Stuart Broad during a practice session
Calcutta: It’s hard to read too much from Stuart Broad’s expressions. His piercing blue eyes occasionally dance with anger, especially when asked if his team is missing He-who-must-not-be-named, sitting in a television studio in Colombo, but otherwise, Broad’s face gives little away.
When you speak about England’s batting against spin bowling, the brow might furrow a touch, and when he considers the length of the boundaries in Pallekele, a ground he described as a “postage stamp”, his lips squeeze into a thin smile, but that’s about it.
Whether this is because Broad genuinely believes that something big, and good, is just around the corner for his team, or he’s merely putting on a brave face in what he knows is a dark phase, only time will tell.
Whatever the case, it helps England’s cause that the immediate task on hand, ahead of their match against New Zealand on Saturday, is well defined. With little margin for error left, England simply must not lose early wickets. Against India, England had lost their first wicket off the sixth ball of the innings. It got worse in their first Super Eights match, with wickets falling of the second and third balls, before a run was on the board.
“I think it’s too early to panic. It’s too early to think about rejigging, ” said Broad.
“Whoever takes responsibility to go out there and face the new ball, it’s important they take responsibility to get through the first over. We saw against Afghanistan, when you have wickets in hand how dangerous you can be. Losing early wickets, especially in the first over, is not acceptable.”
Broad, however, knows perfectly well that there’s a gulf as wide as the Palk Straits between Afghanistan and New Zealand.
“We know the dangers they pose with their powerful batting lineup,” said Broad. “McCullum, Guptill, Taylor … Vettori’s been a thorn in our side for a long time. I think it’s important we don’t look too much at the opposition. We’ve played on this ground, and know what to expect.”
The obvious thing for England to do to stem their top order woes is to promote Eoin Morgan, at the very least from No. 5 to No. 4, if not higher. But this is something England is resisting, which suggests it has less faith in the others than it would let us believe. If you listen to Broad, Morgan will stay where he is, but that’s a serious risk given that England is one collapse away from being knocked out of the tournament.
“Morgan’s game is best suited to finding the boundaries when the fielders are back,” said Broad, justifying his present position in the order.
“It’s an amazing skill, which not everyone has. He’s not overly suited to piercing the infield. So the risk reward for someone so valuable to the team may be too high for him to try to pierce the field when everyone’s in. If you lose Morgan in the first six overs, you’re in big trouble.”