‘How I play doesn’t really change’: Duckett’s rapid Test to T20 transition

Ten days after the dizzying conclusion of England’s wafer-thin Test defeat in New Zealand and Ben Duckett’s head is still spinning. Within hours he was heading for a brief holiday in Dubai, this Tuesday he arrived in Bangladesh, on Wednesday he had his first and only session in the nets and on Thursday he played a T20 international.

Given that he had been “on a sun lounger a couple of days ago”, Duckett might have been excused a little lack of focus but there was no sign of his mind being somewhere else until he played across one that kept low. “I tried to stick to my strengths. It went all right and then I missed one,” he surmised.

The transition between formats is perhaps more straightforward now, after the well-publicised changes to the Test team over the last year, and all the more so for Duckett given his busy, sweep-heavy style.

“The one thing I’ve been lucky with is because of how I play it doesn’t really change throughout the formats,” he said. “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.”

This series returns Duckett to the site of his international debut seven years ago. He played seven times for England in 2016, breaking into the ODI side in Dhaka, where the final two games of this series will be played, and continuing with a first Test in Chattogram, where England lost the opener on Thursday. Just one more appearance followed before he burst back on the international scene last autumn. Since then he has played eight T20s, five Tests and three ODIs, suddenly reemerging as a key player in all formats at the age of 28.

“I’ve matured as a cricketer,” he said, after making a 13-ball 20 in partnership with Jos Buttler in the series opener. “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.”

Ben Duckett batting during England’s second innings of the dramatic second Test against New Zealand
Ben Duckett batting during England’s second innings of the dramatic second Test against New Zealand. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Duckett has had an unusual winter for an international cricketer, featuring five series in four countries across three formats and three continents, but no franchise-based interludes.

“For me, the focus is on the chance to play all three formats for England,” he said. “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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Of a total of 24 international appearances only one of those has been on home soil. This summer offers the tantalising prospect of a home Ashes series, with a potential World Cup chaser in the autumn.

“I’m just playing cricket and we’ll see,” he said. “I dream of playing in the World Cup but it’s out of my hands. Thankfully I have a lot of things to enjoy this summer, so I’ll score as many runs as I can and we’ll see from there.”

The Guardian