New T20 captain Broad unfazed by his lack of experience
The World Champions will have a new captain today. Stuart Broad, who has no experience of leadership since becoming a professional cricketer, will take over the role from which Paul Collingwood was sacked despite reaching heights previously unattained by any England side.
It is a little more than a year since Collingwood and his men did the unexpected by winning the World Twenty20 in Barbados. Given scant chance at the start of the tournament, they won playing a vibrant, assertive brand of cricket never before seen in an England team.
But so ill-considered is the T20 format at international level that England have played only four matches since, two against Pakistan last August, two against Australia in January. Winning the first three of those enabled them to set a new record of eight straight wins.
If Collingwood's enforced departure seems harsh, it was also appropriate. England had to have an eye on defending their title in Sri Lanka next year and, with Collingwood's form on the slide, they acted decisively.
In choosing Broad as his successor, they have taken a risk. It is both an admission that their new one-day captain, Alastair Cook, is not up to T20 cricket and an issue they are prepared to confront boldly.
The match against Sri Lanka at Bristol today is a one-off, a mere curtain-raiser to the one-day international series of five 50-over matches, which begins at The Oval on Tuesday when Cook will take up his duties. There will be another solitary match against India later in the summer, after which the T20 schedule is unclear.
Broad will not have much time to find his feet and he may be further impeded today by injury. Although he and the England medical team insisted yesterday he will be fit to play, he missed the team's visit to Wimbledon earlier this week because of a bruised left heel.
During fielding practice yesterday, he hurt his right ankle when he stumbled over a medicine ball. Although he appeared to be limping slightly, Broad dismissed the concerns and looked forward to his new life.
"I captained at schoolboy level, but not since," said Broad yesterday, his 25th birthday. "I suppose it's part and parcel of being picked for England quite young and first playing county cricket when I was 18. But I'm not fazed by that, I think I have learned a huge amount in the amount of cricket I have played. I don't think the lack of experience will be a problem."
What has the potential to be a problem is Broad's temperament. Charming and eloquent off the pitch, he can take feistiness to the limit on it. Nor is he afraid to demonstrate his displeasure with colleagues, which could be a hindrance in captaincy.
"I am certainly not going to lose my passion for the game," he said. "I think it's something I thrive on but you obviously have to be a little bit aware of what you're doing. I think it's going to be pretty hectic tomorrow, I'll be thinking about a huge amount of things but, when I get that ball in my hand, the key is that I don't change too much.
"I will still try and hit the bat really hard, have a presence and deliver my skills that have worked in Twenty20 cricket so far.
"I certainly will be watching my behaviour. To be fair, it's become rarer and rarer in the past year that those occasions have happened."
There will be a full house at Nevill Road for the match, something to which England have not been accustomed this season. The number of T20 internationals is few enough to leave spectators wanting more but they are so few indeed that they lack context. Within sensible parameters, there is scope for more so that the balance between the 50 overs and Twenty20 format is more even.
England are likely to field six of the team which became world champions. Crucially, four of the top five will be intact and they are now buttressed by Ian Bell, which hardly weakens the order. Jade Dernbach is likely to make his international debut.
Sri Lanka will also have a new captain today in Thilina Kandamby, a hard hitting left handed batsman who was not part of their recent World Cup squad. In his ranks will be the legendary Sanath Jayasuriya, who will be playing his penultimate international. Jayasuriya, called up as a late replacement after purported government interference, has finally decided to retire after the opening one-dayer at The Oval on Tuesday, two days before his 42nd birthday.
Before the men's match today, England Women will play Australia in their second match of a quadrangular tournament. They beat New Zealand in the first on Thursday.
*Sri Lanka opener Upul Tharanga, who is not on the tour of England, has been banned for three months by the International Cricket Council after testing positive for a banned substance during the World Cup.
England: S C J Broad (capt), C Kieswetter (wkt), M J Lumb, K P Pietersen, E J G Morgan, I R Bell, L J Wright, S R Patel, G P Swann, C R Woakes, J W Dernbach.
Sri Lanka: T Kandamby (capt), S Jayasuriya, M Jayawardene, K Sangakkara (wkt), D Chandimal, A Mathews, J Mendis, N Kulasekera, S Lakmal, S Randiv, L Malinga.
Umpires: R Kettleborough & N Llong.
Looked surprisingly green but a quick mow this morning might change that. Probably not a run fest.
Dry and overcast. Maximum temp: 21C
TV: Sky Sports 1, HD1 2-6pm
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