Twenty months and two days after the end of the Test series in West Indies that marked the start of England’s complete red-ball rethink, they returned to the Caribbean for the start of a new white-ball era. A new episode and a new hope – if not for the team’s short-suffering fans, who might have just seen their side flop at one World Cup but still have vivid memories of them winning another two, then certainly for those players who, for all their talent, had seen a successful side become a fortress, almost impossible to break into.
“It’s probably been the greatest white-ball team. What they’ve achieved over the past eight years has been incredible,” said Ben Duckett. “It’s been tough at times to not be able to get a go but we’ve got so many amazing players out here who have now got an opportunity to go out and show what they can do.
“I have been intermittently involved with the white-ball team for several years, and I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to participate.”
In the past, England has fielded a team in their 30s multiple times in India. However, on Sunday, only two players over the age of 30 will be allowed. At 29, Duckett is the third oldest member of the one-day squad and has only played in eight games for his country in this format. He has never questioned his ability to consistently perform at the highest level in white-ball cricket, but rather if he would ever have the opportunity. He explained, “There are around 15 to 20 players who can relate – it has been extremely difficult to make it into the team.”
For all the fresh faces dictionarists can rest easy: the opening encounter looks likely to be the start of a very gentle revolution. The process of renewal in a team that, despite the mistakes and misery of a World Cup campaign that ended less than three weeks ago, remains under the leadership of Matthew Mott and Jos Buttler is unlikely to inspire any neologisms in the Bazball mould.
According to Duckett, it is unlikely that there will be a new strategy after the World Cup due to the team’s performance. Even if they had won, the same players may have still been on the team. However, with some players nearing retirement and the end of their careers in 50-over matches, it was expected that there would be a new beginning for the team. As a group of players, they are ready to demonstrate their abilities.
In the upcoming three weeks, England plans to symbolically replicate their players’ journey from dark and cold England to the sunny and breezy Antigua. This will be done through three ODIs and five T20s, taking place on four different islands. While only a few players are still recovering from the World Cup, with six currently in India and available for the ODIs, the significance of this series is not lost on anyone.
Duckett expressed that it was challenging to watch all of England’s games during the World Cup. He found it particularly difficult to see his friends struggle on the field, especially since he had played with them just a few weeks prior. However, he believes that England’s performance over the last eight years should not be judged solely on one rough period of five weeks.
If we can replicate the level of play shown by this team in the last eight years, or even just half as well, it would be considered an accomplishment. We are familiar with their style of cricket and it appears that the young players they have chosen for this team have a similar approach – they are known for hitting big shots while playing for their counties and we expect them to do the same here.
The West Indies team will not have a new wicketkeeper to replace 32-year-old Shane Dowrich. He was due to make his first international appearance in almost three years, but just 10 days after being recalled to the squad, he announced his retirement from international cricket.
Miles Bascombe, their director of cricket, stated that they acknowledge and honor his choice to retire, recognizing that it is a difficult decision to make. Dowrich is currently involved in a legal disagreement with Cricket West Indies regarding the circumstances surrounding his lack of a central contract for 2021.