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September 23, 2012
Stuart Broad found himself in a familiar position for England captains - trying to explain a calamitous display against spin bowling - as his side, dismissed against India for 80 in 14.4 overs, registered England's lowest total in Twenty20 internationals.
"It doesn't change our destiny a huge amount - we still hop on a bus to Kandy in the morning," Broad said. "It is not like tomorrow is going to be a different day. It is not as if we have to go home or anything."
It was understandable, indeed it was necessary, that Broad found consolation in the fact that both sides had already qualified for Super Eights and that, for the sake of their travelling supporters, England and India were already locked into matches in Pallekele (near to Kandy) or Colombo respectively, irrespective of whether they finished first or second in the group.
But that underplayed the psychological effect that a defeat of such magnitude will have on a relatively untried England batting line-up that had grown in confidence during the warm-up matches but which collapsed spectacularly when faced by the first real test against significant opposition.
As Broad had mentioned destiny, he did bring to mind Freud's theory of repetition compulsion - a psychological phenomenon in which a person (or in this case the England cricket team) repeats a traumatic event, or its circumstances, over and over again.
Freud's theory says the patient does not remember anything about what he has forgotten or repressed, but just acts it out until the end of time, which is a depressing thought for when England next face spin bowling in Asia as well as an intriguing challenge for the team psychologist. The alternative, of course, would be to listen instead to Mushtaq Ahmed, the spin bowling coach, and start hitting the ball down the ground.
"Our error today is we lost early wickets," Broad said. "Spinners always enjoy bowling to new batsmen. We talked the other day about how we need to hit straight and hard and today to lose the first couple of wickets across the line was a bit disappointing. Hitting straight was a much better option than going across the ball."
England's display was so woeful that when they lost their ninth wicket at 60 they were in danger of recording the lowest score in T20 internationals, undercutting Kenya's 67 against Ireland. Somehow, they avoided that. But this was their heaviest defeat, by runs, in T20 internationals.
There was no alibi for the batsmen and Broad was not about to give them one. There was no sharp turn - there may be as the tournament progresses so if England do reach the semi-finals and face India once more at Premadasa it could be worse - and India's 170 for 4 was, at most, 10 over par so the target did not demand the impossible.
"I don't think the wicket turned massively to be honest," Broad said. "The guys getting out said it was just skidding on a little bit. There was a little bit of turn, Harbhajan bowled very nicely with his top-spinner going well but no, I don't think it was a raging turner or anything.
"We made it easy for India in the end. We will have to learn from our mistakes and there were some pretty clear ones in the batting line-up. Young guys seem to learn pretty quickly."
He did not entirely exonerate the bowling, where England suffered in this match by giving Tim Bresnan a run out as a fourth seamer, in defiance of a dry pitch, because of their conviction that the ball will seam and swing in Pallakele and he will play in their opening Super Eight tie against West Indies or Ireland on Thursday as a result. The fielding was also scrappy by England standards, but these were details compared to the car crash of a batting performance.
"I think we were a little bit sloppy in places: we had a few soft twos in the outfield," Broad conceded. "We didn't hit our lengths as well as we could up front. But I think it was the lowest first-innings score on this ground so far in the tournament. We thought it was very chaseable. The wicket was pretty flat, although it didn't have the pace in it that it had the other night.
"It will be interesting to see what the Pallakele wickets offer. There has been talk that in the Sri Lankan Premier League it seamed around a bit. We knew it was a bit dryer at the start but we wanted to try a different balance of side with the four seamers in a game that we could afford to lose. It was a risk that we took and it didn't help us."
Sunil Gavaskar, the former India captain, was quick to point out England's deficiencies. "This is a sorry display from England," he said. "There's been a lack of footwork, application and the will to stick around and fight it out." It was accurate enough but England regard Gavaskar as a serial critic; perhaps this is a comment that will be heading for the dressing room wall.
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