Trevor Bayliss sits back and remembers the time he predicted the impact one of his favourite players from his time as England coach would have as captain.
‘We were in Bangladesh,’ said the Australian who won the World Cup and Ashes with England.
‘And I did a press conference in Chittagong. Alastair Cook was coming to the end as captain and there was talk about who would take over. Joe Root was the No 1 candidate but one of you blokes asked me who else could do it. I said Ben Stokes and everyone laughed. I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’
‘The proof has been in the pudding, hasn’t it? He’s a leader of men and a positive guy. If you are a leader you make a decision with no procrastinating and all the others follow. Ben clearly does that. He’s one of those guys people are attracted to. He’s always in the centre of things, whether it’s having a joke in the changing room or being competitive in football or even tiddlywinks.
Trevor Bayliss always backed Ben Stokes to be a successful captain for England
‘Ben always wanted to win and there were times he was a spokesman for the team, too. He would come to me and say, ‘I don’t think we should be doing this’ and I’d know he was talking for the team. He showed leadership from the start.’
Bayliss, 59, is back in England for the first time since leaving after the 2019 Ashes, coaching London Spirit in the Hundred. And he has liked what he has seen from afar in the new Test partnership of Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
‘The No 1 thing is the chemistry between captain and coach,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘To get results like they have it must be pretty good. You get a good relationship there and the buy-in from the rest of the team mirrors that. Two very positive-thinking guys who want to play an attacking game.
‘It won’t work every time and the test will come with how they handle the negative press when it doesn’t quite work. That was one of the beauties of the white-ball team when I was here. Eoin Morgan was able to say after a defeat, ‘Put this out of your mind because the way we’re playing is going to win us the World Cup’.
Stokes was instrumental for Bayliss as England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup
‘That’s similar to what the Test team are doing now. The more they play this way the better they’ll get and the more confident they’ll become. It’s been great to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing a bit of it close up myself.’
It is the reaction of an experienced coach who is delighted for his former charges, but Bayliss could be excused some envy over the success of the Stokes-McCullum regime. For he espoused the positive approach when he was in charge.
It worked, spectacularly, with the white-ball side, culminating in that fabled day at Lord’s when Morgan lifted the World Cup. But even though England won the Ashes in Bayliss’s first summer as coach in 2015, his positive message never fully got through to the Test side. Could ‘Bazball’ have been ‘Trevball’?
‘No not at all,’ he insists at any suggestion of jealousy. ‘I’ve been lucky enough over the years to be involved with teams who had success and I know how hard it is and what you go through whether you’re winning or losing.
‘I’m only too happy for them because it is a good feeling. As a coach it’s nice to see smiles on the faces of people you’ve worked with, the success they’ve had and what it means. I remember what the World Cup win meant to the English public. That’s what really got me. The reaction, not just on that day but over the next weeks. It was fantastic to see.
Bayliss led England to an unlikely victory over his native Australia in the 2015 Ashes
‘I spent a few years trying to explain what I meant by wanting to play positive cricket. It means having a positive mindset. You still have to get through tough periods but you do it because you make good decisions. If you’re playing in that fashion it doesn’t take long for you to get on top of the opposition mentally. Before you know it they’re serving up half-volleys and half-trackers. People call the way England are playing now extreme, but I love it. Let’s see more of it.’
Bayliss has now begun a new challenge with London Spirit in The Hundred. They won their first match against Oval Invincibles on Thursday night. But his new job comes in desperately sad circumstances as he has replaced the late Shane Warne as coach.
‘It was so hard to believe because it was out of the blue and it’s a difficult thing to comprehend with someone so young,’ Bayliss said of his compatriot’s passing. ‘We’ve got Dimi Mascarenhas and Chuck (Darren) Berry with us as coaches and they were really good mates of Warnie.
‘Chuck had a chat to the boys about playing for the Spirit and what Warnie could see in them. He told them to take every opportunity because Warnie wouldn’t want them to miss out. They’re a good bunch and they’re working well. Everybody I’ve spoken to enjoyed The Hundred last year and I’m looking forward to it.’
Bayliss has replaced the late Shane Warne as coach of The Hundred’s London Spirit
And, with Spirit based at Lord’s, he has been able to reminisce about his highlight as England coach. ‘To get up into the changing room and look back over the ground brought back a few memories of the World Cup final,’ he said. ‘Being on the balcony when we got that run-out.
‘And there are a few photos up in the members’ stand of that day. The main thing for me is coming back and saying I’ve got a lot of good friends here. We all want to win but I’m just as focused on creating relationships and I’m very lucky over the years to have met people who will be friends for life. I’ve already been on the phone to Paul Farbrace and Paul Collingwood and it was like we were together last week.
‘I had 12 months off when I went home in 2019 and I was quite happy not doing anything. It took me that time to get to the point where I wanted and needed to be involved again.
‘But now I’m very happy to be back. Not necessarily full time but two or three franchises a year suits me. I think I’ve got a few good years left in me yet.’
And English cricket’s favourite adopted Australian is still, three years on, struggling to stop calling England ‘we’.
‘I’ve been conscious of saying ‘we’ throughout this,’ he smiled. ‘It might take a bit of time before I can always call them England. But I felt very comfortable here and it seemed a good fit.
‘It comes down to people in cricket marrying up the coaches with what’s needed and hopefully Rob Key is on the right path with these ones. It does seem he is and it does whet the appetite for the Ashes next year. If England are still playing this way it should be a hell of a contest. It will certainly be worth watching.’