EXPECTATIONS can be a burden. Sometimes they grow and grow.
In England’s case, however, no-one outside their own private bubble expects them to do anything other than fail lamentably at the World Twenty20.
Indeed, rarely can such low expectations have surrounded an England side going into a major international tournament.
But in the Bangladesh city of Chittagong today, where England play their opening group game against New Zealand, they must do everything within their power to cast off the cloak of gloom that envelops their prospects.
Indeed, their captain, Stuart Broad, has described a winning start as “non-negotiable”, as though it is a statutory requirement as opposed to a sought-after outcome.
Coming at the end of a winter in which England have flitted from woeful to worse in all formats of the game, it is fighting talk from the embattled leader, who expects to be fit despite tendonitis in his right knee.
England lost 12-1 across the Test matches, one-day internationals and Twenty20s in Australia, while they go into today’s game having lost seven of their last eight T20 matches – including a series defeat in the West Indies.
However, a defiant Broad said: “I think it’s well documented that, as an England side, we tend not to start overly well. That’s something that we’ve mentioned within the changing room, but it’s a non-negotiable here.
“With the way the tournament’s set up, a lot of good teams are not going to make it to the semi-final, so you’ve got to put yourself up there as a front-runner to start with. We’ve played a lot against New Zealand in the past 14 months. We had a long spell over there and they came to us this summer, so we’ve got a lot of knowledge about their players but it will be about us as an England team adapting to the conditions here.”
England must adapt without Kevin Pietersen, their likeliest match-winner, who played a key role when they won the tournament in 2010. They must also cross their fingers that Broad’s knee stands up to scrutiny after he missed the last two T20 games in the West Indies earlier this month.
“I’m pretty confident – no, very confident – of playing a part on Saturday and in the rest of the tournament,” said Broad, who sent down just two overs in Wednesday’s warm-up defeat to India. “The knee has come up pretty well from the India game; that was quite a new position for me as a player, to have my first bowl and fitness test during a game.
“But it actually gave me a lot of confidence having had 12 balls in the middle, because we know how different it is bowling in nets. It has been a long winter for me personally, with the amount of overs I’ve bowled and these 10 days have just freshened me up so I can really come firing into this World Cup.”
With today’s game starting at 7.30pm local time, evening dew is expected to play a part. As spinners find it harder to grip the ball in such conditions, it remains to be seen whether Stephen Parry will get the nod, with Tim Bres-nan, Chris Jordan and Jade Dernbach offering the alternative pace bowling options to Broad. England tried to mitigate against the dew by using their final practice session to train with balls that had been dunked in water before use.
“It looks quite obvious dew is going to play a part, so we’ve been practising with wet balls,” said Broad. “We’ve been getting the spinners bowling with wet balls and fielding with wet balls; it’s not something you do very often, I can’t think I’ve ever done it. But it’s something we have to take into consideration because if you go in with three spinners and they can’t bowl you’ve stuffed yourself a bit.”
England appear unlikely to change their batting order from the warm-up games, despite suffering back-to-back defeats, meaning a water carrying role again for Ian Bell.
Today’s game presents England with arguably their most winnable group fixture against a major nation, with Sri Lanka to follow on Thursday and South Africa next Saturday. England complete their group matches against Netherlands a week on Monday.
Ben Stokes, the England and Durham all-rounder, has had surgery on the fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist which ruled him out of the World Twenty20. Stokes punched a dressing room locker after he fell first ball in the final game of the T20 series in the West Indies.
The 22-year-old’s injury will be reviewed in six weeks’ time, making it touch-and-go whether he is fit for the start of the international summer on May 9.