‘His best quality is removing pressure’
Tim Wigmore discovers the attributes that could help Silverwood pave a way for English coaches
While the rain lashed down at Scarborough, Ryan ten Doeschate, Essex’s captain, was sitting in the shower, stewing. It was the summer of 2017, and, with Essex on course for their first County Championship in 25 years, Ten Doeschate feared that the side were squandering a dominant position in the match.
“I didn’t want the players to see my frustration,” Ten Doeschate recalls. Instead, he sought out head coach Chris Silverwood. “I vented to him privately. He burst out laughing, put his arm around me and told me, ‘Chill out’.”
When the rain stopped, Ten Doeschate made 88, marshalling the tail adroitly to ensure Essex got a three-figure lead, setting up an emphatic win.
It is providing calm in pressurised situations that Ten Doeschate considers Silverwood’s greatest attribute. “His biggest quality is to take the pressure away from the players. It’s the most basic and most important skill as a coach, not easily implemented, but one that he had mastered from the start.”
In his first season as head coach, in 2016, Silverwood led Essex to the Division Two title, ending years of under-performance in the red-ball game. Silverwood then implored his side to “dream big”, and they promptly cruised to the Division One title with two games to spare, remaining unbeaten.
Culture was central to his success. “His driving philosophy was ‘above-the-line behaviour’,” Ten Doeschate explains. “He changed the focus to lads looking after each other and performances followed. He was big on attitude and behaviour.”
It was instructive that, when Silverwood’s appointment was announced, Ashley Giles highlighted his work “developing the team’s culture” as bowling coach. Giles has persistently emphasised the importance of culture since he took over as director of England men’s cricket. Silverwood is regarded as a safe custodian of the values that Giles wants England to embody – playing tough cricket on the field, but also being the most respected side in the world and a team with integrity on and off the field.
At Essex, where he had been bowling coach for six years, Silverwood showed that he could transform a culture from within. And, similarly, he has impressed with England since taking over as bowling coach in 2017.
The range of experiences in Silverwood’s career – the skills that claimed 577 first-class wickets, balanced with the disappointment of an England debut at 21 only leading to a career of six Tests and
‘It’s the most crucial skill as a coach, but one he had mastered from the start’
seven one-day internationals – have informed his work with the bowlers. He is renowned for his focus on mindset and strategy. He has also developed a good rapport with England captains Eoin Morgan and Joe Root.
Although he has been immersed in professional cricket his entire adult life, Silverwood is also receptive to new wisdom. “He was open to broader ideas – strategic ideas, sporting ideas or mentoring ideas,” Derek Bowden, the chief executive of Essex, recalls. “He injected a different approach into the team and the support staff.”
For all his qualities, Silverwood’s nationality is also central to his appeal. England have been lambasted for the absence of English head coaches in the men’s Hundred competition. There has never been an English head coach in the Indian Premier League and James Foster, the head coach of the St Lucia Stars, is the only Englishman in charge of either a major T20 franchise abroad or another Test nation. Giles has declared elevating more English coaches to be a priority. Given the first chance, he has been as good as his word.
And so it is not only all England supporters who will wish Silverwood well; it is also the next generation of England coaches. For, should Silverwood succeed, he will make English coaches more attractive the world over.
Playing pedigree: Chris Silverwood in 2002 during one of his six Tests