England seem to believe they can win the World Twenty20 which starts on Friday. On the other hand, they may not be sure. It is a fragile faith, embodied yesterday by captain Paul Collingwood, as he launched the team's campaign to win the tournament at home.
"I want the team to be brave and have belief," he said. "This is a major opportunity. Twenty20 cricket isn't an exact science so you have to think on your feet when you're out in the middle. Sometimes it only takes one person to win the game and we have got quite a lot of match-winners. We could do really well and, if we get to the final, we could win it."
This was hardly captaincy speak on the rapping-out-a-warning scale and Collingwood was never more than cautiously optimistic as he spoke at Lord's together with 10 of the other captains in the competition. Despite enjoying home advantage, England are expected to have less chance than the holders India, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and possibly New Zealand.
And the way that Jeroen Smits, the captain of the Netherlands, spoke, he thinks his team could push the hosts at Lord's in the opening match on Friday. "We know what we want to do and I think we can do some big things. Hopefully, that will be on Friday night," Smits said. "We're minnows but we do have a quality team." But surely they would be intimidated by playing at Lord's. "We're Dutch, we have a chance of creating history and playing at Lord's is a dream come true."
England, of course, are on a hiding to nothing. Despite having picked five uncapped players, they should dismiss the Dutch easily, but in Twenty20 anything can happen. It is not, as Collingwood said, an exact science.
To equal their miserable efforts in 2007's inaugural World Twenty20, England must win just one game. In that tournament in South Africa, they set off by beating Zimbabwe and then lost the next four matches in increasingly desperate circumstances. This time, Collingwood declared, though without much conviction, it would be different.
"I guess in many ways people from outside would say there is added pressure being the host nation, but I think we have an advantage, knowing conditions, the wickets and the venues we're playing at," he said. "We're all very excited about playing in front of our home crowds." No doubt Collingwood, the grittiest of all England cricketers, is much different when galvanising his team but it seemed possible that a night out at a library might excite him more.
"It's a pretty condensed tournament so we'll have to be careful we don't get too experimental during the two warm-up games but certainly there are areas where we will give guys a go." Be brave then, but not too brave.
"We tried to play with freedom in the 2007 tournament but the difference is now we have got a lot of players who are more experienced in their positions and are generally better players now."
There is a mild doubt over one of his key men, Kevin Pietersen, who did not play a full part in practice yesterday as a result of an Achilles injury. Collingwood said he was expected to be fit, Pietersen will speak today.
Almost to a man the captains praised the Indian Premier League for increasing awareness of the shortest form of the game. Most of the best players in all the teams have been strutting their stuff in South Africa, where this year's IPL was staged.
Collingwood was recruited by the Delhi Daredevils and, although he did not play a single game, insisted he gleaned much Twenty20 knowledge.
If England are in good spirits – and they are – it was the sort of day at Lord's when everybody thought they might have a chance of winning. M S Dhoni, the captain of India, reminded the audience of how games could change rapidly without warning. "Cricket is a cruel game and the moment you relax is the biggest mistake you make."
All the sides have two warm-up games this week, starting today, which will offer some indication. "I do believe we can surprise a few people," Collingwood said. "I'm not saying we're going to win but we've got to have that belief that we can win it." Or not.Reuse content