On completing a year as the England men’s team managing director, Rob Key revealed the biggest positive since taking over has been the Test team playing with a lot of clarity, which in turn has made selection easier.
Since Key appointed Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum as captain and coach of the Test side, England have embraced a positive and aggressive brand of Test cricket, leading to 10 wins in 12 games against New Zealand, India, South Africa and Pakistan.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen. It wasn’t really about winning or losing but getting players to maximise their potential. We’ve now got a clear way of playing, which makes selection easier, too.”
“It’s not about scoring at six an over all the time, but players need to have the ability to both soak up pressure and put bowlers under pressure as well. The tactical element is where they are brilliant those two; they’ve got such a good feel for the game,” Key was quoted as saying by The Times on Monday.
Key, a former England men’s player, also expressed that he was lucky in having Stokes and McCullum forming a good pair to manage the Test team. “I’ve been lucky in how well those two have gelled. Equally, I deliberately wanted those two positions aligned. I kept hearing people say that I needed a contrast to Stokes, some yin to his yang.”
“But I didn’t see the logic in that at all: all I saw in that instance would have been an argument. I wanted two people who were completely aligned and thought exactly the same way in their basic philosophy.”
Asked about what he saw in making McCullum and Stokes as head coach and captain respectively, Key explained, “For the coach I wanted someone who thought like me but had credibility. I wanted someone who was going to grab hold of that team, not just with his philosophy but so that (Stuart) Broad, (James) Anderson, Stokes, or whoever respected him for what he had done.”
“I didn’t just want a facilitator in that role. I wanted someone to change the culture and I felt Brendon (as captain) had done exactly that with New Zealand.”
“As for Stokes, I had heard a few whispers coming out of the dressing room about how brilliantly he had done the job in that Covid ODI series against Pakistan. I loved the way they played that series.”
“In England, we often think showing fight is getting stuck in, over my dead body stuff. But I think risking failure by playing aggressively, and then keep on doing it, takes as much courage as anything.”