If being innovative is the mantra of success in the modern age, then England’s Ben Duckett is abundantly equipped to become one of the biggest future stars of the game.
The 19-year-old Northamtonshire player played a key role in England’s narrow three-wicket win over India in the U19 Cricket World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
Duckett, who was making a come-back into the team after missing the last two group matches because of a groin strain, made a crucial 61 in 64 balls.
While it took England to the semi-finals (against Pakistan in Dubai on Monday), it was the way he got his runs that drew rapturous applause even from the partisan Indian fans.
England batsmen are traditionally considered weak against quality spin bowling, but Duckett was something else. The way he handled the combined attack of Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda and Aamir Gani, it was as if he learnt his cricket at Shardashram in Mumbai, and not Stowe School in Northampton.
The southpaw was positive in his intent, used his feet with the daintiness of a dancer and mixed the unorthodox with textbook style batting with considerable elan.
Such is the way modern formats of cricket are played these days, it’s the unorthodox that remains etched in the mind. And there was plenty to cheer about, especially the brilliance of his reverse sweeps and pulls.
That’s a shot Duckett has inculcated going against parental advice. His father has asked him several times to shun the reverse shots, before giving up. But it is also the one young Ben enjoys playing the most.
“I love playing the reverse sweep. I hit it a lot during the nets, although I do not specifically practice it,” said Duckett, who made an 83 in England’s opener against the UAE.
“I think it comes from me playing a lot of hockey during my school days. The reverse flick may have developed into a reverse sweep. “As for playing spinners, it helps that I have played a lot of cricket outside England – in India, in Sri Lanka and other places.
Also, I like to move a lot while batting, which perhaps upsets their rhythms a bit.” His father may complain, but his captain, Will Rhodes, certainly isn’t. “Ben’s been playing the reverse shots since he was a 10-year-old. Never seen him miss those. In the nets, he is absolutely fantastic.
“It is one of his better shots, which is why he plays it so often. He has got such good hands,” said the skipper. Duckett, who has 144 runs from two games so far and tops the team averages (72.00), is excited about the next challenge against Pakistan.
“I hope to carry on my batting form,” he said.