Jos Buttler’s side head to Cardiff for the start of a four-match ODI series against New Zealand on Friday, with that run of games the last chance for fine-tuning ahead of next month’s World Cup opener against the same nation in Ahmedabad on October 5.
Only two countries have ever defended the men’s World Cup, West Indies winning the first two editions in the 1970s and then Australia claiming three on the bounce between 1999 and 2007.
Those two sides are rated among the greatest cricket teams in history and England, who are also the reigning T20 world champions, have a chance to join an elite club at a tournament that could prove a last hurrah in the format for a generation of players who have transformed the white-ball game in this country.
“Everyone wants to go back-to-back,” opening batter Bairstow said. “Everyone does, it’s something that you dream of. But we’re under no illusion that in India it’s going be very tough, there are some quality teams around the world.
“There’s going to be some upsets, there’s going to be some interesting pitches I’m sure at times. There’ll be different conditions around the country and it’ll be the team that adapts the best that that gets the best results.”
England went into the 2019 edition ranked No1 in the world after a remarkable four-year upturn under Eoin Morgan, but came dangerously close to pool stage elimination following defeats to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia. Only wins in their final two games against New Zealand and India - both inspired by Bairstow hundreds - saw Morgan’s side reach the semi-finals, where a comprehensive victory over Australia set-up the epic super over triumph over New Zealand at Lord’s.
The task looks even more daunting this time around, with hosts India strong favourites and no team having won the World Cup away from home since 2007, but Bairstow believes the experience of that jeopardy four years ago will stand England in good stead.
“It wasn’t just plain sailing,” he added. “Having to win four out of the last four games in order to win the competition. We’ll be able to call up on those experiences in the big moments in the big games during the World Cup.
“There’s guys that have got a lot of experience playing over in India that’ll be in the IPL or previous white-ball series. So, hopefully we’ll be able to call upon those experiences individually.”
The upcoming series against New Zealand will at last see England return to full-strength in the 50-over format, which has been the third priority behind Test and T20 cricket for much of the last four years.
Bairstow, like Joe Root and the unretired Ben Stokes, will be playing his first ODI in more than a year as part of a squad that includes nine survivors from the 2019 triumph and the 33-year-old is confident that the chemistry built up across the last two tournament cycles will make amends for a lack of recent practice as a unit.
“I don’t think there’s too much worry about cohesion or people not having played together for two months, six months, 12 months, 18 months, whatever it may be,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s too much of a worry when the group has played together for, what was it, seven or eight years? So, it’s one of those where you just fit back and you slot back into your roles.”