Chris Silverwood’s England brief is to reinvent Root as batsman and captain
It caused restless nights in the lead-up to the appointment, but Ashley Giles is pleased to have broken the cycle of England head coaches coming from overseas. And now with Chris Silverwood in place, the hope is that Joe Root’s best years with the bat are unlocked.
Speaking about what he called “the biggest decision” of his first year as director of England cricket, Giles insisted he did not choose on nationality but Silverwood – only the second homegrown men’s head coach this century after Peter Moores – emerged as the best candidate regardless.
Giles said: “It took me a couple of long days and sleepless nights but that’s the way it should be. [Silverwood] is a good man with solid values and I’m pleased the right man is English. It helps break that cycle we were in, where we couldn’t employ an English coach. And I think we’ve got a good one here.”
England coach Chris Silverwood wants Test team to get the basics right
After two years as the ever-amenable bowling coach under his predecessor as head coach, Trevor Bayliss, Giles expects Silverwood, a title-winning head coach from his time at Essex, to show more “steel” in the top job. He is not starting from scratch as regards working relationships, at least, having already developed a strong rapport with the Test captain Root and his one-day equivalent, Eoin Morgan.
Giles readily admits that the needs of the former were more central during the recruitment process. Results-wise, England have been up and down under Root – they have won 17 Tests and lost 13, with only three draws – while his batting average of 40 during that time sits 12 runs lower than it was as a player alone.
“We don’t want a coach who will come in and smother white-ball cricket and Eoin,” Giles said. “But we want someone who is going to give Joe more support, put more structure in place around him and together form the DNA of what a Test team looks like, which I don’t think we’ve quite got to yet.
“That structure and support needs to go and allow Joe to average 50 with the bat, score hundreds and win Test matches. When it comes down to nuts and bolts that’s the most important thing because it takes the pressure off everyone.”
Asked if Bayliss, a hands-off coach, left Root with more to do, Giles replied: “Yes, and that was Trev’s style. That was why the white-ball team flew. I’m sure up front when he came in with that method people thought ‘what the bloody hell’s going on here?’ Morgs ran into that space and took charge.
“But Eoin and Joe are very different people as well and that’s where being able to flex your style across different environments is important. I do think this bloke [Silverwood] can do that.”
While the World Cup continues to be paraded around the country, Giles is under no illusions that all is rosy in the garden. As well as looking to revive the Test team and sustain success in the white-ball formats, the former England spinner said he wants to remain vigilant where team culture is concerned.
In a week when Ben Stokes and his wife, Clare, had to publicly deny that photographs taken at an awards ceremony depicted a physical altercation between them – and at a time when England’s male cricketers can earn wages north of the £1m mark – Giles is acutely aware of increased public scrutiny.
On Stokes, Giles said: “It’s just a worry in some sense how his profile can be used against him, how susceptible they are as a family to this. I was pretty sure as soon as I saw the story there was nothing in it.
“It was great to speak to both of them. Domestic violence is a really serious issue, we’re not making light of that at all. But in this instance it’s a very happy couple having some fun and a picture telling a thousand words – but just the wrong ones.”
Stokes is not alone as regards negative headlines. Alex Hales is currently frozen out of the England set-up after serving a three-week recreational drug ban at the start of the summer while the careers of the Lions batsmen Joe Clarke and Tom Kohler-Cadmore have been stalled by their proximity to the case of Worcestershire’s Alex Hepburn, who was convicted for rape in April and is now serving five years in prison.
In Stokes, who came back from the Bristol incident of 2017 to become the star of the past summer, Giles actually sees an example for the other three to follow.
He added: “I think we have to accept that [players] are human beings and they’re going to make mistakes. Ben made mistakes in his past and we’ve seen how he can turn it around, and we have to think that others can do that also.
“The culture bit is really important to us. We have to continue down that line because as we’ve seen with Australia and the [ball-tampering] scrutiny they fell under in South Africa [in 2018], we don’t want to be putting ourselves in that position. So it takes constant, consistent short-term checks to make sure we are functioning in the right way.”