Chris Silverwood will have a little break during the mini T20 series against Pakistan after the final Test of the summer – and he deserves one. The head coach’s work is never done; he is expected to possess the cricketing nous to lay out the strategy and then he has to share his wisdom with the selectors and players; he is expected to improve his cricketers because that is what coaches do. And within the bubble he is the boss, in charge of the support team as well as the players.
All these duties are critical but at international level, especially in such a freakish year as this, setting the tone within the squad is more important than any tactical insights or wizard coaching tips. And it seems Silverwood has done that excellently so far this summer. The players may have made the odd mistake but no one can question their commitment and enthusiasm. That reflects well on them – and Silverwood and his management team.
He has had to look after a big squad, to maintain their confidence as cricketers and their well-being as people suddenly locked away in a luxurious open prison. He was asked how he does that with Mark Wood, for example, who has not appeared since the first Test of the summer – and who may be better equipped than some to keep smiling.
“It’s one of the key things we’re having to do,” said Silverwood, “and it’s not just Woody. You’ve got Foakes, Leach, Bracey, all guys who’ve been in the bubble a long time and not featured. Woody’s played one game and the others haven’t played any. It’s a really unique situation; normally you’d send them back to county cricket to keep that confidence going, to get the runs and wickets under their belt. Then when they do come in there’s a foundation there. But we can’t do it with the guidelines that have been set around Covid.
“The guys have been fantastic, worked really hard. The keepers are out every morning working with Frenchy [Bruce French], the bowlers are out with the bowling coaches, Leachy has worked really hard with the spin coaches who’ve been here. Everyone has, but a special one goes to the guys who haven’t played and the way they’ve conducted themselves. We’ve had to spend time making sure they’re OK because it’s been a difficult job.”
Such priorities make absolute sense. When all this is over Ben Foakes, Jack Leach and James Bracey are among the heroes. Silverwood, though still new to the job, commands respect in the dressing room and beyond. Like the best cricket coaches he shuns the limelight; so it is no surprise that when quizzed about a different type of light, overhead conditions in the recent Test match and whether it would be a good idea to start at 10.30am, his response is measured.
“I’ve had no official word it’ll happen, no. In my opinion it [starting at 10.30 am] would be a good idea. I know there’s chats around it. There will be no complaints from us if it happens. We’re all here anyway. It’s not like any of us are travelling. It wouldn’t be very difficult to make it happen.”
He naturally remained non-committal about England’s likely line up for the final Test. For this match the notion of rotation will be put to one side; all the contenders appear to be fit and there is a series to win.
“We didn’t really bowl that much last week,” said Silverwood. “So all options are on the table.”