes also brings in the ever so crucial "on that day" factor while agreeing that having fans backing the players as well as sharing the moments with family and friends will be a great thing.
"I think home advantage is a good thing coz you have your home fans to back you. But then, the thing with the World Cup is that whoever turns up on the day and plays better cricket will win, so the home advantage doesn't matter if you think that way. Was speaking to Steve Smith a few days back about it and he was telling me how playing in front of the Australian crowd and sharing the moments with his friends and family was really special and one of his best memories. Having spoken about it so much, I really want the World Cup to start now. Just want that first game to get underway," he smiled.
While form is temporary and class is permanent, a lot has been made of Stokes' performance ever since the pub incident in 2017. But the all-rounder believes that a player must not let failure or success affect his journey and just like one cannot rest on past laurels, one mustn't let failure take a toll or hamper self belief.
"I think everybody would want to be consistent, but you take it as it comes. Everyone wants to go out and do their best every time, but sometimes it doesn't come off and you just wipe out that part. Also, if you do well, you can't live off that," he said.