England Test Team: The pace of the change in the Test team’s fortunes has caught Rob Key, England’s new managing director of men’s cricket, off guard, he has conceded.
After winning only one of their previous 17 games, England has romped to four Test triumphs in a row this summer under the new leadership combo of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. In each of those victories, England has chased fourth-innings objectives in excess of 275.
Although it’s not a term Key particularly likes, the thrilling, aggressive cricket in which they’ve gained those victories has led to the creation of the term “Bazball” in honour of England’s new head coach.
“I’m not mad on ‘Bazball’,” Key told Sky Sports during England’s second one-day international win over India at Lord’s.
“It’s not our term and it devalues a little bit what those guys have done, and those two [Stokes and McCullum] in particular.
“It’s not about going out there and just looking to play shots. I don’t think Joe Root has gone out there and just looked to play shots. They have soaked up pressure as well.
“It doesn’t mean that you can only play in the Test team if you’re someone who is going to play a shot a ball. That’s not what it is about.”.
Key added: “The way the Test series went was really pleasing. I never thought it would go like that, you just have your views on the way you want to do things and the people you want to bring in, like Brendon McCullum obviously.
“I simply adored how they approached it. It seemed to attract the public’s attention, which I found to be wonderful. Despite not being part of the plan, Stokes and McCullum have succeeded in achieving that.
“And the way the guys played, they’ve got the best out of so many of those guys.”
Making the appropriate candidates to oversee the Test and white-ball squads was vital, Key said in reflection on the influence he has had in the position since his April appointment.
He said: “I had a choice, where you could have someone who was going to be a hard taskmaster, really tough on the players, or someone who was going to try and free them up and get them to express themselves and reach their full potential by doing it that way. That’s what Brendon has done.
“You said it [to Nasser], England have four of our greatest-ever cricketers, and some of the most talented players we’ve ever had, you can’t tell me they can’t be a good side.
“We live in this culture in England where it’s like, ‘be careful of this, you can’t do that and that creates a world in English cricket where you can’t do stuff – ‘you can’t drive on the up’ – whereas what they focus on is what you can do.
“And then it was, ‘well you can’t do that against India, you can’t play that way against India… or Australia’.
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