THE PROBLEM with achieving success is the difficulty involved in trying to maintain it.
After a huge effort demanding years of planning/prioritization, England finally climbed the mountain by winning the 50-over World Cup last year.
But it will be a much more difficult challenge to climb it again at the next World Cup in India in 2023.
Preparation for that competition effectively starts today, when England play their first one-day international since lifting the trophy at Lord’s last July.
They face South Africa in Cape Town in the first of a three-match series that continues in Durban on Friday and concludes in Johannesburg on Sunday.
It is the start of a new, intruiging cycle as England build towards that goal of defending their crown in three years’ time.
Memories of that unforgettable, sun-soaked Sunday at Lord’s, and the dramatic Super Over scenes against New Zealand, are now just that – memories.
In sport, as in all things, life moves on quickly – and with increasing haste in cricket’s saturated schedule.
That schedule is one reason why it will be tougher for England to win the trophy three years from now.
For World Cup glory came at a price – a distinct lack of glory, it has to be said, in Test cricket.
Consequently, there has since been a shift from white-ball back towards red, an acceptance that priorities have changed once more, with England keen to make an impact in the new World Test Championship, the final of which takes place at Lord’s in June 2021.
It is the next item on their bucket list, so to speak, along with winning the T20 World Cup, which is now their main white-ball focus ahead of back-to-back tournaments in Australia next autumn and in India in 2021.
Fifty-over cricket? Not so much of a priority now, or at least not right now, albeit still important to an England hierarchy chasing sustained success in all three formats – an increasingly difficult aspiration, by the way, given the various competing priorities and juggling acts involved.
For England to win the World Cup again in 2023, they will need to evolve personnel-wise, so there is likely to be some experimentation in the next couple of years.
Most of the World Cup-winning side will be on the wrong side of 30 by 2023, and it is important that England integrate fresh blood.
Ideally, they want to broaden their player pool now before nailing down specific plans nearer the time as to how to win in India, where death bowling is likely to be particularly important on high-scoring pitches in mostly small playing areas.
They will be looking to their young bowlers, in particular, to step up and provide variety while also integrating the likes of Somerset’s highly-rated Tom Banton into a batting department that should not need quite as much attention.
Although it will be tough to win back-to-back World Cups, particularly in subcontinental conditions, that is not to say it is beyond England.
They still have a heck of a side in the 50-over format – one which now finds itself in the happy, if unfamiliar position of being the hunted as opposed to the hunter.
They should be more than good enough to see off South Africa in the coming days, even accounting for the fact that Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood have been rested and in the absence of Jofra Archer (elbow).
Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow is back to boost the batting, and the line-up is packed with quality and experience.
Banton is set to get his chance, along with Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, another exciting young hope for the future.
Perhaps the biggest question concerning the 50-over team heading towards 2023 is whether captain Eoin Morgan will still be around to lead it.
At this stage, the 33-year-old has committed himself no further than staying on for the T20 World Cup later this year.
If he wins that competition, Morgan, who has ongoing back problems, may decide that there is no better way to bow out than as a double World Cup-winning captain.
On the other hand, if his form and fitness holds, he could yet continue to the T20 World Cup of 2021 and also to the 50-over World Cup of 2023, ultimately bowing out as a three-time or perhaps even four-time World Cup-winning captain.
Hey, wouldn’t that be nice.