Major sporting tournaments are usually traumatic enough for the English without also having to cope with the tag of being favourites.
But that is the situation for England heading into the Champions Trophy, a competition on home soil where anything less than an appearance in the final will likely be seen as disappointing.
Such is the high-variance nature of short-form cricket that being favourites is often a poisoned chalice. The very concept of one bad day at the office ruining your competition is what makes Test cricket – still regarded by most as the pinnacle of the game – the ultimate way to determine greatness.
And yet someone must win in every form. Even if you are not the very best, you are still likely to be the very good and England would settle for being even pretty good if it sees them lifting the Champions Trophy at The Oval in a few weeks.
It hasn’t been a competition that has sparked much conversation, really. The World Cup’s little brother rarely does but, in England, with a young, aggressive one-day unit, there is a high chance we hear more as the competition – and the home side – progresses.
Facing the first ball for England at The Oval on Thursday will be Jason Roy, the young blitzkrieg of a batsman who has been a key cog in this side’s short-form revolution. Yet as the clouds blew into London on Wednesday and the wind swirled, so did talk of Roy’s place in the team – with Jonny Bairstow tipped to come in for his out-of-form teammate.
But that would be to underestimate Roy’s standing within this side. Not only does he count on loyal teammates who have seen what he can do all too often – not least his last ODI on this ground when he struck 162, the second-highest score by an Englishman ever – but close friends too. Roy’s aggressive style at the top of the order is seen as something that sets the tone for everyone else that follows. On his day, there are few batsman, if any, who can destroy an attack out of the gate like he can.
And if this wasn’t already widely known outside the dressing room, then skipper Eoin Morgan – a key ally of Roy – went out and blitzed questions about the Surrey opener’s inclusion into the stands in the same way that he hopes the 26-year-old will against Bangladesh in the opener.
“The decision remains the same throughout the tournament,” said Morgan.
“Jason Roy is part of our strong opening partnership with Alex Hales. He’ll definitely play.
“One of the strongest parts of reinforcing the way that we play and the freedom with which we play is backing that up with (consistent) selection.
And in case people thought that coach Trevor Bayliss might reshuffle halfway through a World Cup cycle, Morgan clarified that this means a full tournament for Roy, even if the runs still do not come.
“I cannot see it changing,” added Morgan.
“If we want our players to play cagey or without freedom, yes, we would change things – and probably half of us wouldn’t be here.
“At no stage have we second-guessed ourselves or the direction we’re going in, and I think that’s very powerful as a group.
“So (we’re) backing it up with selection … Jason really epitomises the way that we play – his aggression, he always plays for the team. “He’s a very important part of our side.”
Laraib Kashif is a freelance writer and cricket lover. He is interested in writing and playing Fantasy Cricket!