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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ben Duckett questions old England regime for 'not backing their openers'

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ben Duckett questions old England regime for 'not backing their openers'

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ben Duckett thrives under new England era after six years in international jungle… talks about ‘enjoying’ his cricket under Ben Stokes and questions old regime for ‘not supporting their openers’

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

Six years in the international jungle has taught Ben Duckett not to dwell on failure and as he reflects on one of England cricket’s great comeback stories, he accepts that Pakistan’s peak 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 I’ve been scoring, if I can get in a couple of times, I know it will put us in a position to win the match,’ Duckett told The Mail on Sunday.

It’s a view 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 flourished on England's recent tour of Pakistan, scoring 357 runs in the series

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

His first half-century in Tests was a 56 off 64 balls against Bangladesh, an innings that fits the current team’s modus operandi. There were two 50s in ODIs as well. But it was his struggles against India’s premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and a 16-ball duck, after he was told to curb his impulses and drop the anchor, that stick in the memory.

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

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

He impressed with his scoring rate, which was almost a-run-a-ball in the three Test series

He impressed with his scoring rate, which was almost a-run-a-ball in the three Test series

‘For a while, the England team has been a conveyor belt for opening batsmen, and in my opinion it’s because they haven’t given them enough chances. You have to back your openers,’ he said.

‘One thing about the Pakistan tour is that I don’t want to get too excited because I made the mistake of getting too carried away with being picked when I was younger. This time, I told myself that I wouldn’t be happy until I proved myself to that level. Whether I score runs or not, I’ll stick to my strength.

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‘The last few years have been the most consistent I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ve reached an age where I just stick to what’s best for me.’

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

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 was unable to match the Nottinghamshire left-hander’s strike rate of 95.71.

‘I feel like I left a lot out there. I always want more. When you go through hard times, you look back on the good times and wish you were more greedy.’

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

He spoke of 'enjoying his cricket' under the leadership of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes

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

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will provide a thorough analysis of strategies but the Test team’s think-tank will ask Duckett and Zak Crawley to go ahead and counter-attack.

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

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

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‘The pressure you have on you before you step on the field is enough,’ he said. ‘The management team realized that and made it enjoyable for us. The message is, ‘We back you, go and play your way.’ And sometimes it feels like we’re playing friends not fighting for your country.’