England's selectors are likely to spend January worrying over the fitness of three injured players following the announcement of their 15-man World Cup squad tomorrow. Such news should come as no surprise when one considers the run of luck Nasser Hussain's side has had with injury during this tour. And these distractions – along with not knowing whether they will play their first match in Zimbabwe on 13 February – cannot help the squad as they prepare for the biggest tournament in cricket.
Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles have already been forced to return home following a groin problem and a broken wrist respectively but both should have recovered in time for them to fly to South Africa. However, Craig White, who tore a muscle during the fourth Test, must be a doubt as injuries like his often take longer to heal than the six weeks prescribed.
England have nothing to lose by naming all three in their squad because the rules allow each country to replace members of their original 15, should they fail to recover from injuries they had before 31 December.
If White and Flintoff fail to prove their fitness, England would be desperately short of quality in the all-rounder department. Ronnie Irani has looked short of class on the quicker, bouncier pitches of Australia – which will be very similar to those in South Africa – and after this the cupboard is pretty bare. The next option is Adam Hollioake, who has not played an international since the last World Cup.
There is a lack of continuity in the bowling department too. England's attack will have a completely different look to it than the one expected to compete four months ago. With injuries to Darren Gough and Simon Jones ruling them out, England have been forced to turn to two raw and inexperienced cricketers. Stephen Harmison and James Anderson have both given England hope for the future but to expect them to push Hussain's side to World Cup glory is ridiculous.
The strongest part of England's game is their batting. It is in this department where the experienced players are and it is with them that England's hopes rest. One-day cricket is about scoring runs so England are fortunate in this respect. In form, Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick are a formidable opening pair and Hussain or Michael Vaughan has to come in at No 3. Irani has been found wanting and this responsible position should be taken up by a recognised batsman. The Somerset all-rounder Ian Blackwell could be one to look out for. His style of batting is uncomplicated – somewhere between Trescothick and Lance Klusener of South Africa – and he gives the ball an almighty thump.
England's plans, almost entirely because of injury, seem to have been thrown rather than put together and because of this success in South Africa is unexpected. However, it is possible to win the World Cup through winning seven of the 10 matches you could potentially play and even England are capable of this.
ENGLAND Probable World Cup squad: N Hussain (c), M Trescothick, N Knight, M Vaughan, P Collingwood, A Stewart, A Flintoff, C White, I Blackwell, A Giles, A Caddick, S Harmison, J Anderson, R Irani, M Hoggard.
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