Glenn McGrath, who has turned making pre-series predictions into a mini-sport of its own, has come out with perhaps his most surprising prediction yet, naming England – arch-rivals during his playing career – as the favourites for the 2019 World Cup.
McGrath retired from international cricket in a blaze of glory, as Player of the Tournament in the 2007 World Cup in which Australia smothered all opponents, and remains one of the game’s all-time greats. He is now the director of cricket at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai where his role is to mentor and finetune young fast bowlers.
During his playing career, McGrath was part of an Australia team that regularly beat England, but it is the hosts’ recent one-day prowess that has made him back Eoin Morgan’s team as the one to beat. “England, a very good one-day unit,” McGrath told ESPNcricinfo recently during his trip to India. “To me they are the favourites going into this World Cup, so I think they’ll do very well.”
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Was this the first time McGrath has called England a ‘favourite’ for any cricket tournament?
“Probably! I can’t remain biased my whole life,” he laughed. “You’ve got to go on current form. The England team – the way they go about it, they have impressed me. They have scored some big, big totals. Most teams used to go hard in the first 15 and the last 15, and consolidate in the middle. But teams like England, India are just going hard the whole 50 overs, and that’s the impact T20 cricket has had. So yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘England are the team to beat’ or the ‘favourites’.
“I didn’t say they were going to win the World Cup though! So they are the favourites and are going to be tough to beat in their own conditions, but fingers crossed, Australia can do well.”
India and Australia, McGrath said, were the other clear contenders based on the form and past history.
“The two standouts to me were India and England, with fingers crossed, Australia doing well. South Africa are always a good team, West Indies are bit of a dark horse – they can play really well or badly, probably similar to Pakistan. So it’s going to be an interesting World Cup. England and India are tough to beat, but with Australia’s form, I think we’ll see them make the final.
“I was a little bit concerned how Australia were going to go, but their form of late has really impressed me. They’ve performed really well in conditions that are not suited to them, so that bodes well for their chances. I’d like to think that they’ll make the finals. India are a quality one-day unit as well. They’ll be in the running.” (ESPNCricinfo)