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Stuart Broad: We Can Defend Our Title

England’s Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad spoke to Jo Harman ahead of the World Twenty20 and said that while his side won’t go into the tournament as favourites, he is confident they can retain their title in Sri Lanka.

Ever since you first started in the game, you seem to have had a tight connection with Twenty20. Do you feel it’s provided a pathway for you through your career?

Yeah, looking back it was probably what got me in the England side. The Twenty20 campaign in 2006, when Leicestershire won it, was my first experience of playing in front of big crowds, playing on TV, and it gave me a taste of it. I made my debut off the back of that. I think I went into my ODI debut with two domestic one-day games behind me. Then I played in the first World Twenty20 win and now I’m very fortunate to captain the side. It’s a format I owe a lot to.

There appears to be a generation coming through that have been born out of Twenty20 cricket. Have you noticed the game change even in the short time you’ve been around?

Yeah, a lot. You see ostensibly Twenty20 shots being played in Test matches now. I think in England we’re very fortunate to play in a country that still loves Test cricket, but Twenty20 brings a completely different concept. You have to accept sometimes that you’re going to get whacked out of the park; that’s part of the game, but it’s all about your next delivery. It’s all about thinking ahead, but only thinking one ball ahead. If someone bowls a dot ball at you, you can still hit the next ball out of the park. I think it’s the players that deal with that pressure who are the best Twenty20 players.

In a Test match it’s the bowler coming hard at the batsman first up, whereas in Twenty20 cricket it’s almost a role reversal. Does your mind-set change as a bowler?

It is, but we’ve also tried to change that a little bit. Steven Finn has come into both the one-day and the Twenty20 set-up with a role to bowl as quick as he can and get wickets. It’s almost a case of not worrying about the runs. We keep two slips in and we try and get wickets because the stats say teams who get the most wickets in the first six overs win the most games. If you get wickets then the new batsmen have to come in and have a look. Those are key moments in games. You look at Chris Gayle earlier this summer [in the Twenty20 at The Oval]: he came in against Finny with the new ball, he bounces him and it goes straight up for a catch at deep fine leg. It pretty much won us the game because if Gayle gets going anything can happen.

Steven Finn celebrates the dismissal of Chris Gayle at The Oval
Steven Finn celebrates the dismissal of Chris Gayle at The Oval

England have a poor track record in limited overs tournaments. Do you feel under pressure as captain to retain the trophy Paul Collingwood lifted two years ago?

I think it’s about managing expectations. I don’t think any bookie would put England as favourites in the subcontinent, I think it’s quite clear we’ve not played our best cricket over there, but we’ve got a young group of guys who are learning very quickly, but also a group of guys who play spin nicely, hit the ball very hard, and are learning about subcontinent conditions. In Twenty20 you only really need two or three guys to come off each game because it’s such a short format. So in 2010 KP smashed it every game and a couple of lads chipped in here and there and the bowlers were always very consistent. If we can do the same going to Sri Lanka, then we can win that tournament.

It’s a strange job being an international Twenty20 captain, in that you’ve been in the job for more than a year but you’ve only captained a handful of matches…

It is, because you have pretty much three hours [together as a team] every couple of months. But as soon as you rock up to the World Cup, that’s your three weeks to move forward as a team. We were very lucky in the fact that we had three games in the UAE [in February] in similar conditions, so we learnt a lot from them and coming out as victors there was important.

How have you coped balancing the captaincy with your own game?

I’ve found it okay, it is a different concept and your own personal game goes a little bit to the back of your mind. You’re often thinking, ‘Right, when’s the best time to bowl him, when should I fit in another over here, should I go spin or should I go seam?’ and then it’s time to have a bowl. So it’s important that in your practice games you really look after your own game to make sure that you’re still doing your role. But the actual hour-and-a-half you’re out on the field directing things, you’re not thinking, ‘What shall I bowl third ball?’ It doesn’t even cross your mind until you get into your over and then natural instinct takes over.

How much pre-planning can you do before a Twenty20 match?

It is a fluid game but you have to have certain plans that can always change. I think spin will play an important role in the subcontinent and it will be about where you use your spin and where your spinners are best suited. Swanny’s done an amazing job for us, being economical but also taking wickets in that sixth-to-10th over period, which can really hurt a team. But there are certain batsmen in the world that you’d bowl certain bowlers at so you do have to be able to throw an over in and that’s where we’re lucky that we’ve got options. People like Ravi Bopara are really important to the England team.

To read this interview in full pick up a copy of the latest AOC

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