Chris Silverwood preached a return to the old-fashioned values of batting time and relentlessness with the ball as the new England men’s coach outlined his vision of a Test team who can regain the Ashes in two years’ time.
The 44-year-old Yorkshireman, who steps up from the role of England’s bowling coach following a title-winning spell in charge at Essex, was presented at Lord’s on Thursday. Ashley Giles, the director of cricket who appointed him, praised an “outstanding” home-grown coach whose strong relationships can link up the national team with the domestic game and make them “the most respected” in the world.
Silverwood, who said he hopes his elevation inspires other English coaches, sets out towards this lofty goal with a tour to New Zealand that departs at the end of the month. A deliberately raw squad play five Twenty20 games – the start of the road to the World Cup in Australia next year – before Joe Root’s Test side, now fourth in the rankings, face a two-match series and then four in South Africa after Christmas.
With the white-ball set-up so well grooved after the summer’s 50-over World Cup win and Eoin Morgan’s recommitment to the captaincy, Giles restated that the needle must now be nudged back towards Test cricket. Silverwood, witness to the 2-2 Ashes draw from close quarters, views this as a return to some basic long-form principles.
He said: “Job No 1 is helping Joe Root, supporting him, making sure the Test team start moving forward so when we go to Australia in two years’ time we can make a real impact out there.
“One thing we’ll look at is building a batting group that can bat long periods of time, stack up and put pressure on the opposition. It sounds old‑fashioned but we’ve got to recognise that. We need the right people in the right places in the order.
“And then we want to create a bowling attack that is absolutely relentless. We saw an example this summer: the Aussies were fit, strong and made our lives really difficult.”
Root is nearly three years into his Test captaincy and while fortunes have ebbed and flowed, there has been a sense that, at times, he has tried too hard to emulate the one-day team’s buccaneering approach.
Silverwood is confident his fellow Yorkshireman is on board with dialing it down a touch, something signposted by the call-up for Dom Sibley – Warwickshire’s opener faced 1,009 more balls than the next most obdurate batsman in Division One this year – and Root’s own return to No 4.
“Joe and I had a good long conversation,” Silverwood said. “I want to make sure that from the get-go Joe and I are aligned. So what I’m talking to you about now are Joe’s thoughts as well.”
With this shift in outlook came an acceptance from Silverwood that Test results may not follow immediately. Players must have time to adapt – “some cogs will turn faster than others. I saw that at Essex” – and a fear of failure must not creep in. “They can come in and they can spread their wings and they can fly,” he said.
Silverwood therefore represents a continuation of the relaxed environment under his predecessor Trevor Bayliss. But less than a week into the job he has already had one off-field incident to address, after photographs taken at the Professional Cricketers’ Association awards dinner last week emerged showing Ben Stokes with his left hand on the face of his wife, Clare, amid an alleged altercation.
Clare Stokes has since said that this is how the couple show affection towards each other, rather than something more sinister, while Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, stated his satisfaction that, following conversations with the pair and others present, the context was “innocent”.
Silverwood, who has similarly spoken to the all-rounder since, said: “As far as I’m concerned, all the questions have been asked. And it’s done. I wasn’t there. [But] I’m happy with what I’ve been told. It’s a lesson for everybody. You know, they are high-profile [cricketers]. You’ve got to be careful because innocent things can be taken out of context.”
To that end, Silverwood stressed the midnight curfew for England’s cricketers – implemented during the aftermath of the Bristol incident in 2017 – will remain in place. But bar this, and while acknowledging he must take a step back from being the ever‑amenable bowling coach, he wants to empower his charges.
“People are the centre of my coaching philosophy and seeing them do well, with their dreams and what they’re trying to do, makes me smile,” he said.
“That’s why I do it. I want to create self-thinking, self-sufficient cricketers that will be successful and if we can do that, you know what, it’ll make me smile.”