Ben Duckett questions old England regime for not backing openers

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ben Duckett has thrived under England’s new era after six years in the international wilderness… he speaks of ‘enjoying’ his cricket under Ben Stokes and questions the old regime for ‘not backing their openers’

  • Ben Duckett was England’s second highest scorer on their tour of Pakistan 
  • He struck 357 runs in the three Test series win at close to a run-a-ball 
  • It came after six years out of international cricket for the 28-year-old 
  • He has now accused the old England regime of ‘not backing their openers’ 

 Six years in the international wilderness taught Ben Duckett not to dwell on failure and as he reflects on one of England cricket’s great comeback stories, he accepts the peak of Pakistan will be followed by troughs. Such is the life of a Test opener.

‘I know I’m going to have low scores but at the rate that I score, if I can get in a couple of times then I know it will put us in a match-winning position,’ Duckett tells The Mail on Sunday.

It is a perspective that provides a stark contrast to Duckett’s first incarnation as an England cricketer at the age of 22, when he won four Test caps and made three one-day international appearances against Bangladesh and India.

Ben Duckett thrived on England’s recent tour of Pakistan, scoring 357 runs in the series

It came after six years in the international wilderness for the opening bastman

His maiden half-century in Tests was a 56 off 64 balls against Bangladesh, an innings that would fit with the current team’s modus operandi. There were two 50s in the ODIs, too. But it was his travails against India’s premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and a 16-ball duck, after he was told to resist his impulses and drop anchor, that stuck in the memory.

Ironically, the lingering images of the Ashwin torment meant the fact Duckett remained one of the best players of spin in the country was overlooked until last summer when, in passing the 1,000 run mark in the County Championship for Nottinghamshire, the ECB’s performance director Mo Bobat noted that he was ‘striking the ball like an international batsman again.’

When Brendon McCullum witnessed it first-hand during England Lions’ crushing four-day win over South Africa in Canterbury, a second chance was nigh. And after having an autumn holiday to Mexico with girlfriend Paige interrupted by the news he was in England’s winter Test plans, Duckett vowed to do things his way, sink or swim.

He impressed with  his scoring rate, going at nearly a-run-a-ball in the three Test series

‘For a period, the England team has been a bit of a conveyor belt for opening batsmen, and in my opinion it was because they didn’t give them enough chances. You have to back your openers,’ he says.

‘The one thing about the Pakistan tour was that I didn’t want to get overly excited because I made the mistake of getting too carried away about being selected when I was younger. This time, I said to myself that I was not going to be happy until I’d actually proved myself at that level. Whether I scored runs or not, I was going to stick to my strengths.

‘The last few years have been the most consistent I have ever been. I have probably got to an age where I’m just sticking to what I’m best at.’

In his last outing as a Test cricketer, Duckett struggled against India’s Ravichandran Ashwin

Duckett’s unbeaten 82 in the whitewash-sealing win in Karachi last month took him to a tally of 357 series runs at an average of 71.4. Only Harry Brook scored more on either side, but he could not match the Nottinghamshire left-hander’s strike rate of 95.71.

‘I feel like I left a lot of runs out there. I’m always wanting more. It’s when you go through times when you’re struggling that you look back on the times you did well and wish you were a bit greedier.’

Loyalty has been at the heart of England’s success under McCullum and Ben Stokes, meaning that Duckett can ready himself for facing Australia in June and July regardless of what happens in New Zealand next month. 

He spoke of ‘enjoying his cricket’ under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ leadership

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will provide a thorough examination of techniques but the Test team’s think-tank will ask Duckett and Zak Crawley to carry on and counter-attack.

Later this month, he hopes to add to that trio of 50-over caps in South Africa, potentially in the No 4 position vacated by the recently retired Stokes. ‘The white-ball side was so good, I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance but now there is a new window looking forward, obviously to the World Cup this year,’ he says.

England have been thrilled with Brook, Rehan Ahmed and Matt Potts in 2022 but Duckett’s success in both Tests and T20s has been arguably the most impressive.

‘The pressure that you have on you before you step on the field is big enough,’ he says. ‘The leadership group realise that and have made it so enjoyable for us. The message is, ‘We back you, go and play your way.’ And at times it has felt like we have been playing friendlies not matches for your country.’




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