Depleted England believe they can still surprise the Twenty20 world in Bangladesh, as long as they back themselves to play bold cricket.
Graham Thorpe, limited-overs batting coach on the short tour of the West Indies which prefaces the ICC World Twenty20, insists England have a “puncher’s chance” of regaining the title they won in the Caribbean four years ago.
Their chastening 27-run defeat in the first of three Twenty20s against the West Indies was a distinctly unpromising performance, particularly because England were undone by spin – sure to be a potent weapon again for all contenders in Bangladesh.
Yesterday’s confirmation that Yorkshire’s Joe Root will be absent in the sub-continent because of his broken thumb – Ian Bell will be his replacement – and injury worries over captain Stuart Broad and his deputy Eoin Morgan, both struggling with knee trouble, are no help either.
Thorpe is, nonetheless, still optimistic about England’s prospects. They will also, of course, be without Kevin Pietersen after the England and Wales Cricket Board axed the controversial record runscorer from all future plans, here in Bangladesh and anywhere else.
“The simple fact is he’s not here, and he’s not going to be here,” Thorpe said of Pietersen, after England’s remaining batsmen had collectively faltered to go 1-0 down with two to play at the Kensington Oval on Sunday.
“We have what we have in the squad, and for me it’s capable of surprising people in Bangladesh.
“But to do that, we must be bold. I would rather see us go down in Bangladesh having a real good go up front and attacking, so that’s at the forefront of our minds. We actually want to win it, and that’s what we’ll have to do.”
England failed to get out of the group stages when they tried to defend their title in Sri Lanka in 2012, Pietersen absent then too during his ‘reintegration’ phase.
Few rate their chances highly of performing significantly better this time. But Thorpe added: “At the Twenty20 World Cup, we have a puncher’s chance if we get things right.
“I think that’s the realistic side of it for me. If we can get through that group, we’ve done very very well. Then we have a puncher’s chance in the knockout stages. We will only do that by being bold and upbeat about our performances, and not getting too down when we do get beat.”
A dose of realism may not go amiss either – especially after the West Indies’ spinners took six England wickets for 46 in 10 overs at the weekend.
The tourists will be up against the same opponents, at the same venue, on Tuesday – a must-win fixture if they are to avoid series defeat.
A 7,000-mile trip east, via London, will then await them before two warm-up matches in Fatullah and then the start of their campaign in Chittagong.
“We know we need to improve and we know we need to work out what is our best line-up – and we have four games to go until our first one,” said Thorpe.
Recovery in this series would be heartening on the way to Bangladesh. But it is there that they will face the biggest challenge.
“I don’t think we will ever say we dominate in the sub-continent,” said Thorpe.
“In the first 50-over game (in Antigua), we had a few problems – and we addressed them, and came back very well.
“It’s about remaining upbeat, we want the guys up top to be positive.
“Twenty20 games can run away from you pretty quickly in Bangladesh, we all know the footwork and shot selection are going to be crucial.
“We mustn’t panic from this one game.
“We must look to take the confidence from the 50-over stuff, and come back in the next two.”