World Twenty20 2012 September 14, 2012

Broad takes reins for England defence

England's Twenty20 captain gave a practised response to questions about the absent Kevin Pietersen before offering praise for his young side

American presidents like to set the tone of their presidency in the first 100 days, but they have it lucky. In roughly the same timespan since Kevin Pietersen retired from England's one-day side and set in motion a chain of events that have reverberated ever since, Stuart Broad has had little chance to do anything except await his return to high office.

Now he has his chance. Broad, England's Twenty20 captain, arrives in Sri Lanka with his England team for World Twenty20 confident in the knowledge that he has left the KP affair, and the politics that surround it, to others. Now he can concentrate exclusively on the cricket. Or at least he thought he could until the words "Kevin Pietersen" were mentioned in the very first sentence of his very first question in his very first press conference. From that point, if only to avoid repetition, Pietersen questions were abruptly stilled.

There was simply no escape - not until the ECB's media officer decided enough was enough at any rate, which judging by this evidence at least was the time that somebody remarked meaningfully, as if we didn't know, that Pietersen was player of the tournament when England, against expectations, won World Twenty20 under Paul Collingwood's stewardship in the Caribbean two years ago.

Collingwood has since loyally tipped England to defend their title--"we would be a better team skill-wise with KP but would it be a happier team?" he asked - and Broad has got his responses off pat. If he cannot entirely stop the questions he can at least parrot the same answers.

"I think it was 2nd of June when KP retired from the one-day and Twenty20 format so we have had a bit of time to plan without him," Broad reminded everyone, adding that England could still field eight of the players who had won the tournament. It was actually May 31, but he can be forgiven a spot of jetlag so soon after England's flight touched down in Colombo. It probably also explained his assertion, quickly corrected, that their "only focus was on getting that flight to South Africa". Even now he is probably pacing the streets in an unrewarding search for biltong.

But back to the moral of Broad's story: an innings of 99 made at Trent Bridge by one of his Nottinghamshire team-mates. "Alex Hales came in for the game against the West Indies and got the highest score by an England player in this format," Broad said. "The 15 guys who are here are really excited to be here and represent England in a World Cup and that is what you want when you get on the plane."

Jos Buttler's 32 from ten balls against South Africa on a rain-affected night at Edgbaston has also been adopted as proof that England's less celebrated middle-order batsmen can succeed, even if the likes of Buttler himself, Jonny Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter are unproven on the subcontinent.

"Unproven is probably the right word," Broad conceded, "but that doesn't mean they are not good enough. The likes of Buttler, Bairstow and Kieswetter toured with the Lions here earlier this year and when we went to the Caribbean and won we had two debutants walk out and open the batting for us in Michael Lumb and Kieswetter.

"Experience is a strange thing in T20 cricket. If you have played Test cricket for the last few years you don't actually get to play a lot of Twenty20 cricket. The likes of Jos Buttler have played a lot more Twenty20 cricket than say Graeme Swann or myself."

The England perspective on T20 is a strange one. India come here with confidence bolstered from the annual emphasis on the IPL. The more successful England players become, the less they play T20 as their opportunities in the IPL are rare and they infrequently play in the domestic FLt20 tournament because it is submerged by England's international programme.

As for the captain, Broad has been in the job for 18 months. He finds his team top of the rankings even though he has never skippered them for more than a week at a time. No wonder he says that, although he is proud of England's No. 1 status, rankings don't mean a great deal. But if England must defend their title in Sri Lanka then September, which may be more favourable than some months for the quicks, is not a bad time to do it.

"This is a great opportunity to have a month in charge and devote my skills as a captain and see what the guys are like in a longer format," he said. He meant a shorter format. His part-time job has yet to give him worry lines, but the jetlag was clearly messing with his mind. It was time to go and have a lie down.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo