Glenn Phillips was waiting at one end of the media centre at the Gabba on Tuesday evening as the English media contingent interacted with Jos Buttler after England’s 20-run win against New Zealand.
Just like the scribes, Phillips, too, heard a few things that Buttler tried explaining. The England captain spoke about the much-needed win, his returning to form and also touched upon Moeen Ali dropping a regulation catch of Phillips when the latter was still trying to settle in. And making the most of the missed chance, Phillips went on to score 62 off just 36 deliveries.
Though his innings, in the end, could not save the day for New Zealand, it brought the team closer to the finishing line.
Coming into the game after a century against Sri Lanka, Phillips knew that the focus will once again shift to him during a crunch game against England, and keeping that in mind, he had to rely on his ‘process’.
“(The idea is to) try to win each ball as best as I possibly can. It’s a game of very fine margins and it’s not always going to be very right, so if I can trust myself in making as many right decisions as possible, then I am trying to do the best job I can for the team,” he said.
He is ‘sure that everybody else is also doing the same’ drill, but even then, as a senior cricketer, Phillips wants to ensure that he always plays his ‘A’ game and is ready for every circumstance. A well-travelled cricketer, Phillips features in various franchise leagues - including the Indian Premier League. And playing across regions, on different surfaces, the batter has realised the importance of a proper game plan and executing it to perfection.
“I would not say that there is no pressure, because there’s always some pressure. But trying to make it back to one right choice deviates a bit of the pressure and when you are at the nets, you want to make as many right choices as possible and that’s what you do to train,” he said, stressing on the fact that making the ‘right choices’ in terms of the game plan is the key.
Against a quality England bowling line-up, New Zealand lost its openers Devon Conway and Finn Allen early. With Moeen Ali beginning the proceedings, spin was a challenge for the Black Caps openers to combat. But then, when Phillips batted and built a 82-run partnership with Kane Williamson, things looked so easy. So, what is it that he did differently than his team-mates?
“I don’t think I necessarily found it easier than anyone else,” he said. “The guys were still hitting the balls well and timing them nicely, I just happened to have the opportunity to stay a bit longer. I obviously got dropped as well, so it necessarily doesn’t mean that I was any better. But it was a nice pitch, a good cricket wicket…”
In the middle of New Zealand’s chase, there were comparisons with last year’s T20 World Cup final in Abu Dhabi. Back then, New Zealand needed 57 from 24 balls with six wickets in hand, and this time around, the team needed 54 from 24 balls with six wickets remaining. The comparisons with that iconic game which saw the Black Caps cruise past England was inescapable.
Even though history did not repeat, Phillips believes that along with captain Williamson, they tried just focusing on their batting. “We had the wickets in hand to try and do it, but obviously Gabba is a big ground and it’s exactly not like you can target one end. Even the small end is 70 metres or so, it does require a lot of effort and a lot of things should go your way to be able to chase whatever was there in the last seven overs,” he said. “Unfortunately, it did not go our way today, we tried our best, but credit to the England bowlers for the way they bowled at the death. We gave it a crack…”
In two consecutive games, Phillips had to step up and deliver, but he does not believe that the openers are struggling against spin. “I am not going to necessarily say that they are hot and cold. Spinners have a big part to play in T20 cricket and I would say a lot of other teams have the exact same issue. Our openers may fire, or they may not, but their role is to try and get us off to a start. If it comes off then that’s great, but if it doesn’t, then it’s our job to understand the situation and take the game deep…”
“The way they are going about playing the spinners, we are more than happy with how they are attacking,” he explained. But then, moving to the knockouts, the openers will have to step up and combat the spin if New Zealand wishes to make it big.
There are also concerns over Williamson’s timid approach at No.3. The New Zealand captain struggled against England with a run-a-ball 40, but Phillips does not see Williamson playing as a ‘floater’.
“Kane’s absolutely good at No.3 for us. He understands situations and I know, he had a little bit of a tough day today, but with his experience, the ability to take it deep and command over the middle overs is crucial. To be able to have myself, Neesh (Jimmy Neesham), Daryll (Mitchell) and (Mitchell) Santner do our role at the end, and having Kane do what he is doing, we know he will come right at some point. He always does. We can’t necessarily judge him by one game. England bowled really well, they shut down his areas and in the next match, he could very well get 50 runs off 20 as well. We back him fully…”
‘Process’ and ‘intent’ are the two words you’d hear a lot in the cricketing circles these days, but then, so far in the tournament, Phillips has ensured that he sticks to those principles and built his game around. So far, that has yielded results and the batter hopes to keep it going…
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