In becoming only the second Englishman in two decades to be appointed as the national head coach, Chris Silverwood represents less of a risk than the man to precede him, Peter Moores.
Moores, who was – bizarrely – given the post twice in 2007 and 2014, was first handed the job with undue haste after the departure of Duncan Fletcher at the end of the World Cup in the Caribbean; seven years later he was chosen to replace Andy Flower.
The first time around he got the job on the back of his achievements in county cricket, where he oversaw Sussex winning the championship for the first time, and his work at the national academy. In 2014 he was the “outstanding candidate” according to the new cricket director, Paul Downton, but a disastrous World Cup campaign in Australasia led to his dismissal.
Silverwood has also experienced success at county level, with Essex. But where he differs from Moores is in his experience of working with the current England team before being offered the top job – he has been England’s bowling coach since 2018. The captain, Joe Root, knows what to expect; so do his fellow coaches and so does Ashley Giles, Downton’s latest successor. This knowledge is far more important than being wooed by an impressive interviewee.
Even so it is something of a surprise that Silverwood has got the job so rapidly. Last week the news that Gary Kirsten, a former coach of both India and South Africa, was meeting Giles, hinted that England would be opting for another experienced coach from overseas. Kirsten’s CV overpowers that of Silverwood. However, the South African may well have expressed understandable misgivings about the unrelenting demands of the England job. He has already spent a large chunk of his life on the road, staring at yet another hotel ceiling.
Coaching Welsh Fire in the Hundred may not be quite such an exciting job for Kirsten – whatever the England and Wales Cricket Board handouts say – as overseeing an international side, but it is a far more comfortable and lucrative one when measured by hours spent in the nets or the dressing room. The sad truth is that the most exalted coaches in the world are not that interested in overseeing national sides once the franchises come calling.
Giles was known to be keen to appoint an Englishman even though the blunt truth is that England’s most successful cricket coaches – Fletcher, Flower and Trevor Bayliss – have all come from overseas. There had been speculation that Alec Stewart was a strong candidate before he withdrew, citing family reasons. In fact he would have been a strange choice given that his role at Surrey has been overseeing the cricket at every level while leaving the detail to his first-team coach, currently Michael Di Venuto. There are only so many men who can wander around in suits, applauding all that work going on out in the middle.
Silverwood is no stranger to a tracksuit, though now he may not spend quite so much time with a baseball mitt in his hand as his bowlers practise in the middle. Once Giles decided to make an internal appointment he was the obvious choice. Both Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood have been working alongside him when Bayliss was in charge – and the assumption is that this pair will continue to remain involved. But Silverwood is the only one of this trio who has had first-hand experience of being in charge of a team over a season (which was the case at Essex).
There is a huge difference between being responsible for the team as opposed to working with players on an individual basis as a batting or bowling coach. This helps to explain why Silverwood would be regarded as a more credible candidate for the top job.
His style is unlikely to be too different from that of his predecessor, which is no bad thing. Like Bayliss, Silverwood will be happy to remain relatively anonymous; he will hope to empower his captain and fellow Yorkshireman, Root, who will welcome this appointment. As a variety of recent Kiwi coaches have proven it is not essential to be a household name to command the respect of an international dressing room and to do the job well. As Bayliss demonstrated so well, a lack of ego can be a considerable asset for the good cricket coach.
The expectation is that Silverwood will also be a calm, supporting presence, eager to get alongside his players. He is affable and well liked both in the dressing room and outside it. However, this is a massive step up. He already has a good rapport with the players – though this relationship becomes a little more complicated when elevated to the top job – and the selection panel. He has impressed with his composed straight‑talking in his limited dealings with the press, but he will soon discover that when the plans go awry and those skills are not being executed quite as well as expected – the brickbats now head in his direction.