India v England Tests
Honeymoon's over for Aussie Bayliss
England's Test series loss to India has put coach Trevor Bayliss' position under the microscope
Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.
When Trevor Bayliss, England’s Australian coach, won the Ashes in his first series in charge last year he enjoyed a significant honeymoon period.
That was extended thanks to a highly-impressive Test series win in South Africa and England’s remarkable renaissance in limited-overs cricket that included an appearance in the World T20 final earlier this year.
The honeymoon is now officially over after this series defeat in India was confirmed by a crushing innings-and-36-run defeat at the Wankhede Stadium.
Already there are whispers over Bayliss’ suitability to progress the Test side. Hired by Andrew Strauss, England’s director of cricket, on the strength of his expertise in white-ball cricket, Bayliss appears to be falling short in ensuring the Test team fulfil their potential.
Ahead of an Ashes series in Australia next year that is a problem.
England may well win the Champions Trophy next year, as hosts they have as good a chance as anyone.
Yet England coaches are ultimately judged on their return in Test cricket, and specifically the Ashes.
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Much of the focus after England’s defeat in Mumbai, which leaves them 3-0 down with one Test to play, has fallen on Alastair Cook’s captaincy.
Yet Bayliss, who works hand in glove with Cook, also needs to take a long, hard look at himself.
For too long he has been too laid back regarding selection.
During the last Northern summer he was overruled by the selection panel when he lobbied for Jos Buttler’s recall.
Instead, Gary Balance found himself back in the Test team. You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that might not have been the best call.
This winter, though, there has been a rather more worrying trend to selection issues and Bayliss’ deference to those more nuanced in the intricacies of the English game.
The Australian is not afraid to admit he knows little about English domestic cricket. In his brief periods of downtime he rightly spends time at his home in New South Wales or retreat in South Australia rather than watching the County Championship.
The problem is, though, Bayliss has become accustomed to relying on the judgement of others when it comes to potential Test players.
Specifically Bayliss has become reliant on the opinion of Andy Flower, the former England coach who is now the ECB’s technical director after he was sacked following England’s 5-0 whitewash in the 2013-14 Ashes.
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Flower’s responsibility for the Lions – England’s second team - arguably makes him the most influential voice on selection this winter.
When it came to replacing the injured Haseeb Hameed and Zafar Ansari ahead of the final two Tests in India, Flower, with the Lions in the UAE, was Bayliss’ sounding board. The pair are understood to be extremely close. It means Flower has become a de facto selector.
The call to replace Hameed with Keaton Jennings worked well, the Durham opener scoring a century on debut.
However, Liam Dawson’s inclusion in the squad to replace Ansari ahead of Jack Leach, who like Jennings was with the Lions under Flower in the UAE and the best spinner in English domestic cricket last season was baffling.
Flower a man for whom ‘attitude’ can outweigh actual skill would have approved of the pick. Indeed, it was probably his recommendation.
Little of this makes any difference to England’s fate in this series.
For Bayliss, though, it may be a warning he needs to start trusting his own instinct more now his honeymoon period with England is well and truly over.
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