Steven Mullaney believes his England Lions team are ready for the tough challenges ahead from India A and West Indies A in the ODI Tri-Series that starts in Derby tomorrow.
Mullaney, who was appointed Nottinghamshire captain during the winter, will lead the Lions for the first time after impressing as skipper of the North during the North-South Series in Barbados in March.
“It’s a great honour for me to be here, especially as captain,” said the 31-year-old Lancastrian.
“I really enjoyed the experience of captaincy in the North-South Series, and for that to lead on to captaining the Lions is massive – and something I’m really looking forward to.”
Mullaney was a spectator at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, to watch England’s senior ODI team smash their record-breaking total against Australia – and says his Lions team, under head coach Mark Ramprakash, are determined to maintain that positive approach.
“Ramps spoke to us before training about the importance of an aggressive intent, while still having the awareness to make allowances for conditions,” added the Lions captain.
“We spoke about the England ODI gameplan when we were out in Barbados for the North-South Series and the Lions have also discussed it.
“Obviously England have got a blueprint of how they want to play, and it was fantastic to watch the way they played at Trent Bridge this week. But I think it’s throughout English cricket in general now - if you look at some of the scores in county cricket, they want to play the same brand of cricket that England are playing. And that’s no different here with the Lions.”
But Mullaney is expecting some similarly aggressive cricket from the opposition in the Tri-Series, as the Lions battle with their West Indies and India counterparts to reach the final at the Kia Oval on Monday July 2.
India’s squad, coached by Rahul Dravid, includes batting firepower from the likes of Rishabh Pant, fresh from a stunning IPL campaign, and Prithvi Shaw, who was India’s Under-19 captain when they toured England last summer then won the ICC Under-19 World Cup.
There is also plenty of senior international experience through the likes of left-arm spinner Axa Patel and captain Shreyas Iyar.
West Indies include Jermaine Blackwood and are captained by Jason Mohammed, who has started the tour with consecutive centuries in warm-up games against Warwickshire and Worcestershire. But it was their spinners Rahkeem Cornwall and Jomel Worrican who did the damage as they beat the Lions in three consecutive four-day matches on home soil earlier this year – giving players backing up from that tour such as Nick Gubbins and Liam Livingstone an extra incentive to impress.
“If they’re not hurting from that, they’re doing something wrong, because they should want to put the record straight,” said Mullaney. “Those of us who weren’t there haven’t got any scars. We’ll be aware of the opposition, but I’m a massive believer as a captain that we focus on ourselves and what we can do.”
The Lions play their first game against the Windies on Saturday at Derbyshire’s impressively-redeveloped 3aaa County Ground, with the teams meeting again in Northampton next Thursday.
But they open up against the Indians tomorrow. “If you look at the records of the Indian players, in international cricket and the IPL, we’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be,” Mullaney conceded. “But at the same time I’m confident that in our conditions, hopefully with a bit of pace in the wicket, we can put them under some pressure.”
Both teams practised at the 3aaa today when the Lions were joined by Mike Yardy, the former Sussex and England all-rounder who is now on the coaching staff at Hove, and contacted Ramprakash for the chance to spend some time with the squad.
“Paul Farbrace has been very enthusiastic to provide opportunities for English coaches to be around practices,” Ramprakash explained. “Just after I’d been confirmed as head coach for this tournament Mike Yardy asked if he could come along, and I was only too happy to have him here and involved. I like talking cricket but I also like listening to people talking cricket.”
England Lions squad: Steven Mullaney (Nottinghamshire, captain), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Yorkshire), Sam Hain (Warwickshire), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Matthew Fisher (Yorkshire), Reece Topley (Hampshire), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Chris Jordan (Sussex). *Craig Overton (Somerset) to replace Jordan after the first two matches of the series.
India A squad: Shreyas Iyer (captain), Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Vijay Shankar, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Krunal Pandya, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Krishnappa Gowtham, Axar Patel, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur.
West Indies A squad: Jason Mohammed (captain), Sunil Ambris, Jermaine Blackwood, Rahkeem Cornwall, Dominic Drakes, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Chemar Holder, Andre McCarthy, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Raymon Reifer, Devon Thomas, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican.
June 22: Lions v India A (3aaa County Ground, Derby)
June 23: Lions v West Indies A (3aaa County Ground, Derby)
June 25: India A v West Indies A (Fischer County Ground, Leicester)
June 26: Lions v India A (Fischer County Ground, Leicester)
June 28: Lions v West Indies A (County Ground, Northampton)
June 29: India A v West Indies A (County Ground, Northampton)
July 2: Final (Kia Oval)
T20 returns to Trent Bridge on 4 July with a 2017 Finals Day rematch of Notts Outlaws v Birmingham Bears. Tickets are £10 in advance for adults, £7 for over-65s & under-21s and £5 for under 16s. Secure your seats now.