England kids need work­ing over to pre­pare for the Ashes

Bouncer bar­rage from West Indies is per­fect test for young play­ers ahead of tour Down Un­der next year

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - Sir Ge­of­frey Boy­cott

For England, the big­gest fac­tor this sum­mer will be the de­vel­op­ment of their new young bats­men, Zak Craw­ley, Dom Si­b­ley and Ol­lie Pope.

I hope West Indies give them some short stuff and a work­ing over, be­cause that is go­ing to be so im­por­tant in Aus­tralia on the next Ashes tour. Can they with­stand the on­slaught of Pat Cum­mins and Mitchell Starc, es­pe­cially against the new ball?

Bat­ting well at the top of the or­der is the key to win­ning in Aus­tralia and that is why I would ad­vo­cate England pick­ing three open­ers. If you can­not play the pace of Starc and Cum­mins, then do not bother catch­ing the plane to Aus­tralia next year, be­cause that will be para­mount.

Of these three young play­ers, Craw­ley is the most in­ter­est­ing. I do not re­call any tall right-handed bats­men be­ing suc­cess­ful at Test level for any coun­try, with the ex­cep­tion of Tony Greig. Craw­ley is only 22 and does not have a great first-class record, av­er­ag­ing just over 30, and un­usual at 6ft 5in.

On hard pitches, with good bounce, it is an ad­van­tage to stand tall and be on top of the ball. When Craw­ley gets on slower, lower pitches I would ad­vise him to bend his front knee a bit more to get down to the ball and let it come to him. If he can keep pro­gress­ing it will be mar­vel­lous for England and those who were brave enough to se­lect him on po­ten­tial.

Si­b­ley has had a tougher start and is not as flu­ent as Craw­ley, tend­ing to rely on de­fence while scor­ing mainly through the on side.

He has a good first-class record, where his con­cen­tra­tion and pa­tience wear bowlers down in an old-fash­ioned way, which you do not see in the mod­ern game. Kids grow up on “crash-bang-wal­lop” white-ball cricket, so play­ing shots and scor­ing quickly becomes sec­ond na­ture to them.

With oth­ers likely to be scor­ing faster, it will put a bit more pres­sure on Si­b­ley to stick to his own way of bat­ting and not get sucked in try­ing to em­u­late them.

He should stick with his own method and not try to catch the oth­ers up. It does not mat­ter if his runs take longer to make.

The only thing that mat­ters is how many runs he scores, and whether he gives the team a good start.

Be dis­ci­plined and men­tally strong; runs keep you in the team and help your team win.

Pope gives me the im­pres­sion that noth­ing fazes him and he is con­fi­dent and pos­i­tive in his stroke­play. He is at ease with his abil­ity and looks like a young man in a hurry to get to the top. I like him in the late mid­dle or­der, and he should not change or be moved from that po­si­tion.

Watch­ing these young­sters, the im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is that no­body should ex­pect them to suc­ceed in every in­nings. That is just not pos­si­ble. It will be a learn­ing process of two steps for­ward, one step back.

Adapt, play well, make mis­takes – be­cause we want to see how they learn from them, pick them­selves up and go again. Set­backs will hap­pen. But it is how you deal with them that counts.

If the se­lec­tors feel these kids have got some­thing then they need to play all sum­mer. The Ashes seems a long way away, but there are only 16 Tests un­til the start of the next series and there is noth­ing you can do to de­velop them quicker than play­ing com­pet­i­tive Test matches. Talk­ing to them, prac­tice matches, nets… all that is pe­riph­ery. Young guys have to play.

Rory Burns was do­ing fine be­fore his stupid foot­balling ac­ci­dent. He made a mis­take that set back his progress and wasted six months of his ca­reer. At 29, you can never get that back, so every series is huge for him.

Be­fore his in­jury I got the im­pres­sion he was be­gin­ning to feel very com­fort­able and was sen­si­bly stick­ing to his game plan of leav­ing out­side off stump and try­ing to score in­side his safe ar­eas. To me, that was good de­vel­op­ment. I know he has a loopy, idio­syn­cratic back­swing, but I am never con­cerned about where the bat goes on the back­swing. It is where a bats­man puts his feet and where the bat comes down to make con­tact with the ball that are the cru­cial fac­tors.

I feel it is harder for bats­men with­out com­pet­i­tive match prac­tice than it is for bowlers. If a bats­man’s feet are a bit slug­gish, or the bat is a touch late, or you are just a bit off­line, then you are out. Your day is ru­ined.

Bowlers need some com­pet­i­tive cricket to get their run-ups in sync and to de­liver in rhythm, but they know they can get away with a bad ball or two be­cause it only takes one good one to re­deem them­selves with a wicket.

I have no con­cerns over James An­der­son and Stu­art Broad, who are old hands.

It is like rid­ing a bike for them. Once you have done it well, you never lose it. The only ques­tion mark with our bowl­ing is whether Jimmy will break down. He is 38 this month.

Chris Woakes, in this cool weather, is a good swing and seam bowler. If I could give Woakes one piece of ad­vice as a for­mer open­ing bats­man, it would be to just pitch it up half a yard more. To give him con­fi­dence to do that the cap­tain should give him a straight­ish mid-off and a straight­ish cover to give him some protection, so if he is driven it does not al­ways go for four.

As an opener, he should want to get me driv­ing early on the front foot. Once I am com­mit­ted I can­not change.

I would like to see Ben Stokes use Jofra Archer in short, sharp, fast spells. He can­not be a don­key There is noth­ing you can do to de­velop young­sters quicker than play­ing in com­pet­i­tive Tests bowler do­ing long spells and then be your ex­press shock bowler. Short and sharp works best be­cause all you want from him is wick­ets. If one spell does not work, then take him off. Do not burn him out be­cause his next spell might be a suc­cess.

Fast bowl­ing is very tax­ing on the body, so I hope Stokes de­sists from ask­ing him to bowl a lot of suc­ces­sive short balls be­cause that will knacker him up. It takes a lot more out of a bowler to bowl a bouncer. It should be a welldirect­ed sur­prise aimed at the bats­man’s ribs, heart and neck. That is where it is the most dif­fi­cult to play and does the most dam­age.

A bouncer over the head looks good, but it does not get any­one out and it takes a lot of en­ergy out of the bowler.

Bats­men who play as cap­tains do not al­ways re­alise this be­cause they have never had to do it. Joe Root had him do­ing that in New Zealand; it was a waste. Bowl­ing 20 overs a day with lots of bounc­ers… no won­der he was ex­hausted. Fi­nally, I al­ways thought Stokes might be a very good cap­tainin-wait­ing. No­body can tell for sure what makes a fine cap­tain. Tac­ti­cal aware­ness is cru­cial, but lead­er­ship is in­de­fin­able. Dif­fer­ent peo­ple have dif­fer­ent ways of get­ting play­ers to fol­low them.

When you are cap­tain, some de­ci­sions are so straight­for­ward but the rest is in­stinct, feel and ex­pe­ri­ence. Good luck Ben.

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