We are less than a fortnight out from the start of the 2021/22 Ashes series and the next 11 days could have a massive impact on who gets their hands on urn in a few months’ time.
While the Aussies have been trying to work out how to give Steve Smith the captaincy without actually giving it to him, England have made a last-minute coaching appointment that they’ll be hoping can give them the edge over their hosts and help Joe Root’s bowling attack make the most of the conditions down under.
The ECB announced earlier this week that Troy Cooley had been appointed as a consultant pace bowling coach to aid with the preparations for the Ashes.
The 55-year-old has linked up with the squad in Brisbane and will work with Jon Lewis to help the bowlers prepare for the upcoming series before joining the England Lions coaching team for their four-day match against Australia A, which begins on the 9th of December.
ECB performance director Mo Bobat praised Cooley’s “expertise and experience” and outlined clearly why he’d been brought in.
“Troy’s understanding of what it takes to be successful in Australian conditions is second to none,” outlined Bobat. “And the players are sure to benefit hugely.”
But this is far from the former Tasmania seamer’s first Ashes experience nor is it his first spell as an England coach.
England fans will remember the 2005 Ashes series fairly well, I’m sure, and Cooley is the bowling coach credited with helping develop Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones, and Freddie Flintoff into the four-pronged pace attack that put the Aussies to the sword – in part by harnessing the power of reverse-swing.
His two years in the role came to an end in late 2005, with Duncan Fletcher lamenting the decision to let him leave at the time, and the following year he linked up with Australia.
Cooley has held a range of different roles since but spent most of his time in the Aussie setup and his spell as Justin Langer’s assistant coach, which included the 2019 Ashes series, is of particular interest.
The Tasmanian may well be able to shed some vital insight into not just how to have success in Australian conditions but how to get the better of the current team.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Stuart Broad revealed the England bowlers will be “picking Troy’s brain” and hoping to “find little chinks in the opposition’s armoury”.
He expanded: “He’s been in their setup for a long period of time, through development and at the top level.
“He can give us great insight into Australian batters’ mentality; what they’re looking to do, where they’re looking to score, where they don’t like the ball, how (we should) be around them – whether you talk to them, whether you ignore them, whether you sledge them … can you annoy them enough to make a mistake?”
Winning down under is no easy feat. It is about finding the edge where you can. In bringing in Cooley to aid their preparations, England are looking to do just that.