Adaptability, and expendability: two key words in the transformation which England’s Test captain Joe Root and head coach Trevor Bayliss have wrought in their red-ball game. England have won eight of their last nine Tests, and have only to keep on playing the way they are to beat West Indies – relatively comfortably too – in the three-Test series that starts on Wednesday.
Adaptability is the name of the game for England’s batsmen. On an old-time tour of the West Indies, England would have played four-day first-class games in Barbados and Jamaica or St Vincent, and maybe against West Indies A in Trinidad. On this tour they have had to make do with four days of match-practice against a pick-up team that had little pride and at a ground with nets which were unusable after day one: the opening batsman Keaton Jennings, struggling with his technique, had to work on it indoors.
So the key to winning Test series’ abroad, against the grain, is to train batsmen at home in England to become familiar with every situation. The problems, whether of turning pitches or intense humidity or green surfaces, are solved in advance.
“We could get a number of different-type wickets (in the West Indies) so we’ll have to be adaptable as we were in Sri Lanka,” Root said. “We were open to a number of different options and we’re here as a whole squad, not just as an eleven. We’re making sure everyone feels ready and in a position to start and we can go from there.”
If it is adaptability for batsmen under Root’s regime, for bowlers it is expendability. As Stuart Broad was dropped for two Tests in Sri Lanka before Christmas and James Anderson for one, and Moeen Ali was also omitted last year, no bowler’s position is safe. And as the two most senior bowlers know they cannot coast, by bowling wide of offstump economically without much intent of taking a wicket, the whole attitude in the field has been transformed.