Nottingham: England coach Trevor Bayliss has come out in support of the woefully out-of-form Alastair Cook at a time when questions are being raised about his future, saying he is “striking” the ball as nicely as ever. “Cooky has not changed his demeanour. You wouldn’t know there was any difference between now and when he is scoring plenty of runs. He still practises as hard if not harder than anyone else. You watch him play in the nets and he is actually striking the ball quite nicely.
“His feet move well. I wouldn’t say he is out of form – he is still hitting the ball well – he is out of runs in the middle. But he is giving himself every opportunity. He practises hard and he still plays an active role in his position in the team,” Bayliss said.
One of England’s major concerns is the form of their openers. Cook has gone seven Test innings without a half-century, while Keaton Jennings – his 12th opening partner – is yet to cross that mark in his last 14 Test innings. The coach though backed both of them to do the job in the remaining two Tests against India.
“When he was with the Lions in Australia last year, it was about trying to get a little more flow to his batting. He is a very upright player so he is probably never going to be one of those guys who gets well down over the front knee and sniffs the ball. It was about a little more rhythm.
“He’s been working on his back lift to get a little more rhythm and flow. It’s no easy task batting against these guys in these conditions which have been difficult. But that’s the job of an opening bat.” The hosts collapsed for 161 runs on day two of the third Test and never recovered as India won by 203 runs to pull one back in the five-match series.
Reportedly, the coach and captain Joe Root led a charged-up dressing room debate following that batting collapse. Bayliss said that he is aware of the attacking nature of his team’s batting line-up and will continue to back them in the near future.
“The guys we have in the team play in a certain way. They are attacking-style players, if you like. When you’ve been playing in a certain way for a number of years, it’s not the easiest thing to change in the heat of battle. I don’t know if it is good enough, but it is fact. I can’t say any more than that,” Bayliss said.
“We know they have got to play the situation and the conditions like Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes did (in the second innings). They are all aware of what they need to improve. It’s just taking a little while longer than they would like and we would like. “I’d love to be able to give them a magic pill and it happens overnight.” We believe these guys are our best players and will eventually be very good international cricketers,” he added.
Bayliss reasoned that it is not easy to change this style of play in a short span of time and that the English line-up has suffered only one bad day in this series so far. “We had a chat on Sunday night and that was what the discussion was around – how it happens, why it happens, what to do about it and not letting it happen again.
“It is not the first time it has happened and we speak about it every time. I think the way Ben and Jos played, the way they went about it was exactly the way we spoke on Sunday night about how to go about things.” The other question mark is concerning the fitness of Jonny Bairstow. As per reports, his fitness is progressing well, but he might not be able to keep wickets in the next two Tests.
“Firstly, I think keeping in the next game (for Bairstow) will probably be the most difficult. We’ve got to check with the medical guys in the next few days. They are suggesting he may not be able to keep but might be able to bat. “We’ll have to see how it responds in the next few days. If that gives someone else another opportunity – it’s like any injury, if someone comes in and does well, then you have a decision to make.
“The harder thing will be trying to convince Jonny (to give up keeping). That will be a decision that is taken from the team point of view. He is a world-class batsman – we know that and one of the difficult things might be convincing Jonny of that.”
Perhaps the biggest positive from this heavy defeat was Ben Stokes’ return to international cricket and his performance in the second innings that frustrated India in partnership with Jos Buttler. “There was no regret about the actual decision (of playing Stokes). We all felt for Sam Curran, who did fantastically well in the two matches he played.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, even when you’re in form and you don’t get selected, that’s just the way it is. I think there was a little rustiness from Ben’s point of view. “Apart from missing the last Test match, he’s had a disjointed summer with injury as well. Watching him bat yesterday, he wasn’t quite a free-flowing and he didn’t strike the ball like we know he can do, but those 170 balls or whatever he was in for will only help him going forward,” Bayliss signed off.