“Do you have the game, the mental toughness to improve and learn and push yourself forward when you hit a bump in the road?”; Assistant coach Graham Thorpe says England’s hitters must show their “desperation” to remain on the test team.
Zak Crawley is one of the best in England struggling to keep his place after a difficult start to the year.
Assistant coach Graham Thorpe has told England’s hesitant hitters to show their “desperation” to stay on the team.
The test team is reflecting on a first home series loss in seven years after collapsing against New Zealand at Edgbaston and it’s not hard to see where the problems lie.
The higher order has been worryingly short in form in eight Tests in 2021, with captain Joe Root only in terms of runs scored.
The nude numbers are flashy and damning. Root’s count of 891 puts him 562 ahead of his closest rival Dan Lawrence, and while he has two double centuries and another single to his name, there has only been one other triple-digit score, by Rory Burns.
The year averages reveal the same stark concerns, with Lawrence (29.90), Ollie Pope (21.54), Dom Sibley (21.35) and Zak Crawley (10.25) all struggling to stay afloat.
Root, who has also faced more balls than any of his teammates to the tune of 500 deliveries, suggested over the weekend that those players still represent the brightest talent and would benefit from a prolonged show of faith.
But Thorpe, who has the responsibility of grooming hitters under head coach Chris Silverwood, wants to see some give and take as returns from Ben Stokes (broken finger) and Jos Buttler (rested) tighten the field.
“These players have to show desperation to stay on the wing, they have to earn the right to stay on the wing,” he said.
“They will be fully aware of that, because we have some players who will come back to that team and there are others out there pushing too. There is competition for places, which is healthy for a team.
“That competition should drive the individual so that when he comes in, he smells that opportunity to act and go and do it. You have to keep producing and your right column (careers) is very important; it’s what keeps you on the team.”
Crawley’s case is perhaps the most curious among those currently under the microscope. He was chosen for his potential despite a modest first-class record, but showed great class reserves when he scored 267 against a strong Pakistani team last August.
Having been rated a star, he has been fired in unique figures nine times from his last 12 attempts.
“He’s young, both in terms of his age and his testing career,” Thorpe said.
“If he leaves and continues to work on his game, I am sure he will be successful, but you have to learn from these moments so that when you come back it will be better.
“As coaches, that’s what we’re looking at: do you have the game (and) the mental toughness to improve, learn, and advance when you hit a bump in the road?”
England would love to see their hitters make big runs before taking on India, but there are only two rounds left of the LV = Insurance County Championship before the series begins on August 4.
Instead, the testing contingent will be fine-tuned for India playing in the inaugural season of The Hundred.
The formats could hardly be more different and while the techniques are unlikely to be perfected with a 100-ball thrash, Thorpe believes that simply removing the shackles could bring its own benefits.
“It’s about adjusting, I hope what it does is allow them to break free and enjoy their cricket and help them relax, free their hands and arms,” he said.
“I hope it gives you a mental break, go and enjoy your cricket and those who return to the Test team, come back with that hunger and desire to be better.”