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‘Crikey, how am I expected to play like Chris Gayle?’ – When T20 went global and England got left behind

Jo Harman by Jo Harman 10 minute read

Seven years after they’d last played for England, Darren Maddy and Chris Schofield received surprise call-ups for the 2007 World T20 in South Africa. Jo Harman revisits T20’s first global tournament, speaking to two players who had never expected to be part of it.

T20 was young and naïve in 2007, yet to find its voice, its credibility or its wealthiest benefactors.

Sir Allen Stanford, that benevolent Texan billionaire, had launched a new domestic competition in the Caribbean a year earlier, but it wasn’t until June 2008 that he landed his (rented-for-the-day) helicopter containing $20m dollars (of largely fake bank notes) on the Lord’s Nursery Ground and the ECB made their deal with the devil.

India were still to fall for T20’s charms and in 2006 the BCCI had voted against the introduction of a world tournament, fearing the impact it would have on the existing formats. “We were outvoted 10-1 at the ICC meeting,” explained BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah, “so we had no other option but to embrace this format of the game.”

India’s lukewarm attitude was reflected by the fact that prior to the 2007 World T20 they’d only played a single match in the format, and when their squad was announced it didn’t include their two biggest stars, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. In Ganguly’s absence, the side would be led for the first time by the buccaneering keeper/batsman, MS Dhoni. “We will return with the World Cup,” the 26-year-old told India’s selectors following his appointment.

Meanwhile in England, the first professional T20 tournament had just completed its fourth season. Introduced in 2003 after what Stuart Robertson, the ECB’s marketing manager, described as “the biggest piece of consumer research the game had ever done”, the Twenty20 Cup had provoked fierce debate between the traditionalists and the modernists. Was this new competition destroying the fabric of the county game? Or future-proofing it in the face of an increasingly competitive market? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The ECB’s proposal for a domestic T20 tournament had only snuck through by 11 votes to 7 but by the time the 2007 World T20 in South Africa rolled around it had won over many of its doubters. County attendances had soared, profits were rising and the national team were now playing the format on a semi-regular basis, thumping Australia by 100 runs in their first-ever T20I in 2005 (Geraint Jones opening the batting, Andrew Strauss performing the ‘finisher’ role at No.7) and playing five more matches ahead of the World T20.

England’s strategy until that point had been to more or less stick with the ODI side and mess around with the batting order, a bit like a Sunday club friendly. But the selectors had a change of approach ahead of T20’s first global tournament, recognising short-format specialists who’d excelled in the Twenty20 Cup.

Luke Wright, Sussex’s 22-year-old all-rounder, was parachuted into the squad, and there were recalls for three players who thought their chance with England had long since past. Jeremy Snape, Leicestershire’s 34-year-old off-spinner and creator of the ‘moon ball’, was back after five years in the international wildness, and there was also a return for Warwickshire opener Darren Maddy, 33, who hadn’t featured for England since 2000. But the most stirring comeback story was that of Chris Schofield.

In the summer of 2000, Schofield – then a 21-year-old leggie with just 22 first-class appearances to his name – had been fast-tracked into England’s Test side to take on Zimbabwe. He didn’t bowl a ball on debut at Lord’s, returned 0-73 at Trent Bridge, and that was that. Four years later, after losing his contract at Lancashire, he was turning his arm over for Suffolk.

“My career had gone downhill,” Schofield tells Wisden.com. “I was thinking I wasn’t going to play cricket again when I left Lancashire. I was in a little bit of a bad place, I wasn’t really enjoying my cricket. But then I felt like I still had something to give. I just wanted an opportunity to prove to myself and other people that I was capable of getting back to the top.”

Chris Schofield receives his Test cap, 2000

That opportunity was provided by Alan and Mark Butcher, coach and captain at Surrey, who handed Schofield a one-year deal in 2006. The following summer he topped the wicket-taking charts in the group stage of the Twenty20 Cup, paving the way for his selection in England’s World T20 squad.

“I had a really good season for Surrey but I wasn’t thinking I had a good chance of being selected, having been out of the game for a couple of years. To get that call-up was quite unbelievable really.”

Maddy, who’d played three Tests and eight ODIs across 1999 and 2000, was also shocked to find himself back in the England set-up, playing a format which he had initially written off.

“To be honest, when it first started I didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” he says of T20. “I felt it was a young man’s game, that it wasn’t going to catch on, and I’m a traditionalist. I thought I wasn’t going to play until we he had our first warm-up game and we had such a laugh. It was so refreshing to play a new format where you didn’t have to worry about technique or how long you were going to bat for. You could just go out and express yourself.

“I had a little bit of a lull after I’d come out of the England team, I really didn’t know where my cricket was going. Having spent so much time striving to play for England, I underperformed for a couple of seasons. But after the introduction of T20 I found my love, enjoyment and passion for the game.”

Maddy was part of the Leicestershire side which won the Twenty20 Cup in 2004 and 2006, hitting 86* in the second of those finals, and he went on to become the first player to score 1,000 runs in the format. He vowed to release the shackles which had inhibited his first stint with England, but some of those doubts resurfaced after watching Chris Gayle open the tournament by blitzing 117 off 57 balls against South Africa, including 10 monstrous sixes.

“I can remember thinking, ‘Crikey, how am I expected to play like Chris Gayle?’ We had totally different styles, obviously, and this guy is a world-class performer. From saying I was going to just enjoy it, I started to put a bit of pressure on myself. I’ve got this reputation of being a T20 specialist and they’re going to expect me to play like Chris Gayle.”

***

England’s group, which also included Australia and Zimbabwe, was immediately blown wide open. An Australian side featuring six of the 11 who’d won the 50-over World Cup final five months earlier slumped to a five-wicket defeat to Zimbabwe.

England took on the Zimbabweans at Newlands the next day and handed debuts to Maddy, Schofield and Wright; the latter falling for a golden duck after Maddy had made a breezy 14 from nine balls at the top of the order alongside Matt Prior. A total of 188-9, led by Kevin Pietersen’s 37-ball 79, proved plenty, their debutant leg-spinner impressing with 2-15 from his four overs in a 50-run win.

“I felt if I bowled well against the likes of KP and Fred [Andrew Flintoff] in the nets, then I would be able to compete and do the job that was required of me,” says Schofield. “And I felt like I achieved that. When I got the ball in my hand I was able to do what I wanted to do, and my figures showed that.”

England went into their next game knowing that victory over Australia would send Ricky Ponting’s side home at the earliest opportunity, but Maddy says he detected a negative attitude within the dressing room ahead of the match.

“They had such a strong team – Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting, Lee, Johnson – and I got the impression listening to other people talk that we’d already lost before the first ball had been bowled. It was a real shame, and of course we did lose. We got beaten heavily.”

Maddy scored a run-a-ball 20 in an eight-wicket defeat, while Schofield finished with figures of 1-31 after dismissing Adam Gilchrist with his second delivery. The result meant all three sides in the group finished on two points, with Australia and England progressing to the Super 8s on net run rate.

Darren Maddy batting against New Zealand at the 2007 World T20

England faced unbeaten South Africa in their first match of the second phase and surprisingly decided to drop Maddy, pushing Wright up to open despite him having made scores of 0 and 3 in the tournament. The youngster made another duck in a lacklustre 19-run defeat which exposed the fact that England, under the stewardship of coach Peter Moores and captain Paul Collingwood, still had much to learn about the format.

“I was disappointed not to be playing, especially when we lost and you’re not able to contribute,” says Maddy. “We had three or four guys coming into what normally would be the one-day squad and we were trying to work out what our style was. Successful teams have their brand or formula but we didn’t really have that. We had some outstanding, world-class players, but I don’t think we knew what our best team was.”

After four matches in Cape Town, the squad headed east to Durban, where they took on New Zealand in a must-win game. Maddy was restored to the side and opened the batting with Vikram Solanki, who also filled in as wicketkeeper in place of the injured Prior.

Chasing 165 to win on a small ground, England looked well set after Maddy unleashed his inner Gayle and brought up his half-century in 31 balls. But his dismissal proved a turning point in the match, with the Kiwis eventually winning a tight contest by five runs.

“I was feeling in good form all tournament,” recalls Maddy. “I remember batting with KP and it was just great to be in the middle with someone like him, who hit the ball so hard. But that was the reason for my downfall in the end. I got run out after he clipped one off his legs to mid-wicket. I just forgot how hard he hits the ball and how it gets to the fielder so much quicker. There wasn’t a run there and it was a direct hit.

“I was gutted that my game was over because of a silly mistake I made. I was set. I was happy that I’d performed and contributed but disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the team over the line. I was a bit down on myself after that game.”

England’s tournament was effectively over, but they still had to play India, who needed to win to confirm their qualification for the semi-finals.

The small boundaries at Durban convinced the England think tank to go in without a spinner, so Chris Tremlett came in for his debut. As Schofield admits, it wasn’t a bad game to miss.

“India’s team was awesome. When I watched that last game and the players they had, it was just unbelievable. It was scary the way those guys hit the ball. It was quite nice not to be involved in that game!”

Yuvraj Singh takes on Stuart Broad – and goes big

In a match best remembered for Yuvraj Singh depositing Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over on his way to a 12-ball half-century (still the fastest in T20I history), India posted 218-4, the highest score of the tournament.

“I remember Freddie bowled a very hostile over and he was getting stuck into Yuvi,” says Maddy. “He responded the following over by hitting my old mate Broady out of the park. You had a sense of it when the second ball went for six, you couldn’t help but think the inevitable was going to happen. It didn’t matter where he bowled, you just knew that Yuvi was going to try and hit it out of the park, which he did very well!

“Stuart was a young lad but he dealt with that very well. He showed great character afterwards, he was very philosophical about it. He didn’t let it affect him.”

In reply, England made their first score of 200 in the format, Maddy continuing his good form with a 20-ball 29, but they finished 18 runs short and exited the competition with one win from five matches.

***

It had been a disappointing campaign for England but Maddy and Schofield had held their own on the world stage, and that was reflected in the post-tournament debrief.

“I’d bowled really well, and the management were happy with what I did,” recalls Schofield, who took four wickets at 23 in the tournament, with an economy of 7.16. “We had a meeting after the tournament and they were over the moon with how I’d performed. They said, ‘Swanny is going to look to play all Test match cricket, but we need somebody to take over all the one-day stuff’. With my performances on that tour, they were very confident that I would be the guy to do that. That was just amazing, the feedback that I got.”

Maddy could also reflect proudly on a tournament in which he finished as England’s second-highest run-scorer.

“I look back and feel that I put to bed some of the doubts that I might have had about playing international cricket seven years previously. I felt much more part of the squad.”

As the rest of England’s squad travelled to Sri Lanka for an ODI series, Maddy and Schofield boarded a plane back to the UK, wondering what might come next.

India celebrate winning the 2007 World T20

“The next T20 World Cup was two years later in England,” says Maddy, “and I thought hopefully I’d have another chance, but it was a strange feeling. I’d had these two-and-a-half weeks back with the England team and you’re in this bubble and it’s a wonderful lifestyle – touring again, being with your mates, playing cricket – and then it’s over.

“I remember getting the plane home to the UK. The final was being played that day between India and Pakistan, so I didn’t even see it. It was a very surreal feeling being part of this bubble and then all of a sudden this emptiness of being on the plane on the way home, realising that it was all over.”

Despite the positive impression they made in South Africa, neither Maddy nor Schofield played for England again. A broken thumb and an ACL injury restricted Maddy to just one T20 appearance over the next two years, ending any hopes he had of playing in the 2009 World T20 on home soil, while Schofield broke each of his thumbs in two separate incidents during the 2008 summer and subsequently slipped down the pecking order.

The 2007 World T20 marked the start of the format’s rapid expansion, the inaugural Indian Premier League following hot on the heels of India’s dramatic last-gasp win over Pakistan at The Wanderers, Dhoni delivering the trophy just as he said he would. For Maddy and Schofield, two bit-part characters in T20’s first global jamboree, it was a final chapter that neither had dreamt of.

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