Trevor Bayliss: What they said about the new England head

The new England cricket coach will arrive in this country in the next few days as virtually an unknown quantity. But, as Richard Edwards discovered,  those who played with him and for him rate Trevor Bayliss very highly indeed

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The Independent Online

Trevor Bayliss arrives in England later this week to begin his job as the new head coach of the England cricket teams. He does so as perhaps the least known person to take up a senior post in British sport in recent memory.

Bayliss, a naturally quiet country boy from New South Wales, has never worked in England to any meaningful degree, apart from a brief spell coaching Kent in 2003, and so for the great majority of sporting followers he is virtually an unknown quantity. The good news is that among those who do know him, the verdict is all-but unanimous: as a player and a man he is admired, as a coach he is revered.

A family man – his son Adam plays for Penrith as his father did – Bayliss has travelled around the world as a cricketing coach notably in India and Sri Lanka where he has achieved stunning success and won, not just matches, but also the hearts of the players he has led with such distinction.

There is great concern that an England team that might generously be described as inconsistent face humiliation in the Ashes which begin early next month – all the more so after the Australians beat the West Indies in three days last week. It may be too soon to expect Bayliss to make a radical impact but England seem to be in good hands. This is what those that know him best have to say.

‘He had a great grounding in cricket and in life’

Rod ‘Scorch’ Evans (former team-mate at Penrith and long-time friend)

He was 18 and he came to us from Goulburn, which is a country town in New South Wales about two hours south of Sydney. He was a talented young country cricketer, for sure. He was recommended to us by a fella called Rex Keller who was a bit of a country scout. He came up to the trials as a wicketkeeper-batsman and the selectors were pretty impressed with him first up.

He played one game of First Grade but then a guy called Steve Small, who was a state player and had gone down to Victoria to try his luck, came back and it was a case of youngest one in first one out, so he lost his place after a single match.

He was a really quiet guy back then, he didn’t say much. He was playing in Sydney Grade Cricket and really didn’t know too much about what he had let himself in for. I think he always thought he could move back to Goulburn if things didn’t work out. He might have been homesick but he certainly didn’t show it, he was pretty determined and certain about what he was going to do. Trevor stayed with the Ball family here in Penrith and came into a good family environment. He stayed in one of their spare rooms with another guy from the country, a fella called Brian Wood.

Bill Ball got him a job at the local naval base and TB worked as a storeman there. He stayed there for a while because he was still working there when he started playing Sheffield Shield cricket for New South Wales. One of the great things about ‘Bun’ (a nickname handed to him by team-mate MikeWhitney as a result of his initials: TB – Tea Bun) is that he had a great grounding in cricket and in life.

Batting-wise he was a real dasher, a real aggressive batsman and aggressive in the way he played the game as well. Trevor won the First Grade competition with Penrith when Sydney Grade Cricket was at its strongest and has always kept in touch. Last Saturday night he came home from the IPL and was at our annual cricket presentation the same evening. He’s an amazing bloke, you guys have got a good coach there – make sure you look after him.

‘We’re the Blues Brothers and Trevor is one of us’

Mike Whitney (former australia international and nsw team-mate)

I played with him for pretty much his whole career as we retired at almost the same time. The enduring thing about him is the fact that you have to look at New South Wales teams that he played in. They were just full of amazing Test cricketers and he held his own in that side. He cemented a position in that side as a middle- order batsman and a gun-fielder, oh man, off the ground he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.

He had a couple of great years, probably between 1988 and 1990, when he scored a truckload of runs and averaged mid-50s. He was being spoken about and was probably in the mix for the Australia side but it never happened. He played really hard but really fair – he wasn’t a huge sledger but a great bloke to have in your side and a key member of a side that won four Sheffield Shield titles.

TB’s a country boy, he’s not a complicated bloke and when you get to meet him first up he’s a man of few words. Then you get to know him and you realise that he’s got a wicked sense of humour and he’s a very funny bloke. He was one of the boys, he didn’t mind a beer or a socialise but he wasn’t one of those guys who was leading the pack, that’s for sure – that was probably me and Greg Matthews!

There were a lot of big personalities in that New South Wales dressing room, there was ‘Tubs’ (Mark) Taylor, Slats (Michael Slater), the Waugh twins, Phil Emery and even in the early days there were people like Geoff Lawson, Doug Walters. There were so many amazing cricketers in an incredible time for cricket in this state. It says everything you need to know about Trevor that he was an automatic selection and held his own.

Did I think he was going to be a coach? No, not really, there was no real indication or sign that he was going to go on and become so successful. It’s hard to relay just how high he’s regarded though. I’ve been invited alongside 20 of the hardcore ex-New South Wales’ players – including Steve Waugh, Simon Katich and Greg Matthews – to go to lunch on Tuesday to wish him all the best. We have this thing in New South Wales cricket, we call it The Brotherhood – we’re the Blues Brothers. Trevor is one of us. TB will be fantastic in England, you’re lucky blokes.

‘If there was ever a job set up for him, it’s this one’

Ed Cowan (NSW and Australia opener, coached by Bayliss at NSW and Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash)

I had Trevor as a coach from the age of 17 right up until the time he joined Sri Lanka (in 2007) and then again with the Sixers in the Big Bash. He’s a world-class coach and when he first started out, to be honest, he was pretty similar to the way he is now, he hasn’t changed much at all. He’s pretty laid back but that doesn’t mean he’s a passive coach – I would call him an active coach with a laid-back attitude.

He was still playing when he started coaching and you could tell he just loved the game. He was still playing for Penrith at the time and so you would come across him at various stages of the season and he would love getting out there and giving you the odd sledge. He’s incredibly competitive but not in an abrasive way. Even four or five years after he had finished playing he would get in the nets and pad up once or twice a year. He would have a hit and smash the spinners around – telling them how much better he was than them.

When he started coaching he was obviously still a pretty young guy and he was extremely enthusiastic. Sometimes the best coaches aren’t the most brilliant players but are guys who know how to communicate. I always got the feeling that Trevor knew just how fickle the game can be and just what a bloody tough game it is to master, it’s that  kind of empathy that players can relate to. At New South Wales there was barely ever any criticism levelled at him. In those first couple of years, we won one-day tournaments and then the Sheffield Shield so he was always winning things in domestic cricket. Obviously coaching England might present a bit of a shock to the system if the tabloids start going after him but he’s such a relaxed person that he’ll laugh, giggle and think it’s funny.

He’s a solid country character who has a great eye for cricket. If there was ever a job set up for him, I think it’s this one.

‘He’s old school, he has that hard Australian Bush touch’

Ryan ten Doeschate (Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder, coached by Bayliss in the IPL)

I didn’t know much about him as a player, so I had never really come across him before I played under him in the IPL. He came in the first year and we won the competition, which is testament to just how quickly he settled and the kind of impact he had on that side.

Of course, coaching in T20 cricket is totally different to coaching a side in Test cricket because there’s not a huge amount of personal coaching – his main influence was managing the group and planning and strategising for games, which is something he’s very, very good at. He’s very thorough and he’s very good at detaching himself emotionally. We won the IPL twice under him and both times we went through two very bad runs of form. He was able to turn things around pretty quickly because, although he’s not the sort of guy who says a lot, he’s the sort of guy you really listen to when he does.

In many ways he’s a real old-school coach, he has that hard Australian Bush touch about him but he’s very approachable, a nice guy. You can have a coffee with him or play golf with him, he’s very easy to talk to. He’s a man who focuses on the basics and keeps it very simple. The expectation levels in the IPL are enormous and he would have come under pressure on numerous occasions during his IPL career, but he’s not the kind of guy who gets fazed by that. I’ve never seen a fearful side to him, never seen him take a step back.

In the IPL you get a thing called a time-out when the coach can come out and have a chat to the two batsmen. I can remember, particularly in the Champions League when we were under the pump and chasing a score, that he came out and really hammered home how we needed to stay positive and stay aggressive. I think in the one-day stuff he’ll be a revelation. He’ll really change the way that England approach the format.