Two teams not from the subcontinent have made it to the summit clash of a World Twenty20 held in India. While it underlines how fickle the format can be, it also highlights the fact that England and West Indies have ticked a few boxes the subcontinent teams haven’t.
England however have been slightly more lucky than West Indies by default. All five matches they have played so far have been in Mumbai and New Delhi where pitches have not been typically Indian, according to captain Eoin Morgan. West Indies on the other hand, first landed in Kolkata and played two practice matches here before setting off on a journey that had pit stops in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Nagpur.
To leave the comfort of true pitches and come to Eden Gardens can be an unnerving challenge. But trust the English to plan their way out of any problem. Like on Saturday, when their spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were seen practising to a line marked out for them. Two tapes were laid along the length of the practice pitch and tied to the off and leg stumps at both ends.
Two blue markers placed outside the off stump, just a couple of paces beyond good length, gave England’s spinners the idea where to bowl on the Eden Gardens pitch. Later the markers were placed fuller for Chris Jordan to practice his yorkers. It went on to show how England leave nothing to chance and plan everything to the last detail.
Detailed dossiers, statistics, computer data and video feedback are part of the English sports culture, right from the time of Don Revie to Bob Woolmer and recently Peter Moores who faced a lot of criticism in light of England’s disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign. Despite their chequered history with data-based preparation, Morgan seems to endorse it but not to the extent of solely relying on it.
“With data it’s about how effectively it’s used and how your players respond to that. Our side, because we are very young and inexperienced, we only choose to use small bits of data that we think will be effective,” said Morgan. That said, Morgan said players have the freedom to improvise and be instinctive at times. “We actually give the player freedom which he has earned to come and play for England on the big stage,” said Morgan who admitted there were a few preconceived notions in the team.
“Watching the other group play, that’s the sort of preconceived idea I would have coming to India with --- slow wickets, not bouncing and turning quite a lot. But the wickets we have played on in our group weren’t typical Indian wickets. I suppose it has surprised me a little,” he said.
Eden Gardens could be that typical Indian track England have been anticipating. It explained the coach’s attempt to tie down a particular length for the spinners. And Ali and Rashid seemed to do just fine. Come Sunday though, Lendl Simmons or Marlon Samuels will be at the other end to test how well England have prepared for them.