The ICC Champions Trophy is imminent, with England and Wales hosting this high profile cricket tournament. Starting on June 1 when England play Bangladesh at The Oval, the fortnight will see the eight highest ranking one day international teams do battle. Can England – who’ve twice reached the final – win for the first time? And which teams are our biggest challenger? Former England captain Michael Vaughan gives us his predictions…
Can England win the Champions Trophy?
Yes – it’s a good enough team. Like any major sport, in a high end tournament you need the right players to be playing right, at the right time – plus a bit of luck! But it’s English conditions, and the last two times the Champions Trophy has been in England, we reached the final – and this team is a lot better. I think they’ll get to the business end of the tournament, it’s just whether they can win those big moments. That’s what one day cricket is about. They’ve got to put in a performance. If they do, they’re a difficult team to beat.
How is this England better than previous ones?
They play the modern way – they’re powerful. They’ve got a load of big hitters, which you require now in one day cricket. If they’ve got one concern it’ll be the bowling. They have decent bowlers, but not X factor bowlers that can change the game. So I’d worry about the bowling, but in terms of batting, they’ve all the power required.
Which teams do you see as the biggest challenge?
New Zealand aren’t as good as they were, but India are always a threat because they’ve got two or three incredible players. Bangladesh may surprise us – they can beat anyone on their day, but the conditions might be against them. Our biggest challengers will be Australia and South Africa.
Could England be the best team in the world in the not too distant future?
They’re very competitive, particularly in English conditions. Their Test game needs a semi-refurb, but in one day cricket they’ve come on remarkably. It’s not at its pinnacle, because they’ve not won anything yet, but other than two outstanding bowlers, they’ve got everything they need to be a high class team. They’re up there with the best teams in the world.
Who would you pick to lead England’s bowling attack in the Champions Trophy?
I love Mark Wood – he’s got that X factor. He bowls quickly, and gets wickets pretty much whenever he gets the ball in hand – he’s just got to stay fit.
Is the Champions Trophy necessary?
50-over cricket is under pressure, because T20 is such a great spectacle, but it’s necessary if England win!
Did you enjoy playing in the Champions Trophy?
Yeah. The World Cup sometimes goes on for too long – it takes weeks and you’ve played that many games that you know you can lose a couple and still win the tournament. The players like the Champions Trophy because it’s short, sharp and if you have a bad game, you’re out, which makes it very competitive. The players know they have to switch on from the get go. It’s very much about the here and now.
What are your highlights from the Champions Trophy from your playing days?
We reached the final in 2004 and although we lost to the West Indies, we’d beaten Australia in the semi-final and pretty much 80% of the team went on to win the Ashes in 2005. Even though it was a different format of the game, knowing we could beat them gave us a huge amount of confidence. That was a big moment in our development as a team.
Can Test cricket, one day and T20 all survive in the future?
Test match cricket needs a relevance. It needs more than just the Ashes series or England versus India, it needs a league where you know exactly who’s at the top – maybe a bit of relegation. 50-over cricket is coming under threat, because T20 cricket is so short, sharp and flamboyant. Everybody loves to see the ball flying around the park. The young person who’s coming through these days doesn’t want to spend the whole day watching cricket – three hours is about right. There are traditionalists who say with 50-over you can have a bad hour then come back, but we’re in a different world now.
Is that because we’ve all got shorter attention spans now?
I just think there’s more happening. You go back 25 years, there were four TV channels, there’s now millions! There’s more for people to do and watch, and there are more sports as well. Also, the business world’s changed. It’s easier for business people to get to a T20 game after work, than spend all day at the cricket. That’s just the world that we’re in.
What are your thoughts on the new domestic T20 tournament plan?
I think it’s great. The proof will be in the pudding, in a few years when it’s up and running, but look at the IPL in India, the Australian Big Bash, the Pakistan Super League, the Caribbean Premier League – these are all new tournaments they’ve started from scratch. We have a heritage and history with our county game here, which is great, but a brand new tournament, eight teams, advertised as the best teams in the world, with a bit of terrestrial action so people can see it. I think it will be a huge success.
What are the pros and cons for the England Test team, as a result of Alastair Cook quitting the captaincy?
The team lost eight games in 2016 and that’s not good enough for the amount of skill and talent in that dressing room. So the positive is, the team needed a fresh start in a different direction, and a different leader. The possible negative is that they’ve put their best player in charge and cynics are worried that Joe won’t score the runs. I think he’ll score loads of runs – it might be his trigger in making sure he’s on to get the big hundreds more consistently. It might be just the tonic for him.
What kind of Test captain will Joe Root be?
He’ll make a good one – he’s got the traits to be a high class captain, he just needs a bit of luck, and a bit of time. He’s got to be realistic that as captain you get more headlines – more criticism, more praise – so it’s finding that balance of being on the even keel. You see everything as a captain, because you have to know what people have said. He’s a down to earth kid, so he’ll be fine if he can keep his mentality normal and avoid getting wound up by silly little things. He just needs to play the game, and enjoy it. If he does that he’ll have a great chance.
You’re active on social media – is it something you enjoy?
I think it’s great fun. I laugh at people who are opinionated on social media, then complain about criticism. I’m open to it. I think I’m right, many will think I’m not right, and it’s fine for them to have a pop back. People won’t always agree, but it’s only a tweet. It makes me chuckle – I think,’“good on you!’ At least they’ve had the decency to reply. That’s the fun of social media, people having opinions and interacting with people who 10 years ago you’d never have had the chance to interact with. I say be opinionated, have a pop, but be open and honest. If you’re James Brown, be James Brown – don’t have a stupid name like J14567X.
You retweeted Steven Gerrard saying success is more about mentality than the talent, and you need to be obsessed. Is that something you would agree with and apply to cricket?
Yes. When I was at my best, I was obsessed with the game. I thought about it 24/7 – I was like a bulldozer. You have this driven mentality of a goal you’re trying to achieve. I didn’t do it for long enough, only three or four years. The best – Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi – were at it 12 or 15 years deep. You have to have an obsession. Sir Alex Ferguson says the one thing you require, whatever you’re trying to achieve, is enthusiasm. To drive a team and drive a business, you need enthusiasm. It’s similar to obsession – you’ve got to have one thought process at that given time. If your mind’s wavering at the end of your career, you’re knackered as a sportsperson. You need a single minded tunnel vision towards what you’re trying to achieve. Your mind has to be completely committed.