Jeetan Patel expressed the desire for high levels of excitement during the first Test.
The start to England’s tour is quite modern, as they will be facing a tough challenge in world cricket – five Test matches in India. Instead of playing warm-up games in local conditions, they have opted for an 11-day training camp in Abu Dhabi.
While it’s not their first time, they have previously done the same before their historic 3-0 victory in Pakistan last winter. Other teams like Australia and India have also skipped overseas warm-up matches in recent times. This decision has caused surprise, especially considering the challenging upcoming schedule. Steve Harmison, a bold commentator for TalkSport, has gone as far as to say that England should expect to lose 5-0 because of this.
However, within the team, there is a contrasting perspective shared by Jeetan Patel, who serves as the assistant coach to Brendon McCullum. Before departing on Thursday, Patel stated that, aside from getting their bodies moving, players do not view warm-ups as advantageous. This may be understandable, considering the pitches and opponents are determined by the hosts.
Instead, England has decided to rent out the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and focus on their own training in order to have better control over their preparation. They will then move to the nets in Hyderabad three days before the first Test on 25 January. According to Patel, the players are determined to get as much practice in as possible before the main event.
Men desire to excel in both batting and bowling and are now seeking opportunities to improve their skills. However, there is a delicate balance when it comes to training for this upcoming match. I predict that India will likely create pitches that favor spin, as indicated by the recent remarks made by their captain, Rohit Sharma. This is a strategic use of home advantage. Therefore, we have requested a mix of pitches in Abu Dhabi.
“We aim to push the team, while also instilling enough confidence in them to play freely and showcase their abilities when they arrive in India. The tour is quite lengthy, so we want to maintain high levels of energy and excitement, ensuring that they are mentally fresh when it comes to the first Test instead of feeling fatigued after two weeks in the country.”
Similar to the overall improvement of England’s team led by Ben Stokes and McCullum, the key factor is psychology. Patel states that players will undergo rigorous training, but the atmosphere in Abu Dhabi (including its golf courses) is also focused on having fun and rebuilding the sense of camaraderie within a group that has been separated for six months. This group now faces 17 Tests in 2024 after playing only eight last year.
He states that they excel in individual training, but their performance reaches new heights when they train together. Despite being close friends, they motivate each other and become frustrated if they feel like they haven’t pushed themselves enough in a session. Nurturing these relationships allows them to view each day as a chance to improve, and they approach the final session of a match with the same level of excitement as the first.
We do not want Test cricket to be a tedious task. We do not want players to look back in 20 years and say, “I didn’t really like that.” We want them to share with the next person that they are about to embark on an amazing journey with their friends.
The following individuals have recently joined the team, particularly in a spin department that is lacking experience and is overseen by Patel. Aside from Jack Leach, who is recovering from a lower back stress fracture, there are two uncapped players – Shoaib Bashir (20) and Tom Hartley (24) – as well as Rehan Ahmed, who is only 19 years old.
Joe Root has been officially included in this group for planning meetings and has been elevated to the status of all-rounder, as it is unlikely that Stokes will bowl.
Ahmed is back a year on from that remarkable seven-wicket Test against Pakistan in Karachi; a debut that not only hinted at the wrist-spinner’s promise but also showed that for all the “golf lads” energy of the setup, it is not a monoculture. This is a source of pride for Patel, who expects Bashir, from a similar background to Ahmed, will thrive.
Patel acknowledges the discussions surrounding the overall cricket community, but emphasizes the value of having Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid on the England team for an extended period of time. He believes that their presence helped to develop the senior players and exposed them to a different culture, allowing them to appreciate it and not shy away from asking questions. This, according to Patel, is crucial in avoiding being sidelined.
“Not all individuals may desire to have a beer or engage in golf during their free time, and that’s perfectly fine. Mark Wood is one such person who does not partake in these activities. It is important to have a diverse squad with individuals from various backgrounds and unique experiences.”
Can the coaching team make it less intimidating to bowl to Rohit and Virat Kohli, considering how powerful their spin attack is? The former New Zealand off-spinner doesn’t think so. “We can give advice, but it’s difficult not to feel the pressure when you see those two at the crease. Our role as coaches is to support them and remind them that as long as they give their best effort and focus on the next ball, it doesn’t matter.”
“The coaches, including Stokesy, will break it down for the younger players and handle the tactics. With inexperienced players, it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. For example, if Rehan successfully gets Virat out through an lbw or catches Rohit out, it could greatly impact his confidence and set him up for success in the future.”
“I am truly passionate about my job, especially being a part of Test cricket. While I am open to exploring opportunities in white-ball cricket, such as my previous experience in the Hundred last year, I want to continue bringing our aggressive approach to the game. In today’s T20 matches, teams can no longer rely on defensive strategies in the field. However, I am content with my current job and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
This encapsulates the positive mindset that has driven England’s success under Stokes and McCullum. It will be crucial as they transition from their advanced training in the desert to the intense atmosphere of India in the upcoming weeks.