England captain Eoin Morgan says winning a home World Cup could do wonders for cricket in the sport’s birthplace as he prepares to lead his team in their tournament opener against South Africa.
England are top of the one-day international rankings and favourites to lift a trophy they have never yet won in its 44-year-history — a far cry from their woeful first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Television coverage of cricket in Britain has been largely hidden behind a paywall since England won the 2005 Ashes but Morgan believes a World Cup win would break through to a new audience.
“It would mean a huge amount. The World Cup alone raises the profile of the game and is a platform for every young kid in this country to have a hero or have the inspiration to pick up a ball or a bat,” Morgan told reporters at the Oval on Wednesday.
“To go on and win it, I couldn’t imagine what that would do,” the former Ireland batsman added.
– ‘Brilliant’ Southgate –
The England cricket squad and backroom staff have spent time with England football manager Gareth Southgate, whose side revitalised interest and affection in the national team on their way to the semi-finals of last year’s soccer World Cup in Russia.
“We did do a session with Gareth, it was brilliant,” recalled Morgan.
“He got up and talked about his journey with the team in and around the World Cup, but in the build-up, as well, and how they built bigger expectations and came together more as a group.
“I think everybody within the room listening who has been involved with our team over the last four years recognised that — we started exactly where they did. Recognised what had happened in the past, drawn a line under it, tried to do things differently and move forward and enjoyed the challenge of that.”
But the expectations surrounding England’s men’s football and cricket teams are wide apart, with Morgan saying his side had received a very different reaction when they were beaten by Pakistan in the 2017 semi-finals of the one-day Champions Trophy in Cardiff.
“It’s amazing. He (Southgate) did brilliantly. Got to the semi-final and everybody says it’s great. We got knocked out of the Champions Trophy semi-final, and we’re crap,” added Morgan to laughter from the assembled media.
England may have suffered several injury scares in recent weeks, including his own dislocated finger, but Morgan said all of his 15-man squad were available to face the Proteas at the Oval.
“We’ve no injury concerns and we have a full bill of health for tomorrow,” he said.
With a round-robin group stage in prospect, Morgan had no time for talk of making a statement against South Africa.
“A win under any circumstances,” he said when asked what success would look like at the Oval on Thursday.
Morgan said England’s team had been selected but would not be revealed until the toss, with fast bowlers Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood and Tom Curran appearing to be competing for one place.