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England T20 squad living in the now with an eye on the future

England are in a transitional phase in T20 international cricket and their historic run of seven games in Pakistan requires them to juggle a number of competitive demands.

Their pre-tour roster meeting lasted nearly four hours as Jos Buttler, Matthew Mott and Rob Key weighed in on the importance of fine-tuning ahead of this winter’s World Cup, keeping key players fresh and testing the strength of the bench with a view to on the 2024 and even 2026 editions.

They have arrived with a team of 20 players, about a dozen of whom are in the World Cup roster, and will travel straight to Australia in early October. There they will meet Chris Jordan and Liam Livingstone who miss this trip due to injury, and Ben Stokes who is rested after a busy English summer.

Mott’s tenure as white ball coach started quickly: a short tour to the Netherlands, then six ODIs and six T20Is in a span of 25 days against India and South Africa in the home summer. The results were a mixed bag – the Dutch ODIs were the only series to win England – and he spent the six weeks before this tour watching the Hundred on TV as he settled his family in their new home in Cardiff.

“I hate the word ‘remodel’, but we still have some work to do to get our stuff right,” Mott said. “It’s not just about the short term: we’re trying to build something and create a bit of a legacy with this team.

“I was probably thrown in a little early and the series came very quickly, but now we’ve had time to process it and figure out how we want to move forward. These bilateral series now have to be used very cleverly: some of it is about the World Cup and some players returning from injury, but we have also looked to the future with this group of players.”

Mott has already faced Eoin Morgan’s decision to retire from international cricket at the end of June, while Buttler is in the early stages of his captaincy. He laughed off the concept of ‘Mottball’ while speaking to the traveling press, but this series will be an important step in creating an identity.

Brendon McCullum, whose ultra-positive philosophy has had such a transformative effect on the England Test side, is a close friend of Mott’s and the pair spoke before Morgan’s testimonial dinner in London on Monday.

“It’s damn exciting,” Mott said. “He has had an immediate impact. I have nothing but love for what he has done. Instead of being jealous of it, it has inspired me to be myself as a coach. We have now put together a great support group… I feel like there’s something special going on right now.”

England will start this series without a number of senior members of their touring group available, including assistant coach Richard Dawson who stumbled out of Saturday night’s training session with a hip injury. Buttler confirmed on arrival that he is unlikely to be present until the final two games of the series, with Phil Salt as wicketkeeper in his absence.

They will also carefully manage their fast bowlers, with nine seam options on the squad. Reece Topley is doubtful for the early stages with a single problem, while Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will be mitigated from their long-term injuries in the Lahore portion of the journey.

“David Saker has come in and manages them [Woakes and Wood] by,” Mott said. “Woody bowled pretty fast in practice last night and if it was his choice alone, he’d be in sooner rather than later. But he is such a valuable asset for the World Cup. We deal with him relatively conservatively and build him up in this series.

“They’ve spent a lot of time off the game, but the other side of this is they’re very fresh. Sometimes it can be quite hard work to get out of a county season. They’ve had the goal for a long time to be ready for this World Cup. They’ve been very clear about that…if we can keep them in the park, they’ll be two world-class bowlers.”

There are five limitless players on the tour (Tom Helm, Luke Wood, Will Jacks, Jordan Cox and Olly Stone) and while Mott confirmed the World Cup squad is locked in with injuries, he is still looking to give opportunities to the smartest youngster in England. players – and to win the series against a strong Pakistani side.

“That’s the tricky part, isn’t it?” said Mott. “Everyone always wants to win, but if you only focus on that, you never build. If we want to build a team that can match the team that has been there for the past few years, we have to regenerate.

“We have to make sure that new blood comes in – reward performance as much as we can, but also look to the future. Time will tell, but I think there are players here who will be generation players.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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