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All-rounder shrugged off disappointment of his first two World Twenty20 campaigns to win last time out and is confident that his England team will put up a strong defence

Evening Standard

Carrying high hopes: Skipper Stuart Broad says England should put on a good show in the World Twenty20, as long as they keep their focus. Inset: Celebrating as England win the T20 World Cup. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

Stuart Broad is preparing to lead England in the defence of their World Twenty20 title well aware that the shortest form of cricket can quickly turn you into a villain.

At the inaugural tournament in South Africa five years ago, Broad was hit for six sixes in an over by India’s Yuvraj Singh. Two years later, he bowled the final over of the competition’s opening match at Lord’s with Holland requiring seven to win. He missed three run-outs and dropped a catch, leading to a sensational win for the minnows on their first visit to the headquarters.

For Broad, all this is part of the learning experience in the most unpredictable form of the game.

So, should Broad meet Yuvraj, now recovered from cancer, again when England play India in the group stage in Colombo on Sunday, the lesson he will take with him is: “In T20, if you put the ball in the same place more than a couple of times in an over, batsmen get used to that. The skill is to be unpredictable.”

The pain those experiences caused him was replaced by joy in the Caribbean two years ago when England won their first one-day trophy.

The 26-year-old said: “I’ve experienced a lot in Twenty20 cricket: been involved in good wins, bad losses in very close games, so not a lot fazes me. It makes you a stronger character and all that experience can be good when you go to a World Cup.

“We know what it takes to win a World Cup. What we learned is don’t panic if you start slowly. We actually lost to our own England Lions team a few weeks before the tournament, lost the first match to West Indies and scraped through the group.

“We got lucky on run rate against Ireland to qualify. But then we suddenly found a formula that powered us on to win and were unstoppable. We were like a train that just kept on going.”

The bowlers provided the engine of England’s Caribbean express, recalls Broad. “We always kept the opposition to about 140 which, on the wickets over there, we could chase and we never really panicked with the bat,” he says.

“In the West Indies, we only actually batted first once [in the victory over South Africa in the super eight stage]. Apart from that we won all our games bowling first.”

Broad has plenty of faith in his current unit and says: “I believe that our bowling is up to retaining the title. We are looking very dangerous with the ball.”

His confidence is based on the belief England’s pacemen will be able to handle Sri Lankan conditions. “You still can swing the ball in Sri Lanka actually,” he says.

“It’s not the worst place to bowl a new ball. But you’ve got to bowl very straight. There’s no margin for error on the sub-continent.”

Pace will be backed by as fine a spin unit as England have taken abroad. “Graeme Swann’s fantastic for us and we’ve got the two left-arm spinners in Samit Patel and Danny Briggs. Danny has been a standout bowler for Hampshire in domestic titles, a really good addition to the squad.”

Swann is likely to be used in the middle overs. “He is better used when the field’s out and he can build pressure through the middle,” says Broad.

And, in Jade Dernbach, England believe they have the ideal bowler to end the innings. “Different teams have different specialities in that position,” says Broad. “A lot of our guys are really good at getting the yorkers in now but we’ve got a very good death bowler in Jade. He’s turned himself into a really good Twenty20 bowler — so unpredictable and he has got a fantastic slower ball.”

Given that praise for the bowlers, it is reasonable to assume Broad will stick to the formula that worked so well for England in 2010 when Paul Collingwood opted to put the opposition in to bat.

However, the all-rounder says: “If it looks like wickets are really going to turn, I would prefer to bat first. If you get a good score, it will be hard to chase over there.”

English batting has not always done well on the turning sub-continental wickets but Broad says: “I hope that, for a world event, Sri Lanka will prepare wickets that will be good. I don’t think they’ll turn quite so much as the Indian wickets. It’s obviously well documented that we haven’t played well in the sub-continent in one day cricket but it’s a great opportunity to put it right.”

Such optimism may seem misplaced given that the player voted the Man of the Tournament in the Caribbean, Kevin Pietersen — with 248 runs at an average of 62 — will not be playing in Sri Lanka but broadcasting for ESPN.

Pietersen quit international limited-overs cricket in June and although he reversed that decision, he was then left out of the squad for the tournament after admitting sending “provocative” texts about Andrew Strauss to South Africa players during the Second Test at Lord’s.

Without Pietersen, England’s Twenty20 team have found a new force in Alex Hales. The Nottinghamshire batsman hit a record 99 against the West Indies in June and yesterday top-scored for England with 52 in their nine-run victory over Australia in Colombo. Broad says: “Kevin’s a world-class player but he made himself unavailable when he retired from one-day cricket in June. The opportunity went to Alex who ended up getting the highest score by an England batsman in Twenty20 cricket.”

In the first two editions of the tournament, England failed to qualify for the semi-finals but Broad is hopeful they will progress to that stage, providing they keep their focus. “The thing about Twenty20 cricket is you’ve always got to be sharp and on your game because it is such a short game,” he says.

It is the longer form of the game that derailed England this summer, losing their prized No1 Test status to South Africa. However, Broad is certain being knocked off top spot will not be at the back of the squad’s minds in Sri Lanka. “It was a shame we performed disappointingly in the Test series,” he says. “But there’s a lot of mental strength and character in the changing room that will help us get back on track. And we’re led by a very good man in Andy Flower. A fantastic coach, he’s got high standards and he expects a lot from his players. That’s a good thing.”

Broad even draws some comfort from the seven-wicket defeat in the first Twenty20 international against South Africa at Chester-le-Street.

“We batted really well in the past eight months in Twenty20 cricket,” he says. “We did have that bad ¬performance but that’s fine. It is a learning experience and better doing it against South Africa in Durham rather than in the first World Cup game.”

Nor does the youth of the side worry Broad. “People talk about the team’s inexperience,” he says. “A lot of the guys have not been involved in the Test side but they have played a lot more Twenty20 cricket than the guys who have played Tests.

“Jos Butler [who hit an unbeaten 32 off 10 balls to secure victory in the third Twenty20 match and level the series] has played a lot more Twenty20 cricket than Graeme Swann, although you’d class Swann as a lot more experienced. It is not Test experience that matters but know-how of international cricket.”

Broad himself is not all that ¬experienced in leading England, having captained only nine times in Twenty20 cricket in the last 16 months. This reflects the fact that, in that period, England had different skippers for Tests, 50-over and 20-over matches.

Unique as this was in world cricket, Broad justifies it by saying: “We’re the only country that play all-year round, so it is quite tough for one captain to do them all. It has worked really well. With the three captains, whenever you come into your specific role, you can bring a lot of energy and ideas into that role. When you become captain, you do actually put your own game aside a little bit and you care a lot more about what everyone else is doing, thinking and feeling.”

And, for good measure, captain Broad makes sure his players don’t call him Broady, his nickname in the Test side. “I prefer to be called Skip,” he says.

The nation may decide to bestow a grander title on Skip Broad should he achieve what no holder of this trophy has done and bring it back from Colombo.

It would be an ideal end to this unique summer of sport.

Stuart Broad is an Investec Test Match Cricket Ambassador. The specialist bank and asset manager are title sponsors of test match cricket in England. Investec.co.uk/cricket

      

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