Ben Duckett has vowed to seize every opportunity to play for England in all three formats after thanking Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ relaxed demeanour in the Test team for his successful comeback to international cricket this winter.
By his own admission, Duckett, now 28, “probably wasn’t ready for international cricket”back in 2016–17, during England’s tours of Bangladesh and India, when he made his Test and ODI debuts. Yet, seven years later, he is so at ease with the event that he was even able to spend a few days practising for last week’s return to the white-ball setup. “on a sun lounger” in Dubai.
After their exciting one-run loss to New Zealand in Wellington—first Duckett’s loss in five outings since his recall for the Pakistan tour in December—the Test squad split shortly after that brief period of R&R. At the top of the order during that time, he has averaged a remarkable 56.44, and he was eager to bring that mentality into this week’s opening T20I match against Bangladesh in Chattogram.
“It’s ridiculously different,” Duckett said of his experience in the Test set-up. “The way that they make everyone feel is something that I never thought would be the case in Test cricket. It’s almost like you’re playing a friendly, you’re actually going out and playing a Test match and it’s that relaxed, and that’s how you’re going to get players to perform at their best.
“The first thing Baz said to me in Pakistan was: ‘Just enjoy it, you’re going to get a good run’. To hear that as an opening batsman before your first Test back makes you not nervous and you can go out there and play your way rather than looking for a score.
“And I think the big thing in that dressing-room is – whatever the noise is outside that dressing room, no one cares. It’s everything in that dressing room and almost you’ve got that backing, it feels like there’s a squad of players now that seems like they’re going to keep for a little while, especially while things are going well. Previously, you’re fearing for every single game, if you get no runs, you might get dropped the next game.”
In England’s six-wicket loss in the first T20I, Duckett’s innings of 20 from 13 balls was met with a similarly phlegmatic response. “I tried to stick to my strengths. It went all right and then I missed one,” he said.
“The one thing I’ve been lucky with is, because of how I play, it doesn’t really change throughout the formats. You see these guys who are whacking the ball out of the ground and then they’ve got to go and play Test cricket and it’s a massive difference, where my mentality in all three formats is to see ball, hit ball. And now against spin, sweeping it both ways in all formats – and I’ve got the full backing from all of the squads.
“I’ve matured as a cricketer,” he added. “It’s realising what works for me, understanding what my strengths are. Seven years ago I might have tried to hit Shakib [Al Hasan] for six over long-on, now I know all I have to do is hit the ball in front of square leg and it’s four runs. The small taste I had back then, I was very young and probably wasn’t ready. I think that comes with age and most batters are at their best when they get to the age of 28, 29.”
Duckett is one of only four England players to have played in all three formats this winter, and his round-the-world trip has included campaigns in Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, and now Bangladesh. For this reason, and not because he was worried about the challenge of switching formats, he dropped everything for a week to hang out with his girlfriend in the UAE in between red- and white-ball campaigns.
His long wait for a second chance with England was a major contributing factor in his decision to pass up lucrative franchise opportunities this winter, including the Pakistan Super League, which is currently in play and forced several English players, including Alex Hales, to withdraw from the Bangladesh series.
“I spoke to someone a month ago about people resting and pulling out of stuff,” he said. “For me, the focus is on the chance to play all three formats for England. And that’s going to be my focus for as long as I’m in the squad.
“Don’t get me wrong, if I’ve got a month next winter and I get offered a lot of money, I’m probably going to go and play in it, as most of us would. But you can play all these leagues around the world in a few years’ time, right now I’m solely focused on playing as much for England as I can. That break I had was potentially a good thing for me, and it’s made me so hungry now to take every single chance I get.”
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