Pakistan vs England, 1st Test, Rawalpindi – ‘It won’t happen if it doesn’t happen’

“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”

Ben Stokes announced on Tuesday that Liam Livingstone will make his Test debut against Pakistan in Rawalpindi. Just 24 hours later, with the start of the first Test a virus blowing through England’s squad threatening to deprive them of 11-foot cricketers, Livingstone remained relaxed when asked if he would wait a little longer. are ready for On what may or may not be the first day of the first Test in Rawalpindi at 7:30 am PKT at the last possible moment, another night’s sleep won’t affect it much. Livingstone is by all accounts immobile.

He had already withdrawn from optional training on the final day at the ground before players started reporting symptoms late on Tuesday. “I’ve spent most of the morning on the golf simulator,” he says, like a man with his eyes open to and from his local store to buy a Diet Coke in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. “It was pretty weird. Everyone was going down one by one. Thankfully I’m clear by now.

“I was just chilling upstairs, had breakfast with Sax (Mark Saxby) who’s just come back from being sick, so I didn’t see anybody. I don’t know what’s going on. Thankfully. It is very much above me (decision on whether the Test will start as planned). If it doesn’t happen, it won’t happen. But I’m not going to waste any energy thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

If you want an insight into Livingstone’s mindset, and what Stokes and Brendon McCullum see in him, here it is, in a bold brush Cumbrian. The Lancashire batsman is a man of his own mind who rarely sweats the big or the small.

Much has been made of the decision to hand cap number 708 to a player who last played first-class cricket at the start of September 2021, and has since traded his fame – and money – for a franchise. As made worldwide. hire, whether abroad or at home, especially when he carried the first edition of The Hundred as part of the Birmingham Phoenix. He said the decision to specialize was strategic, with an element of uncertainty.

“The reason was to be in the World Cup squad in 2021,” he says. “It seemed so far away when I went out and played all these franchise tournaments and I guess I thought I was closer to the Test squad than I was.”

“The last two years I’ve lived day by day, enjoying the fact that we’re traveling the world … we’re going to play their franchise tournaments in all these cool countries. “Learned that you really don’t know what tomorrow might bring and if anything, this proves it. If you had asked me two or three months ago if I would play in this Test series, If I was going, I would say. Maybe not.”

And yet, there is an element of luck in how things panned out over the past month, with victory in the 2022 edition of the T20 World Cup, then this call-up. Australia was in many ways a place for both. Before the tournament, Stokes, a long-time friend of Livingstone, took the 29-year-old aside to ask if he was interested in coming to Pakistan. It was a very quick yes. “When Stokes and Baaz ask you if you want to play Test cricket, it’s quite difficult to say no to both of them.”

Hardly given as a kid, long before Twenty20, let alone franchise competitions, the offer was the stuff of giggling.

“Whenever I used to play in the garden with my brother, the two things were you’re either playing Test cricket for England or you’re playing for England in the World Cup. So I guess I’m the two of them. Will be able to live the dream that the last two weeks and even. Moreover, it is great to win the World Cup and make a Test debut two weeks later.

While we’re on family, it’s worth bringing up Livingstone’s dad. A Facebook post by Steve Livingstone on November 12 tells of his imminent pride in going to Australia to watch his son in the World Cup final. Will he be able to do the double and see his son make his Test debut?

“No,” Livingstone replies. “It was a trade-off, he didn’t know which one to make. I guess it would have been very difficult to see your son win the World Cup. I don’t know what he would have done if we had lost that final but… thanks.” Everyone did a great job.

“It’s a very proud moment to give back to the years and years of driving up and down the M6 ​​three times a week for three or four years when I was at school and college. Maybe more about them. It will be about me.”

Even within the support, there was an awkward moment that his father couldn’t hide the fact that Livingstone’s career seemed like it was taking him away from that moment.

“Dad has always said that he wants me to play Test cricket. Even when I thought with him that I might not get the chance, you could always see in his face that he was excited about it. They were disappointed.”

The closest he came before that was the 2018 tour of New Zealand in which he was a member of the non-playing squad. It came on the back of his most prolific first-class season for Lancashire, with two centuries at 42.36 in 805 runs, followed by two against Sri Lanka A in the same match during the England Lions winter. Score centuries. While the immediate red-ball experience is very different between then and now, he now better equips himself for the demands of Test cricket.

“I think I haven’t had the red ball cricket that I did then, but I certainly didn’t have the experience that I do now. The situations and the challenges that are going to come up. I I’m sure I’ve seen them all before.

“It doesn’t matter what color the ball is, what format of cricket you play. You always face challenges. I’m sure this week will be no different. That’s what excites me. Different challenges that can be faced in five days of cricket instead of 20 overs of cricket.

There is no doubt that blockbusters will attract attention. Stokes had also said earlier in the week that Livingstone would try to clear the media center at the Rawalpindi ground. But it is his part-time bowling, of leg-spin and off-spin, that has seen him join Surrey’s Will Jacks as the third spinner, behind Jack Leach and Joe Root. It has long been a nifty short-form selling point for Livingstone for clubs and country. Now, Stokes hopes that almost arbitrary dismissal from the quieter parts of the game will have the same effect on him.

“Having the ability to do different things is what made me a great choice for Baz and Ben,” he boasts matter-of-factly. “I’ll see what we need, what fits best at that particular time. That doesn’t always mean swinging the ball away from the bat: a left-hander can be rough outside the off-stump. which you can use for leg bowling. I rotate, so keep an open mind and make sure I can use those skillsets to my advantage and ultimately try and beat England. Impact on winning Tests.”

Does the bowling translate to the longest format Part of a larger conversation is whether Livingstone will translate to the longest format. Given how vague predictions have been about the conditions for the next three Tests, this may be the only choice for the here and now.

After all, a cricketer who has long been a fantastic fantasy as a Test cricketer will soon become a reality. And there’s perhaps no better setting for that to happen than in a group that encourages participants and observers to dream big.

“The last couple of days, being around the environment, it was very different to the previous Test squad I was in,” reflected Livingstone. “The messaging is very simple, very clear and I guess the way I play my cricket will probably fit in perfectly with the way Baz and Stuckey want to play their cricket. I’m very excited for what’s to come. Excited.”

As we remain.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo.

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