Legend has it that once every four years, the respected elders at the ICC graciously extend their invitation to a lucky few countries to participate in a World Cup.
By ‘world’, they really mean just a few regions where they can sell advertising slots to an Indian audience. But, I digress.
The juxtaposition is that although the One Day game is predicted to go the way of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the World Cup is still the only ICC trophy with any semblance of prestige.
It stays this way as long as England never win it. Once they do, it just becomes like every other lame ICC honour, like for example, the Test mace.
England have perfected the art of preparing for a World Cup down to a fine art. As natural as a deaf baby giraffe krumping to Beyonce.
How do they do it?
Well, like David Attenborough studies the wild Guinean feathered lizard, so too have I studied how the Poms get the ready for this major quad annual national let down.
It usually begins with their goal of winning just 35% of their ODI games in the prior year.
35 is known to be a lucky number for the English. It defines either the batting or bowling ODI average required by a player to make the team.
In 2014, England took preparation to a whole new level of professionalism, winning, would you believe, exactly 35% of their ODI games. Their 99 against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street was a highlight.
Next, look at their coaching recipe.
They sacked their head spin and batting coaches. Mushtaq Ahmed and Graeme Gooch had probably gone a little bit off. David Saker was kept as bowling coach. His skill in wrecking Steven Finn is unparalleled. Those from within cricket view Saker as ‘on trend’. That, and you need a token Aussie to show the world you are cutting edge.
His bowling plans are stuff of legend. Can you spot what the tactic is here?
Correct! Make the ball land somewhere on the pitch. Anywhere will do. Brilliant stuff.
Now, England also stole Paul Farbrace from Sri Lanka after he lead them to a T20 World Cup win. He then craftily let his new team get pantsed at home in the Test, ODI’s and T20 series against the islanders.
Finally, England and Wales added a dollop of Peter Moores. We all know that recycling is good for the environment. Mix it all up in a big pot and you should get a tasty goulash of ‘we need to justify our positions’.
There is no such thing as over coaching.
English World Cup preparations go into overdrive when selecting a skipper. Typically, you take in a battle hardened leader of men who can make runs when the chips are down. If they are out of stock, prolong your belief that Alastair Cook is more than just a big square jawed block of concrete. Finally, after watching him get slaughtered on a Sri Lankan ODI tour like a baby seal wrestling Jaws, replace him with an Irishman only 4 weeks before the tournament starts.
Works every time.
The final two steps in the English preparation ritual are extremely clever.
Firstly, ensure you allow James Anderson to believe he is the best bowler in the world. To do this, it is critical he is never reminded that at his last three World Cups, he has averaged 41, 70 and 83 with the ball. With any luck, he will ton up.
Compound this by leaving out your most successful ODI bowler in the last 18 months. Tredwell will tour, but never be selected. He doesn’t have a beard or a swanky cover drive so Moeen is ahead of him every day of the week.
Lastly, pick a Test batting lineup.
ODI scores of 350+ are for sloggers and men with immoral character. Only scores of 220, made by gentlemen who prefer clean white clothing shall be allowed.
Bell, Ballance and Root may not be your classical run a ball batsmen, but they will ensure you never get dismissed for 123.
With all this in place, England have entered the 2015 World Cup better prepared than McGyver in a hardware store. They can fix anything. They can get out of any situation.
Of course, those terms are only apt if the situation you are trying to fix or get out of is winning matches.
With any luck, and if all goes to plan, all that great English World Cup preparation should culminate in something like this: