Stuart Broad embarks on his biggest challenge as captain of England’s Twenty20 International team, entrusted with the responsibility of leading the side to a successful defence of the ICC World Twenty20 title won under Paul Collingwood in 2010.
Clearly relishing his role, Broad chose to put a positive spin on things, deflecting any questions on the absence of Kevin Pietersen, the player of the tournament in 2010, with practised ease and talking about how excited his squad is ahead of Friday’s campaign opener against Afghanistan.
“They look a talented side as well,” Broad said of Afghanistan. “Anyone who would have watched last night will know the dangers they bring. They also batted fantastically well against Sri Lanka A earlier in the week. So we know they are going to be a dangerous side. But it’s important as an England team that we don’t focus too much on that and we really look at ourselves and make sure we get our disciplines right. We’ve got some really good players in our unit, some powerful strikers of the ball and some skilful bowlers. I am sure Afghanistan are looking forward to the game and I don’t think it will let anyone down.
“They don’t have any fear, by the looks of it. They come out and play a few shots,” Broad said, referring to Afghanistan’s tactics during its 23-run loss to India. “That’s something we will have to counteract as a bowling unit. Not get fazed by that, not panic too much when that occurs. We have to accept there might be a few nicks flying past the ’keeper and smashes over extra cover and cow; that’s part and parcel of the game. As a bowler, I know the most important thing whether you get hit out of the park or bowl a dot ball is all about the next ball. It will be important for us to keep our focus and do what we have done fantastically well in the past sort of 18 months Whether you are playing against Afghanistan or the best team in the world, your principles don’t change.”
England won both their practice games, against Australia and Pakistan, with reasonable comfort. “Whenever you win games, it gives you a big boost. That’s three on the bounce we have won now and played some really good cricket as well,” Broad said, the winning run starting in the third T20I against South Africa at home. “It’s important in tournaments like this that you build momentum throughout the tournament. We have started that really well and it’s important we continue that. We have got a very positive group here, everyone’s talking about the strengths we have in the group and that’s exciting going forward. The morale in the camp is brilliant, everyone is excited about getting underway and the preparation has gone as well as we could have hoped.”
Broad was asked if, in Pietersen’s absence, the morale in the dressing room was better. “No, KP has been around for a long time. He has done fantastically well for us,” Broad replied, carefully. “It’s matters with ECB at the moment that he’s not here. We have to put up with that and get on with it. The 15 guys who are in the squad are excited to be here, up for the challenge and that’s what you want coming into a tournament, Everyone’s excited about the prospect of starting the World Cup, being in a World Cup, putting an England shirt on and as captain, that’s exactly what you want. Hopefully, we will have a really good three weeks.”