England assistant coach Graham Thorpe says opening batsman Dom Sibley has “made strides” as he swaps the spinning surfaces of Sri Lanka for potentially similar pitches in India.
Sibley managed a total of six runs across his first three innings in the 2-0 series win in Sri Lanka – out to left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya for four, two and nought – but rallied with an unbeaten 56 in his final knock in Galle to steer his side to a six-wicket win in the second Test.
Thorpe says the 25-year-old and fellow opener Zak Crawley – who scored a total of 35 runs across four knocks in Sri Lanka and was out to Embuldeniya each time – are working hard in training on their first tours of the subcontinent with the senior England team.
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The former England batsman is hopeful their efforts will be rewarded during the four-Test assignment in India, which starts next Friday.
Thorpe said: “Sometimes the work the players put in behind the scenes doesn’t always show straightaway in matches. I know the amount of work they would have done.
“Dom’s movements in that last innings [in Sri Lanka] showed to me that he has made strides. He will probably be the first to admit he has to keep making those strides.
“Coming out of the English season, he was looking at how he can be more proactive and he has been brave in the nets, which I think you have to be when you are practising.
“I think he is getting his foot movement and his method in a much better place to allow him options to score runs.
“He has made progress since the time he has come into the Test side but the hardest thing is doing it out on the field so it was pleasing form him to get those runs.
“It is about [Sibley and Crawley] understanding their method so when they walk out to bat they have a clear idea of how they can defend a good ball, rotate the strike and also where they take their calculated risks in terms of boundary options so they can put pressure back on to the bowlers.
“We want our players to be able to recognise situations in the game. It’s one of the biggest challenges for any batsman at the highest level.
“We have players who haven’t been to the subcontinent so they might be slightly behind in their development compared to other players but they are working hard and can hopefully put in a good show.”
Thorpe says Sibley and Crawley have a fine example in captain Joe Root, who scored 228 in the first Test against Sri Lanka and 186 in the second as he ended the series with 426 runs at an average of 106.50 and moved fourth on the list of England’s all-time leading Test run-scorers.
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Root will record the milestone of 100 Test matches – becoming the 15th man to that landmark for England – when he leads his team out in Chennai for the first Test against India, a feat Thorpe himself achieved when he played against Bangladesh in Durham in June 2005.
On Root bringing up a century of matches, Thorpe said: “It’s a real achievement because of the longevity of it.
“I think you need a good sense of humour to play that amount of cricket. He has had an awful lot of highs but there will also be some moments where you have your lows and you have to show a bit of character and resilience.
“You have to adapt to the next situation and sometimes you are going to tinker with your technique. You have to manage all that so to play 100 Test matches is no mean feat. He and his family will be very proud.
“What I saw early on with Joe was character and temperament and then when I was around him he had a great work ethic and tried to work things out for himself. That has really continued throughout his career.
“He showed in the series in Sri Lanka that he wants to be a good example and the players in the team have a very good example to watch of how he goes about his business.
“He has also kept his love for the game, which is so important, and remained very humble as well. He is a great student of the game and loves watching other people play and learning. He doesn’t want to stand still and has a great hunger to score runs. He is always trying to get better.”
The Indian bowling attack is not just about spin, their seam attack is also strong and will be very much in play so we can’t get side-tracked completely by the spin side of things but it will be important, there is no doubt about that.
Graham Thorpe on India
Root said earlier this week his side “couldn’t be in a better place” to challenge India as they bid to become the first side to win a Test series in the country since Sir Alastair Cook-led England to a 2-1 triumph in 2012.
Thorpe also believes England “can do something special” if they continue to rack up big first-innings totals.
The 51-year-old added: “India have been very strong at home and are coming off the back of a win in Australia so it presents a real challenge but that is where you want to be as a player. We have to embrace the challenge and have a lot of belief that we can do something special.
“The blueprint we have been trying to stick to about scoring big first-innings runs gives us the best opportunity to stay in matches and potentially win them as well.
“We know the challenges will get harder but if you keep your game-plan is relatively straightforward then the players understand what they are trying to follow.”
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