FEW people are better qualified than Ryan Sidebottom to assess England’s chances of success at the World T20 that starts next week.
The Yorkshire paceman was part of the England side that won the competition in 2010, playing a key role to help his country secure their first ever ICC global title.
Sidebottom was England’s joint-leading wicket-taker in the tournament in the Caribbean, capturing 10 wickets along with spinner Graeme Swann.
The left-armer set the tone for a thumping seven-wicket win against Australia in the final in Barbados, taking two wickets in his first seven balls as Australia collapsed to 8-3.
So does Sidebottom believe that England’s class of 2016 can emulate what he and his team-mates achieved six years ago?
“Absolutely,” he says. “I definitely think that England can do it.
“It won’t be easy – it never is playing in India, and they’re going to be facing a lot of spin.
“But we’ve played some really good cricket in recent times, and there’s no reason why England can’t do something special.”
Sidebottom sees clear parallels between the present England side and the one in which he and Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan were important figures.
Back in 2010, England had a balanced side and no fear of failure.
This time, they have a balanced side and no fear of failure.
Sidebottom feels it could carry them far.
“In 2010, we had a very good XI and all bases covered,” he recalls. “Everyone complemented each other really well.
“We had the left-arm spin of Michael Yardy, for example, and then right-arm spin of Swanny. We had a balanced team and a balanced attack.
“This time, England also have a balanced team. There’s good pace, good spin options, and they bat really low down.
“They’re playing exciting cricket, there’s no fear of failure, and they’re taking it to the opposition.
“Sometimes, you can lose games if you don’t build the innings, but the positive approach is the best way to go, and I’m really excited about what England can do.”
As ever, there promises to be significant interest from a Yorkshire perspective, with four of the county’s players in the 15-man squad.
Joe Root has blossomed into the definition of a three-dimensional batsman, someone seemingly equally adept in a Test match, one-day or T20 game, while leg-spinner Adil Rashid is highly skilled at the sport’s shortest format.
Liam Plunkett will inject 90mph-pace after being drafted in for the injured Steven Finn, while Yorkshire’s new signing David Willey is another dangerous customer with bat and ball. Sidebottom detects one other big parallel.
“I think Eoin Morgan’s captaincy is just like Paul Collingwood’s was when we won it,” he says.
“Like Colly, he is very proactive and very positive.
“In 2010, no one gave us a hope after we’d lost to the Netherlands the previous year, but Colly gave us that self-belief and it rubbed off on the players.
“He’d been to the IPL, and he’d learned a lot of things about T20 cricket.” This time, Collingwood is part of the England coaching staff.
England start their campaign on March 16 against West Indies in Mumbai, with Sri Lanka and South Africa also in their group along with the winner of the first-round group featuring Scotland, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Afghanistan.
The tournament itself begins on Tuesday.
“Colly was very laid-back, very chilled out,” says Sidebottom. “There weren’t lots of meetings about a meeting about a meeting.
“I remember him saying to Lumby (Michael Lumb) and (Craig) Kieswetter, ‘Your objective is to go out there and score as many as you can off the first six.’
“There was nothing like, ‘You’ve got to get 30 off the first six’, and so on, but, ‘I want you to hit every ball for four or six’. It’s amazing how that positive mentality rubs off on the team.”
Sidebottom, 38, has been there and done it. He has won five County Championships (three with Yorkshire, two with Nottinghamshire), has a Test match hat-trick to his name, and goes into the 2016 season needing just three more wickets to reach 1,000 in all forms of professional cricket.
Unsurprisingly, the 2010 World Cup win features highly in his list of personal highlights.
“It was massive,” he says, “because it was all about history at the end of the day.
“To win a World Cup, you clearly have to play the best teams in the world and beat them, so it was a brilliant achievement by everyone concerned.
“It certainly ranks very highly in my career, and no one can take it away from me.
“It’s something I look back on with plenty of fondness.”
As he nears the end of his career (something we seem to have been saying for a long time only for Sidebottom to constantly roll back the years), he no longer represents Yorkshire in Twenty20.
The club quite rightly save him for the Championship, where his prodigious powers show no sign of abating; last year, Sidebottom topped the averages with 41 wickets at 17.9 as Yorkshire secured back-to-back titles.
This year, he is confident that the club can do better in T20, citing the signings of Willey and Kane Williamson as important factors, along with the blossoming captaincy of Alex Lees, who led Yorkshire to the One-Day Cup semi-final last summer.
And as he gears up for his 19th year as a professional, Sidebottom says he feels in excellent shape.
“I feel really strong and I still feel very young at heart,” he says. “I still enjoy going in every day, I really do.
“It’s fun and enjoyable, and I love being around the boys.
“They all take the mickey. Some say they weren’t born when I made my debut, that sort of thing. They call me granddad, Uncle Siddy, stuff like that. I get used to it. It’s great. There’s a brilliant camaraderie.”
There is also, you sense, a fierce determination to make it three Championships in a row, something no county has achieved since Yorkshire themselves in the late 1960s.
“What drives me – and I know it’s the same for all the boys – is that thought of winning three in a row,” says Sidebottom.
“That would be something really special, and I’m looking forward to trying to help us retain the title.
“If we can do it, we’ll be talked of as one of the best teams ever in Yorkshire cricket.
“We can’t wait to get started.”
The Ryan Sidebottom story ...
1978: Born in Huddersfield on January 15, the son of former Yorkshire pace bowler Arnie Sidebottom.
1997: Made his first-class debut for Yorkshire against Leicestershire at Grace Road in July, taking three wickets in a drawn fixture.
2001: Helped Yorkshire to the County Championship title and also that year made his Test and one-day international debuts.
2004: After leaving Yorkshire for Notts, Sidebottom helped the Trent Bridge club to Championship promotion and to the title the following year.
2008: Took a Test hat-trick against New Zealand at Hamilton in 2008. Later that series, he returned career-best Test figures of 7-47 in Napier.
2010: After helping England to the World T20 title in 2010, Sidebottom won a second Championship at Notts before retiring from international cricket and rejoining Yorkshire that autumn.
2014: Played a key role as Yorkshire won the title and then again last year when they retained their crown in a record-breaking summer. On the day that Yorkshire clinched the title against Middlesex at Lord’s last September, Sidebottom captured his 700th first-class wicket during a triple-wicket maiden in the opening over of the match, a fairytale passage of play that he admits “still hasn’t sunk in”.