England in Australia 2010-11 January 24, 2011

Stewart believes injuries are a blessing in disguise

The former England captain, Alec Stewart, believes that England's World Cup campaign will not be seriously undermined by the prospect of a series defeat in Australia, so long as the frontline bowlers who are currently absent from the team use the opportunity to recharge their batteries midway through their gruelling winter itinerary.

Stewart, who was England's most-capped one-day cricketer until Paul Collingwood surpassed his tally of 170 appearances, played in four World Cup campaigns from 1992 to 2003, and captained the side on home soil in 1999. On two of those occasions - in the subcontinent in 1995-96, and in South Africa in 2002-03 - the tournament came hot on the heels of gruelling five-match Test series, and that is a pattern that has since been repeated with the World Cup and Ashes falling in the same four-year cycle.

The current team is regarded as England's best one-day outfit since 1992, but they once again appear to be suffering from the demands of an overcrowded itinerary. In the aftermath of an historic Ashes victory, they slumped to consecutive defeats in the opening three fixtures of their one-day campaign, and need to win all four of their remaining matches, starting at Adelaide on Wednesday, if they are to extend a run of 16 unbeaten series in all forms of the game, dating back to their tour of South Africa in November 2009.

"The unfortunate thing is we always go to a World Cup after a long winter, so fatigue is a factor, but you can't hide behind that," Stewart told ESPNcricinfo. "They had a tough Ashes series that they built up to and won, and they've now got seven one-day games before coming home for three days then heading off to Bangladesh. It's pretty full on, but they have to accept it and get on with it - which they will, as they are a very professional outfit now."

In mitigation, England have been missing the services of several players who will expect to slot straight into the starting line-up for their first match of their World Cup campaign, against Netherlands at Nagpur on February 22, and this, according to Stewart, is a blessing in disguise.

Stuart Broad is currently recovering from a stomach muscle injury that he sustained while bowling during the second Ashes Test in early December; James Anderson is set to return to action at Adelaide following a ten-day home visit, while Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan will play no further part in the ODI series after suffering knee and calf injuries respectively.

"A couple of good things have happened in a roundabout way," said Stewart. "One is Broad's injury, which means he will come back fresh, Anderson will be a little fresher as well, and as long as Bresnan and Swann come through their injuries, in a silly way England will have benefited before going off to the World Cup. I wouldn't say we are favourites by any stretch, but this is a developing one-day side, and I still think we have a chance, because the frontline bowling attack will have had some rest.

"I think England cover most bases," Stewart added. "They are good in the spin department, they have good new-ball bowlers and good reverse-swing bowlers, but I'd like to see if we've got one more person who can hit the ball out the park, which you need to be able to do on the subcontinent. [Eoin] Morgan is tremendous, but we need someone who can clear the boundary ropes consistently, and it's easier said than done finding one. You'd question whether Luke Wright would be in the strongest side, so that's the only area where we may be fractionally light. But it is definitely our best shot."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo