Jonathan Trott believes bubble life has ensured England’s players remain united as they look to recover from the hurt of back-to-back defeats in India. The key now, according to their batting consultant, is avoiding a sense of desperation.
Sitting 2-1 down with one to play, Joe Root’s side can level matters in Thursday’s fourth and final Test for what would still represent a significant achievement. But to do so, the batsmen in particular will have to exorcise some demons from the two-day pink ball pasting endured last week.
While the dual threat of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel remains, the switch back to the red SG ball offers hope here. There are also reports of a flat pitch being prepared at the Narendra Modi stadium, with India only needing a draw to meet New Zealand in the World Test Championship final in June.
That said, after seven weeks restricted to hotels and cricket grounds, England’s players must also avoid a siege mentality creeping in. But Trott, who joined the set-up after the 2-0 win in Sri Lanka, fancies the confines of the bubble actually guard against the squad dynamics suddenly disintegrating.
“I think everyone is together,” said Trott, who is assisting the lead batting coach, Graham Thorpe. “It’s not like you can go off in your own direction. Everyone is around and from what I’ve seen getting on really well. We have a few things planned just to get the guys together, cards and maybe a few quizzes. You miss going out and experiencing the country you are touring, which I certainly used to enjoy.
“You feel for the lads. No one sees how hard they work as much as the coaches do. And also in the dressing room, seeing how much it’s hurting them and how important it is to them. There’s not much you can do but keep the guys upbeat.
“Every time you lose it hurts. It makes you doubly determined for the next one. It’s about being clear in how to go about that and not being too desperate. Sometimes you can want it too much. [But] the camp is buoyant and looking forward to getting back to the nets and getting it to 2-2.”
As tough as batting against India’s spinners was during the pink ball Test – Rob Key, the former England batsman, compared the bowling conditions to “fishing with dynamite” – totals of 112 and 81 all out, following on from 134 and 164 in the second match, are the kind to prompt thoughts about personnel changes.
While Trott is not a selector on tour, he believes consistency is the way forward here and not least for the likes of Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope who will be learning plenty about how to adjust to alien conditions and unique match situations during their first senior tours of India.
The former Warwickshire right-hander, whose own initial experience back in 2012 saw him bounce back from scores of 0, 17 and 0 with 277 runs in his last four innings of the 2-1 win, is looking to reinforce the message that things get easier once they adjust to lengths and the ball gets softer.
It appears England have decided against registering a formal complaint against the pitch in the last Test – doing so would have achieved little – but widespread criticism of the surface from former players such as Michael Vaughan and Alastair Cook has still irked India somewhat.
Ashwin, who claimed his 400th Test wicket during the match, said: “I don’t see any of the players from England having an issue with the surface. They want to improve, they look like they want to have a better contest. Is it the players who are complaining about the pitches? Because we’ve never done that in England.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But the fact is that talk about the surface is getting out of hand. Why would you talk about it time and again? When we went to New Zealand [last year], the two Test matches were over in a total of five days. Nobody quoted it. Virat Kohli in South Africa [in 2018] said he was not there to talk about the pitch. That’s how we’ve been taught to play cricket.”
India’s fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah is out of the fourth Test, having requested time off for personal reasons.