Head coach Trevor Bayliss may only have started work with the England team last week but he will already have had a massive influence and that will only gather momentum during the Ashes series this summer.
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As I touched on in a previous column, I worked under Trevor during a stint with the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash last year and England’s recent team bonding trip to Spain looked to have all his hallmarks.
When I joined him in Sydney it was an incredibly relaxed environment and it was such a blessing to go into that sort of atmosphere after the one I had been exposed to during the 2013-14 Ashes Down Under, when England were whitewashed 5-0.
That climate under former England coach Andy Flower was very regimented and strict and there was no enjoyment in training. Under Trevor, it was nice and relaxed and the guys could do the drills they wanted. There was no pressure.
Quality not quantity
Trevor backs his players do the work which they feel they need to do and the training which they know works for them. He’s happy to grant players personal responsibility. Under Andy, we seemed to be training for the sake of training.
It’s quality not quantity with Trevor and it makes a big difference. The Ashes is a gruelling five-Test contest and it is crucial to conserve energy and not waste it on unnecessary training.
I’m sure Trevor will pursue the approach which I witnessed in Sydney and create a more relaxed environment in the dressing room.
England yesterday announced a 13-man squad for the first Test against Australia, which starts on Wednesday in Cardiff, and there were no real surprises. It is the XI that were on show against New Zealand plus leg-spinner Adil Rashid and seamer Steve Finn.
Rashid provides the opportunity for England to play two spinners – him and Moeen Ali – should the pitch in the Welsh capital look as though it will be conducive to turn.
When England have played two spinners in the past it hasn’t worked too well, but then again they haven’t had a genuine all-rounder like Ben Stokes in their ranks that would facilitate that change of emphasis.
I don’t think England will go down this route, not in the first Test at least, although the balance and make-up of the squad does allow flexibility. They could go with seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Stokes and the two spinners.
There is now less than a week until that first Test and it’s important that the players, particularly the ones who are set to feature in a home Ashes series for the first time, stay focused and do not overthink things.
From a training perspective, it’s vital that each player can take confidence from knowing in their head that they have done enough. It’s important to be mentally fresh and not get caught up in all the hype.
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