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England T20 squad living in the now with an eye on the future

Topley in doubt for early stages of Pakistan tour, Woakes and Wood to ease back during Lahore leg

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott observe training  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott observe training  •  Getty Images

England are in a transition phase in T20 international cricket and their historic seven-match series in Pakistan will require them to juggle a number of competing demands.
Their selection meeting ahead of the tour lasted nearly four hours as Jos Buttler, Matthew Mott and Rob Key weighed up the importance of fine-tuning ahead of this winter's World Cup, keeping key players fresh and testing bench strength with an eye on the 2024 and even 2026 editions.
They have arrived with a squad of 20 players, of whom a dozen are in the World Cup squad and will travel straight to Australia in early October. There, they will meet up with Chris Jordan and Liam Livingstone who are missing this trip through injury, and Ben Stokes who has been rested after a busy English summer.
Mott's tenure as white-ball coach started in a hurry: a short tour to the Netherlands, then six ODIs and six T20Is in the space of 25 days against India and South Africa in the home summer. Results were a mixed bag - the Netherlands ODIs were the only series England won - and he spent the six weeks before this tour watching the Hundred on TV while settling his family into their new home in Cardiff.
"I hate the word 'rebuilding' but we've got some work to do to get our stuff right," Mott said. "It's not just about the short term: we're trying to build something and create a bit of a legacy with this team.
"I probably got thrown in there a bit early and the series came really quickly but now we've had time to digest it and work out how we want to go forward. These bilateral series now have to be used really smartly: part of it is about the World Cup and some players returning from injury, but we've also looked to the future with this group of players."
Mott has already had to deal with Eoin Morgan's decision to retire from international cricket at the end of June, while Buttler is in the early stages of his captaincy career. He laughed off the concept of 'Mottball' while speaking to the touring press but this series will be an important step in the creation of an identity.
Brendon McCullum, whose ultra-positive philosophy has had such a transformative effect on England's Test side, is a close friend of Mott's and the pair caught up before Morgan's testimonial dinner in London on Monday.
"It's bloody exciting," Mott said. "He's had an immediate impact. "I've got nothing but love for what he's done. Rather than being jealous of it, it's actually inspired me to be myself as a coach. We've assembled a magnificent support group now… I feel like there's something special around at the moment."
England will start this series without several senior members of their touring party available, including assistant coach Richard Dawson who limped out of Saturday night's training session with a hip injury. Buttler confirmed on arrival that he is unlikely to feature until the final two games of the series, with Phil Salt pencilled in as wicketkeeper in his absence.
They will manage their fast bowlers carefully too, with nine seam options in the squad. Reece Topley is a doubt for the early stages with an ankle niggle, while Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will be eased back from their long-term injuries in the Lahore leg of the trip.
"David Saker has come in and is managing them [Woakes and Wood] through," Mott said. "Woody bowled pretty quick last night at training and if it was his choice alone, he'd be in sooner rather than later. But he's such a valuable commodity for the World Cup. We're going to be relatively conservative with him and build him up in this series.
"They have spent a lot of time out of the game but the other side of this is they are really fresh. Sometimes coming out of a county season, it can be quite hard work. For a long time they've had the goal of being ready for this World Cup. They have been really clear on that... if we can keep them on the park then they are two world class-bowlers."
There are five uncapped players on the tour (Tom Helm, Luke Wood, Will Jacks, Jordan Cox and Olly Stone) and while Mott confirmed that the World Cup squad is locked in barring injuries, he is still looking to give opportunities to England's brightest young players - and to win the series against a strong Pakistan side.
"That's the tricky thing, isn't it?" Mott said. "Everyone wants to win all the time but if you're only focused on that, you never build. If we want to build a team that can match the one that's been there the last few years, we need to regenerate.
"We have to make sure that new blood comes in - reward performance as much as we can but also look to the future. Time will tell, but I think there are players here who are going to be generational players."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98