I spent a bit of time with him when I was with the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash last year. He is a pretty straightforward coach who knows the game inside out. My main observation was he just likes to keep things very simple.
His coaching credentials are impressive. He has enjoyed success in red-ball cricket and won Sheffield Shield titles with New South Wales as well as guiding Sri Lanka to a best ever position of second in the world Test rankings.
But he has also got a lot of experience in one-day cricket, having coached and won silverware in the Big Bash and Indian Premier League with the Sydney Sixers and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively.
He knows the modern world of one-day cricket and understands how it works and that will be crucial to England, who have struggled in the limited-overs formats recently, epitomised by a dismal showing at the World Cup earlier this year.
Turning to the victory over New Zealand in the first Test of the summer at Lord’s, it was great to see the young guys really stand up and show some fight after being 30-4 on the first morning. And what can you say about Ben Stokes?
He transformed the game with his century in the second innings, which was the fastest ever Test hundred at Lord’s. Not only did he bat England into a safe position but he put them in a position to win the game.
It’s been a rocky road for English cricket over the last 18 months and it needed somebody to do something special and re-capture the public’s imagination. It feels as though Ben, with that ton, and the team, with that thrilling fifth day victory, have done that.
It’s important people don’t get too carried away but Ben does have plenty going for him as a batsman. He has all the shots and seems to have so much time at the crease. If he keeps his head screwed on and continues to improve, there is a big chance for him to become England’s next true all-rounder, which is a big position to fill. Every team wants that Jacques Kallis or Freddie Flintoff type player.
He certainly seems to have grown up a bit from a few years ago and if he continues to be aggressive with bat and ball then he can have more games like the first Test, although his style means that it won’t pay off every time.
A final word on Durham seamer Mark Wood who made his Test debut at Lord’s. I was very impressed with him. He certainly added pace to the attack and provides a slightly different angle to the other bowlers. He was calm under pressure and really justified his selection. Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett has been called into the squad but I reckon England will be unchanged for the second Test.
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