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England's 'biggest year in a generation' starts with Windies test

AFP  |  London 

England begin a 2019 that England and Wales Board (ECB) believes represents a "once in a generation" opportunity with a tour that could yet prove uncomfortably awkward.

With both a -- a tournament the England men's team have never won -- and an Ashes on home soil on the horizon, it will be a challenge for England's leading cricketers in both the one-day and Test formats to maintain their focus on the challenge in front of them rather than be distracted by the bigger prizes ahead.

A three-Test tour and five-match one-day series in the Caribbean, which gets underway with a warm-up fixture against a Board XI in next week, should provide a good barometer of England's progress.

Joe Root's Test side are second in the world rankings, while Eoin Morgan's men top the equivalent one-day standings.

By contrast, the are currently eighth in the Test table and ninth in the ODI list.

England, fresh from an emphatic away Test series win in that followed a home success against top-ranked India, will be firm favourites.

And yet England have won only one Test series in the West Indies since 1968, when Michael Vaughan's team sealed a 3-0 victory in 2004.

- Overwhelming favourites -


They've toured the twice more since then, losing 1-0 in 2009 and then drawing 1-1 four years ago after a build-up where ECB had dismissed the West Indies as "mediocre".

Root's men will have to cope with the pressure of being overwhelming favourites to beat a struggling West Indies side who will be coached by an Englishman in the recently-appointed

Yet for England, the stakes are even higher in what will be Australian Trevor Bayliss's final year in charge before stepping down.

Following their miserable first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup, former England turned ECB supremo Andrew Strauss, made limited-overs a priority.

This year's edition will prove the worth of that policy.

More than that, the fact the Ashes and fall in the same season -- something that hasn't happened since the inaugural 1975 men's in England -- could provide the ECB with a massive opportunity to connect with a wider British sporting public who have lost contact with the game.

Many casual fans, and potential lovers, were 'abandoned' when the ECB decided to end live free-to-air television coverage of home internationals after England's 2005 Ashes triumph in favour of more lucrative deals with

But as Michael Atherton, the former England turned wrote, the absence of a major international tournament in 2019 offers cricket the chance to "own" the summer in its birthplace.

"Rarely, though, have the two biggest events in the English cricket calendar, and Ashes -- as well as the women's Ashes -- combined with so little competition for what marketing types term 'eyeballs'," said Atherton.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, January 12 2019. 10:55 IST