Trevor Bayliss sits back and remembers the time he predicted the impact one of his favorite players from his time as England manager would have as captain.
“We were in Bangladesh,” said the Australian who won the World Cup with England and Ashes.
“And I gave a press conference in Chittagong. Alastair Cook walked out as captain and there was talk of who would take over. Joe Root was the #1 candidate, but one of you guys asked me who else could do it. I said Ben Stokes and everyone laughed. I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’
“The proof is in the pudding, isn’t it? He is a leader of men and a positive guy. When you’re a leader, you make a decision without procrastination and everyone else follows. Ben clearly does. He’s one of those guys that people are attracted to. He always takes center stage whether it be joking in the locker room or being competitive in football or even tiddlywinks.
Trevor Bayliss has always supported Ben Stokes as a successful England captain
“Ben always wanted to win and sometimes he was also the spokesperson for the team. He would come up to me and say ‘I don’t think we should do this’ and I would know he was speaking on behalf of the team. He showed leadership from the start.’
Bayliss, 59, is back in England for the first time since he left after the 2019 Ashes, where he coached London Spirit in the Hundred. And he’s enjoyed what he’s seen from afar in the new Test partnership of Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
“The number 1 thing is the chemistry between captain and coach,” he told Sportsmail. “To get results as they have, it has to be pretty good. You get a good relationship there and the buy-in from the rest of the team reflects 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 if it doesn’t quite work. That was one of the beauties of the whiteball team when I was here. Eoin Morgan was able to say after a defeat: ‘Get this out of your head because the way we play will get us the World Cup’.
Stokes played a key role for Bayliss as England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup
‘That is comparable to what the Test Team is doing now. The more they play this way, the better they get and the more confident they become. It was great to see and I’m looking forward to seeing some of it myself.”
It’s the reaction of an experienced coach who has been elated by his past allegations, but Bayliss may be a little jealous of the success of the Stokes-McCullum regime. Because he embraced the positive approach when he was in charge.
It worked, spectacularly, with the white-ball side, culminating in that legendary day at Lord’s when Morgan won the World Cup. But although 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’ be ‘Trevball’?
“Not at all,” he emphasizes at every suggestion of jealousy. “Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with teams that have had success and I know how hard it is and what you go through whether you win or lose.
“I’m only too happy for them because it’s a good feeling. As a coach, it’s nice to see smiles on the faces of the people you’ve worked with, the success they’ve had and what it means. I remember what winning the World Cup meant for the English public. That’s what really touched me. The response, not just on that day, but in the weeks to come. It was fantastic to see.
Bayliss led England to an unlikely win 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 tough times to go through, but you’re doing it because you’re making good decisions. If you play that way, it won’t be long before you are mentally the opponent. Before you know it they are serving half volleys and half trackers. People are calling the way England are playing now extreme, but I think it’s great. Let’s see more of it.’
Bayliss has now started a new challenge with London Spirit in The Hundred. They won their first game against the Oval Invincibles on Thursday night. But his new job comes in desperately dire circumstances as he has replaced the late Shane Warne as coach.
“It was so hard to believe because it came out of nowhere and it’s hard to comprehend with someone so young,” Bayliss said of his compatriot’s passing. “We have Dimi Mascarenhas and Chuck (Darren) Berry with us as coaches and they were really good friends of Warnie.
Chuck had a chat with 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 it. They are a good couple and they work well. Everyone I spoke 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 in Lord’s, he has been able to reminisce about his prime as England coach. “Going into the dressing room and looking back over the ground brought back some memories of the World Cup final,” he said. “Standing on the balcony when we got that run-out.
“And there are a few photos in the member’s booth from that day. The most important thing for me is come back and say I have a lot of good friends here. We all want to win, but I’m just as focused on creating relationships and I’m lucky enough to have met people over the years who will be friends for life. I’ve already talked to Paul Farbrace and Paul Collingwood on the phone and it was like we were together last week.
“I had 12 months off when I went home in 2019 and I was pretty happy I didn’t do anything. It took me that time to get to the point where I wanted and needed to get 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.’
And England cricket’s favorite adopted Australian is still struggling to stop calling England “we” three years later.
“I’ve been aware that I say ‘we’ all the time,” he smiled. “It may be a while before I can always call them England. But I felt very comfortable here and it seemed to fit well.
The bottom line is that in cricket people are marrying the coaches with what it takes and hopefully Rob Key is on the right track with this one. Looks like he is and it’s whetting the appetite for the Ashes next year. If England still play like this it should be a great game. It will certainly be worth a look.’