We need to talk about Trev. As Bayliss waved goodbye to English cricket at the end of The Oval test it suddenly struck me how little we’ve talked about him over the last four years. We’ve talked players, we’ve talked ECB chairmen, we’ve talked CEOs, we’ve talked selectors, but Bayliss has been largely ignored. It’s really odd. After all, we couldn’t stop talking about his predecessor Peter Moores.
I assume Bayliss’s role went under the radar somewhat because he’s the antithesis of Moores. I assume that’s why Strauss appointed him. Whereas Moores was all energy and bad soundbites – “I’ll have to look at the data” – Bayliss was quieter, more thoughtful, and essentially hands-off. He stood back, observed, coordinated, and guided rather than coached.
There’s little point analysing whether Bayliss’s methods work. His achievements in cricket have been phenomenal. He’s clearly an excellent head coach. However, what we can debate is whether his methods have been the best fit for this particular group of England players over the years. And I think the jury’s out on this one.
The perception is that Bayliss has done stellar work with the white ball teams but our test side has failed to progress (or even gone backwards) on his watch. It’s hard to argue with this. England were embarrassing at the 2015 World Cup and he’s turned the team around completely. The test team, on the other hand, has been often been mercurial and occasionally ghastly.
Our ODI record has been excellent under Trev. We’ve won 63, lost 24, and tied one game during his tenure – although Kiwis might argue that it should be won 62 and tied 2! Although our T20 team’s result have been somewhat mixed (won 19, lost 14) this doesn’t mean a great deal really. As the shortest form of the international game 20 overs per side can produce a few random results. Plus we shouldn’t forget that we did reach the last World T20 final.
When it comes to the test side, however, there’s no doubt that England have disappointed during this four-year cycle. We’ve won 26, lost 25, and drawn 7. This is a poor record for a team with England’s financial resources. Peter Moores, for example, won 12, lost 9, and drew 11 of his 32 tests in charge. And he was sacked twice during this period.
At times, most notably during England’s horrible 0-4 Ashes defeat down under, Bayliss’s hands-off style became a bit of a joke in media circles. Tim Wigmore once wrote What Is The Point Of Trevor Bayliss? because his laid back style seemed so ineffectual. This might seem harsh but it was entirely understandable at a time when supporters craved a coach who’d kick the team up their jacksie.
However, one could argue that England’s test woes weren’t all Bayliss’s fault. During his tenure England tried a whopping 26 new players but only Jofra Archer, Rory Burns, Jack Leach, Sam Curran, and maybe Ben Foakes looked like they belonged. Meanwhile the likes of Keaton Jennings, Tom Westley, Ben Duckett, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Zafar Ansari, and Jake Ball were simply terrible picks by the selectors. I severely doubt Duncan Fletcher or Andy Flower could’ve got more out of players who simply weren’t good enough.
Because Bayliss has little input into selection – he famously remarked that he never watches county cricket – it’s hard to blame him for England’s failure to unearth new talent. Yes one could argue that he should’ve tried to unearth some diamonds in the rough like Fletcher, but it’s easy to forget that Duncan already had extensive knowledge of the county game thanks to his time with Glamorgan. He therefore had his ear to the ground all along.
What’s more, as he explained in his recent interview with George Dobell, England’s insistence on picking white ball specialists and all-rounders rather than genuine red ball players was never Bayliss’s strategy. This ridiculous philosophy came from Ed Smith. Indeed, Bayliss has admitted that he’d like to see Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley awarded test caps in the immediate future.
However, although England’s test flaws are very much a product of the county championship, which is no longer producing test-ready batsmen, one cannot escape the feeling that Trev never really got English cricket. And this itself has been a problem.
Although Bayliss is right to point out that county batsmen can’t play long innings at domestic level because the ball moves around too much, his suggestion that the championship should be culled to ten teams misses the point. The number of counties in England isn’t the problem; it’s partly the time of year that matches are played.
This summer’s schedule has been a joke. Most of the matches have been shoehorned into April, May, and September – hardly a recipe for good pitches – and those which have taken place in the warmer months were randomly sandwiched between T20 Blast fixtures. It’s crazy.
Furthermore, Bayliss ignores that division one of the county championship used to be a very good breeding ground for test cricketers. In the early 2000s more matches were played at a sensible time of year and the country ranks were packed with quality Kolpaks and overseas players. England’s country structure therefore provided the best of both worlds: opportunities for young English players plus a high level competition in which runs and wickets were hard-earned and meant plenty.
When England won 4 out of 5 Ashes series between 2005 and 2013, many Australians lamented how eighteen counties provided bountiful opportunities for our youngsters. Many Aussies, on the other hand, had to leave their families and board a plane for England in search of first team cricket. And when they arrived they often found that the cricket was tough.
Back in the 2000s new England players like Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, and Jonathan Trott immediately looked at home on the international stage and scored hundreds on debut. Even as recently as 2010 England plucked players like Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan from county cricket and saw them perform admirably on Ashes tours. The problem was that constant tinkering with the system thereafter slowly undermined it.
Given this context, it seems harsh to blame Bayliss entirely for our test woes. But we can’t absolve him of all blame. England’s flakey batting performances – we’ve been dismissed in a single session four times on Trev’s watch – displayed an alarming lack of intensity. But is this any surprise when the coach himself allegedly lacks intensity?
Bayliss laments the inability of our batsmen to concentrate for long periods but it seems too convenient merely to blame the championship for this. What about the infamous team ‘culture’ that Bayliss has done so much to nurture?
One can’t escape the feeling that while supporters were ranting about England’s lamentable collapses, Bayliss’s reaction was invariably to have a quiet word and make the odd suggestion. This certainly seems inadequate to the average fan. There’s nothing wrong with the hairdryer treatment now and again.
The other area where I question Bayliss’s record is his influence on Joe Root. It just hasn’t really worked. Yes Bayliss’s method is to operate in the background, and we understand his view that international players shouldn’t really intense need hands-on coaching, but what about mentoring?
When Root became England captain he had very little experience. I’m sure that Trev has done his best to advise his skipper and give him ideas, but many of us question whether Root is progressing as either a leader or tactician. One wonders whether the chemistry between the two was right? Because Root seems a tad passive from a distance, one wonders whether he’d benefit from a more proactive coach who drives him forward and isn’t afraid to take a more active role strategy-wise.
So how should we judge Bayliss overall? And will we miss him? Personally I will. He’s amiable, interesting to listen to (even if one gets the impression that he’s holding a lot back) and sometimes it’s better the devil you know. Many of us wanted shot of Andy Flower until we realised that Peter Moores would be his replacement.
And what about that 5/10 mark that Bayliss gave himself when asked to judge his tenure? Personally I think this mark is harsh. If one gives him 9/10 for what he’s done with the ODI side, he’d need a terrible test grade to average out at half marks. His time in charge of the test team has been disappointing but not a disaster – although those 0-4 defeats in India and then Australia stung at the time.
Personally I’d be inclined to give Bayliss a 7 overall. That’s 9 for the white ball stuff and 5 for the test team. I doubt he’d be happy with that but somehow I sense he’d agree.
The big question now, of course, is who should replace him? One assumes the ECB have been too busy with Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit to think about fundamental questions like who the next coach should be. They’ve known that Trev was off months ago but they still don’t have a replacement lined up. Heaven knows why they’re only prepared to appoint a caretaker for the New Zealand tour.
The leading candidates seem to be the same old faces – Jason Gillespie, Tom Moody, Mickey Arthur, and Ottis Gibson. Interestingly Mike Hesson’s name has been mentioned too. Although Gillespie would inevitably go down well with the masses, personally I’d prefer an English coach this time unless Gary Kirsten can somehow be persuaded to take the reins (which I doubt).
Consequently I’d like the ECB to look at Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, and Paul Collingwood. Chris Silverwood is also highly rated and could be in pole position. However, I’ve got an even better idea. One that would go down brilliantly across the shires. Let’s give Peter Moores another go. Third time lucky and all at.
I’m kidding of course. If Moores gets the job I’ll give up on England, start supporting Australia, and rename this blog The Full Bunga.