For England coach Chris Silverwood, trying to pick a team to win in the here and now while also planning ahead for next year’s Ashes series in Australia, is a difficult balancing act.
Just who will be in that squad when England set off Down Under in October 2021 remains up in the air, yet Silverwood and captain Joe Root know getting experience and confidence into the likes of fast bowlers Mark Wood, inset, and Jofra Archer will be vital if they are to regain the urn with their first away Ashes series win since the winter of 2010-11.
“It’s very difficult,” says Silverwood. “You look at what you need for the here and now and you look down the line for what we potentially need in Australia. It’s a difficult balance to get, but we do our best to strike that balance more often than not.
“At the same time when I look at the teams we have picked this summer we were still building for the future, there were a lot of young lads in that team that are potentially going to feature in the Ashes as well. We are building for the future, not just from a bowling point of view but from a holistic point of view.
“Dom Sibley, Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Dom Bess are all young lads we are investing in.”
Stuart Broad has shown his class this summer, with the seamer now up to second in the Test bowling rankings after a summer that, before this week’s series finale against Pakistan, had seen him take 26 wickets at 12.38 since being dropped for the opening Test against the West Indies at the start of last month.
Broad will be 35 by the time England next visit Australia, while James Anderson, his long-time new-ball partner, will be 39.
Silverwood admits he does not know whether the pair will still be going by the time that next Ashes series comes around but he is just thankful England’s two most prolific Test bowlers – who share over 1,000 wickets between them – are still here to pass on their experience to the rest of the squad.
“They have proven they are very good bowlers again haven’t they?” he said. “It’s great for us. Having their experience around for the other guys to work alongside is superb. They pass on so much knowledge to these lads.
“You have your bowling coaches but having them two is like having two more. What I’m trying to do is build an attack that has experience and everything else in there – pace, swing, movement – so we’re covering off as many departments as we can.
“I don’t want to predict anything – I want to keep all my options open. Let’s just keep building that group of bowlers and see where we get to.”
Although spin will prove key when England face Sri Lanka and India in Asia this winter, Silverwood knows his seamers will also have a major role to play.
“There’s various factors we look at and pace is one of them,” he said. “Pace, movement, bounce, left or right arm – all these things come into account. We’re trying to build an attack that can cover everything off. If you’ve got that group of players you can choose from them depending on who gives you the best opportunity to win the game in front of you.”
This summer has been a success for England’s Test team on the field, with Root’s men beating West Indies 2-1 and preserving their six-year unbeaten record in home series by heading into the final Test against Pakistan 1-0 up.
The big challenge off the field, though, for Silverwood and his coaching staff has been keeping everyone in the expanded bio-secure bubble happy – not least those who have not played any cricket.
“It’s one of the key things we’re having to do,” said Silverwood. “You’ve got Foakes. Leach, Bracey, all guys who’ve been in the bubble a long time and not featured. It’s a really unique situation – normally you’d send them back to county cricket to keep that confidence going, to get the runs and wickets under their belt. Then when they do come in there’s a foundation there.
“We find ourselves in a unique situation where we can’t do it. The rules of getting people in and out the bubble, we can’t get them out and back in again.
“We haven’t got the time to do that and stick by the rules and guidelines that have been set around Covid.
“The guys have been fantastic, worked really hard. Everyone has worked really hard but a special mention goes to the guys who haven’t played and the way they’ve conducted themselves.
“We’ve had to spend time making sure they’re okay because it’s been a difficult job.”