Broad welcomes in brave new world
Posted in England v Sri Lanka 2011
When Stuart Broad strides out to the middle at Bristol and flips a shiny new coin into the air, it will herald the start of a new era for England.
The Twenty20 international on Saturday, the only one of Sri Lanka’s tour, will be the first test for England’s unprecedented three-man captaincy team.
With Broad and Alastair Cook taking on permanent limited-overs duties for the first time, just days apart, we will get an early indication of how the delegation of power will work.
Despite such a drastic change, it should be remembered that Broad inherits a T20 side that are world champions, having taken the title in the West Indies last year.
It says a lot about the 24-year-old that the selectors have put so much responsibility on one so young. Indeed, upon his appointment he was already relishing the chance to defend England’s crown next summer.
“We’ll go there under a good amount of pressure as the champions and it’s not something we want to relinquish without a fight,” he said.
His confidence is to be applauded but it is hardly surprising given how important he has become to the entire England set-up since debuting as an (even more) fresh-faced 21-year-old in 2007.
While his level of tactical nous is still to be revealed, his World T20 performances in the Caribbean showed someone who is more than comfortable adapting to the limited-overs game. Having played under some exceptional captains in his short career, England have selected a far from average cricketer as skipper.
Slightly more experienced, but just as fresh-faced, Cook takes over for the one-dayers in the batting form of his life.
He could hardly ask for a tougher start as skipper; Sri Lanka whitewashed England 5-0 the last time they were here in 2006 and beat them by 10 wickets in the quarter-finals of the recent World Cup.
On top of that, Cook will have to iron out a few problems before the 50-over side can rival the success achieved in the other formats.
Defeat in the Commonwealth Bank Series Down Under, followed by an up-and-down World Cup in the sub-continent, has left the team searching for consistency.
While his recent ODI experience is somewhat limited, if the selectors want someone in the squad to lead by example, Cook is the man.
Six centuries in his last 10 Tests have made him one of the most reliable and productive batsmen in world cricket, and should this rub off on to his charges, a big improvement could be just around the corner.
As England welcome the new, their opponents say farewell to one of their nation’s greatest cricketers. Sanath Jayasuriya, 42 next week, will finally hang up his gloves for good after the first one-day international, ending an international career that began more than 20 years ago.
He returns on Saturday for the first time since December 2009, but next Tuesday’s game at the Kia Oval will be the last for a player who helped to revolutionise limited-overs batting. It goes without saying that it will take someone special to fill his dirt-covered boots.
For both sides, the series signals a step into the unknown. Where do they go from here? Only time will tell.