Stuart Broad’s defending champions will be playing for the pride of England, rather than any tangible ICC World Twenty20 reward, when they meet India on Sunday. The structure of this short tournament dictates that once the routine business of beating a group minnow — Afghanistan in England and India’s case — is safely out of the way, the two heavyweights can lock horns without direct consequence.
The Super Eight venues and oppositions for both teams will not change, irrespective of the outcome under the Premadasa Stadium lights. So it is that today’s final Group A match will surely be billed in a broader context by many, and the significance or otherwise of the Indian Premier League will doubtless be inferred from the result.
Hundreds of IPL matches on one side’s CV contrasts with barely a handful, courtesy of Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright, on the other. Captain Broad, of course, will diplomatically let others do the talking on that topic. But he does have to make sure his team can make the mental leap required to convince themselves that, if not the reputation of the IPL, then something certainly is at stake.
Asked what that might be, the England captain surprisingly avoided that great abstract notion of all cricket tournaments and series — ‘momentum’. National pride, instead, will be his motivation — and, by natural consequence, his team’s too. “I think it’s hard to call any game meaningless when you’re putting on the Three Lions of England and you’re taking the field as an international,” said Broad. “Whether it is a must-win for us or whether we don’t have to win to go through, it won’t change the way our approach to the game.
Any game is huge
“Any game against India is huge. It will have massive viewing appeal, and we know how passionate the Indian fans are about their cricket so we want to put on a fantastic show. Broad is heartened that, quite apart from last night’s ruthless 116-run dismissal of Afghanistan on the back of a brilliant 99 not out from Luke Wright, England have been toughened up for this assignment by some pedigree opposition. “We do know the dangers they offer. But if we focus on what we did really well [against Afghanistan] we can be a challenge for anyone.”
Broad has great respect, but no fear, for an opposition line-up — under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni — crammed with superstar talent. He is confident England can match them at every step. “India have got a powerful batting line-up. We know the dangers they offer — they’ve played a lot of Twenty20 cricket domestically and internationally,” he added.
“But one thing I will say if we play cricket like we have here — the way we went about things, the passion, energy we showed in the field — we’ll be in a good position. “You look through our batting line-up — we’ve got guys who can clear the ropes from ball one — and our bowling unit is powerful as well.” One of the biggest names in India’s stellar batting order is Yuvraj Singh, back at centre stage after his battle to recover from lung cancer.
Broad is full of admiration for a player he will never be able to forget, having been hit by him for six sixes in an over at Durban in the inaugural World T20 tournament five years ago. “To have an illness like that is horrible to see, and the whole cricketing world got behind him. It’s great to see him back; we know what a dangerous player he is, and he’s someone you do your research on,” he said.