England Cricket has a new man in the limelight following Trevor Bayliss’ departure at the end of last summer. Chris Silverwood, previously established in Bayliss’ regime as England’s bowling coach, has been given the nod.
He has ostensibly been tasked, primarily, with improving England’s red-ball fortunes, with Ashley Giles and Joe Root both emphasising a collective desire for more consistency in Test cricket. Continued success of our white-ball side is certainly still being spoken about, with ‘success across all formats’ being the order of the day, but it’s clear that Test cricket has taken centre stage once again. Now feels like the right time for that sort of realignment, too; the four-year World Cup plan went as well as anyone could have hoped, but a lack of consistency in the game’s longer form has become increasingly apparent. Sights will be set on the next Ashes, but more the more immediate challenges of this winter should be the sole focus of this group for now.
Silverwood’s appointment has largely been met with enthusiasm. The cyclical nature of sport makes fresh beginnings and reboots more common than they are in most other walks of life, but this one feels right. The retention of core players such as Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Stuart Broad has prevented this appointment from being branded part of an ‘overhaul’, but by adding fresh faces like Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, and Ollie Pope to England’s Test squad, it’s clear something has changed.
A change in emphasis?
Since arriving in New Zealand for the forthcoming Test series, Root has used a term we’ve not heard since the Andy Flower era: ‘attritional cricket’. While that may not sound overly enticing to the untrained ear, it suggests that a more conservative, thoughtful approach might be encouraged over the swashbuckling, eager one England have attempted recently. The last time England played like that, with Strauss, Cook, and Trott making up the top three, they reached number one in the world.
That’s not to say that we should expect a similarly immediate impact from Silverwood. The subtle transition from our recent approach to red-ball batting to a more reserved one will take time. Hopefully, though, we see signs this winter of a higher price being placed on our top order’s wickets – once the mindset is right, those ‘attritional’ sessions of batting should naturally follow. The personnel are there in Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, and Joe Denly (or Zak Crawley – nothing has been finalised yet); if those three can establish themselves in the side, they’ll make up the oh-so-crucial backbone every successful Test batting lineup needs.
A familiar face
By all accounts, slightly more ‘glamorous’ names were available for the England head coach position. Some have questioned whether an overseas appointment, such as the decorated and experienced Gary Kirsten, would have made more sense. He has, after all, been there and done that.
While Kirsten’s credentials certainly stack up, there’s also something to be said for appointing from within and this feels like the right choice. Silverwood knows the players, the setup, and most importantly he understands what needs work. Having been a part of the England group for some time now, he knows which areas require the most attention. Bringing someone in from the cold, so to speak, tends to necessitate an overhaul of coaching staff and players – and that’s not what England need. This Test side has the potential to go far, so it’s all about developing what we already have.
Silverwood’s appointment provides the Test team with an opportunity to move a few pieces around and turn a promising side into a more consistent one. If some top-order stability can be found, there’s absolutely no reason why England shouldn’t become the team to beat in Test cricket. The game changers are there, as are the world-class performers; Silverwood should be afforded the time he needs to piece it all together.