Prior ready to be England’s ‘finisher’
Matt Prior’s first reaction is panic when he hears he is England’s World Cup ‘finisher’ - but he will do nothing of the sort when the job needs to be done.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, an inhabitant of most batting positions in his 61 one-day internationals so far, finds himself down at six to accommodate Kevin Pietersen’s surprise switch to opening.
Prior has had to become accustomed to regular shunts up and down the order - and knows his return to number six brings with it a new challenge, to fill the Eoin Morgan role.
The absence of the Irishman, thought until breaking his finger and therefore missing this tournament to be a banker to prosper here, means someone needs to at least approximate his effectiveness.
That someone, after Pietersen’s promotion, is Prior - and he is ready for the challenge.
“The minute anyone says the word ‘finisher’, you panic a little bit and think, ‘that’s a lot of responsibility’. But I love being a part of a team, and you want to be a cog in the wheel and one of those that wins games and helps set up games.
“Being a ‘finisher’ gives you the responsibility, and I enjoy that. I hope I can embrace that, knowing it’s going to be an important part of this World Cup.
“I don’t think Eoin Morgan’s boots can be filled – he’s a phenomenal player - but I’ll certainly try my best.”
Prior could be forgiven mixed feelings over his lack of opportunity to establish himself in any one position but the 28-year-old is a team player.
He said: “It’s a very positive move for me. The middle overs in this World Cup are going to be very important – playing the spin and the seam bowlers with a lot of cutters and slower balls, trying to manipulate the ball around.
“It’s going to be hard. But playing on the sub-continent is something I feel confident about, so I’m looking forward to it.”
If Prior could pick his own position it might not be six. But he knows he cannot - so will continue to give it his best shot, wherever he is deployed.
“I’ve always thought opening suited my game better. But the way the last couple of games have gone I’ve found a tempo I’m very comfortable with.
“I don’t think, opening, I managed to get that tempo ever, which was hugely frustrating because I know that if I get that tempo right I can be very, very successful. Right now, this role is suiting me and I feel very comfortable in it.”
Prior averages 25 in ODIs, compared to almost 43 in Tests, and he said: “People throw stats around and say your one-day stats aren’t that good. They aren’t, but I’m working very hard to improve them.
"I’ve also had this all my ODI career - a few games here, then moved and chopped and changed a lot.
“But that’s one-day cricket. You have to adapt - from wicket to wicket, from game to game, from team to team - and you have to bat wherever you’re put.”
In any case, after being a long shot for this tournament up until last month - when it seemed Steve Davies was England’s preferred limited-overs wicketkeeper - Prior is not about to quibble.
“I just want to be in this team, and I’m delighted to be playing in this World Cup. A few months ago that wasn’t the case, and I would have done anything to be here.
"Now I’m here, I’m just very happy. This is the role I’ve been given, and I hope I can do well.”
England’s first assignment is Tuesday’s Group B opener against the Netherlands in Nagpur - where Prior will face ex-Sussex team-mate Bas Zuiderent, in a team which memorably beat the hosts in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 at Lord’s.
Prior added: “The one thing I do know is that they’re very keen to cause an upset.
“I met up with Bas last night. They’re very excited about being here and causing an upset and taking one of the big teams down.
“They’re a team you absolutely cannot be complacent against. We’ve seen what happened in the past and we don’t want that to happen again.”