By his own admission, Duckett, now 28, “probably wasn’t ready for international cricket” back in 2016-17, when he made his Test and ODI debuts on England’s tours of Bangladesh and India. Seven years later, however, he’s so relaxed about the experience, he was even able to prepare for last week’s return to the white-ball set-up by spending a couple of days “on a sun lounger” in Dubai.
That brief stint of R&R came as the Test squad disbanded after their thrilling one-run loss to New Zealand in Wellington, which was also Duckett’s first defeat in five appearances since his recall for the Pakistan tour in December. In that time he has averaged an impressive 56.44 at the top of the order, and was enthusiastic about carrying that same mindset into this week’s first T20I against Bangladesh in Chattogram.
“It’s ridiculously different,” Duckett said of his experience in the Test set-up. “The way that they make everyone feel is something that I never thought would be the case in Test cricket. It’s almost like you’re playing a friendly, you’re actually going out and playing a Test match and it’s that relaxed, and that’s how you’re going to get players to perform at their best.
“The first thing Baz said to me in Pakistan was: ‘Just enjoy it, you’re going to get a good run’. To hear that as an opening batsman before your first Test back makes you not nervous and you can go out there and play your way rather than looking for a score.
“And I think the big thing in that dressing-room is – whatever the noise is outside that dressing room, no one cares. It’s everything in that dressing room and almost you’ve got that backing, it feels like there’s a squad of players now that seems like they’re going to keep for a little while, especially while things are going well. Previously, you’re fearing for every single game, if you get no runs, you might get dropped the next game.”
“The one thing I’ve been lucky with is, because of how I play, it doesn’t really change throughout the formats. You see these guys who are whacking the ball out of the ground and then they’ve got to go and play Test cricket and it’s a massive difference, where my mentality in all three formats is to see ball, hit ball. And now against spin, sweeping it both ways in all formats – and I’ve got the full backing from all of the squads.
“I’ve matured as a cricketer,” he added. “It’s realising what works for me, understanding what my strengths are. Seven years ago I might have tried to hit Shakib [Al Hasan] for six over long-on, now I know all I have to do is hit the ball in front of square leg and it’s four runs. The small taste I had back then, I was very young and probably wasn’t ready. I think that comes with age and most batters are at their best when they get to the age of 28, 29.”
Duckett is one of only four England players to have featured in all three formats this winter, and it’s been quite the round-the-world trip – encompassing campaigns in Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and now Bangladesh – which is all the more reason why he had no qualms about dropping everything for a week and lying low with his girlfriend in the UAE between red- and white-ball campaigns, rather than fretting about the challenge of switching formats.
His long wait for a second chance with England was also a key factor in his decision to opt out of the big-money opportunities on the franchise circuit this winter – including the on-going Pakistan Super League, which caused a number of England’s players, including Alex Hales, to withdraw their availability for the Bangladesh series.
“I spoke to someone a month ago about people resting and pulling out of stuff,” he said. “For me, the focus is on the chance to play all three formats for England. And that’s going to be my focus for as long as I’m in the squad.
“Don’t get me wrong, if I’ve got a month next winter and I get offered a lot of money, I’m probably going to go and play in it, as most of us would. But you can play all these leagues around the world in a few years’ time, right now I’m solely focused on playing as much for England as I can. That break I had was potentially a good thing for me, and it’s made me so hungry now to take every single chance I get.”