Trevor Bayliss, the ‘take it or leave it’ Aussie, leading England in the Ashes

New coach admits he’s ‘rough around the edges’ as he takes on compatriots

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The Independent Online

Trevor Bayliss was wearing jeans, sensible heavy-duty black shoes and an England training top which seemed already to fit familiarly with every curve of his body. His greying hair is cropped short, his glasses are rimless, he had not shaved.

In the gentle, unassuming manner in which he talked, congenial and candid without the remotest hint of the smart alec, he sounded as though he might have been an Australian country boy. Which he is – from Goulburn, a rural town midway between Sydney and Canberra – and he happily conceded it.

“Mate, I know I’m a bit rough round the edges, you guys will have to put up with that,” he said at his inauguration before the fourth estate at Lord’s yesterday. “One of the things I decided when I first got the New South Wales job a dozen years ago was that I wasn’t going to change. I had coached age-group teams, Under-23 and Under-19 teams, and I thought I had to have the same sort of philosophy on the players and don’t try and be something you’re not.

“Like a player you learn, you get more experience as you go along. I’d like to think I’m a better coach now than I was a dozen years ago but hopefully my approach is exactly the same. From a cricket and media point of view I would like to think I’m very honest, take it or leave it, that’s the way it is.”

Sitting there in the dining area at the back of the Lord’s press box, affably shooting the breeze, he was an archetypal representative of the lucky country. But in his new role he has been asked to take back the Ashes on behalf of the mother country. It seems odd. Not to Bayliss.

“I am old enough that the first seven or eight years I was at school I sang ‘God Save The Queen’,” he said. “I know most of the words and probably more than I do our own at the moment. I coached against Australia with Sri Lanka and it’s certainly a different feeling but I was lucky enough to beat them on a few occasions.

“In Australia when I grew up there was a lot of backyard cricket playing against your mates and your brother. I don’t see this as any different as long as there is that professional respect. Play the game hard out on the field and then enjoy each other’s company afterwards. Be able to speak to each other.”

There was a charming simplicity about him and he insisted that this was the way he approached the game. He will not overcomplicate it for the players, expecting them both to be self-reliant and to continue playing in the style that got them selected in the first place. The Bayliss approach would be “very relaxed”. At the top level, he said, it was more about creating a good environment than working on technique, though of course there would be occasions when technique had to be worked on.

He has had abundant experience as a coach. After a competent career as a player with New South Wales, where he scored 2,757 runs at 36.76, he became a development officer, worked with age-group teams, became the state side’s assistant coach and then coach. Under his guidance New South Wales won the Sheffield Shield.

In 2007, Bayliss was the unexpected choice as coach of Sri Lanka. It is the fate of the unassuming to be unexpected choices. It was precisely the case when England announced that he was their man, though now it seems that Andrew Strauss, the director of cricket, was merely stating the bloomin’ obvious.

With Sri Lanka, Bayliss won five out of 11 Test series and helped them to the finals of the World Twenty20 in 2009 and the World Cup in 2011. He was on the team coach when it was attacked by gunmen on the way to a Test match against Pakistan in Lahore in 2009.

“You can’t necessarily let it bother you,” he said. “From the terrorist side of things you can’t let that determine your life, you’ve got to get on with your life. I will certainly remember when the bombs and the bullets were flying around. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe we’re being shot at but there’s nothing I can do, keep your head down and your arse up. Deal with it as best you can and get on with it’. I think if you worry about it too much it will follow you around. The way I have dealt with it has certainly been very much from that point of view, there’s nothing I could do about it.”

Bayliss was in Sydney late last year, having returned as NSW coach after leaving Sri Lanka in 2011, when Phillip Hughes was felled by a bouncer while batting for South Australia. He later died,  prompting an outpouring of grief around the world.

“The encouraging thing was the sentiments that came worldwide, it wasn’t just from those teams or from the Australian cricketing community,” he said. “From now on, whatever cricket is played, those memories and sentiments will be in the back of peoples’ minds. But while the game of cricket honours his memory we can’t let it affect the way we go about our game, whether that is playing in an aggressive manner. It is important that all sides play in their way.”

Rough round the edges Bayliss might like to think he is. But he spoke sensibly and wisely and as frankly as he could. The Aussies had better watch out.


England squad for the first Ashes Test

Age Caps

A N Cook Essex; capt 32 114

M M Ali Worcs 28 11

J M Anderson Lancs 32 104

G S Ballance Yorks 25 13

I R Bell Warwicks 33 110

S C J Broad Notts 29 79

J C Buttler Lancs 24 8

S T Finn Middx 26 23

A Lyth Yorks 27 2

A U Rashid Yorks 27 0

J E Root Yorks 24 27

B A Stokes Durham 24 11

M A Wood Durham 25 2

Ashes schedule:

Wed-12 July: First Test - Cardiff

16-20 July: Second Test - Lord’s

29 July–2 August: Third Test - Edgbaston

6-10 August: Fourth Test - Trent Bridge

20-24 August: Fifth Test - The Oval