Zak Crawley’s performance is a topic of debate, but he firmly believes that taking risks and seeking rewards is the only path to move forward. | Written by Tanya Aldred
Zak Crawley is known for his impressive batting skills. Although he was initially selected for the national team with an average of 31 in first-class matches, this decision was made during Ed Smith’s time as England’s national selector. His first Test century, which was against Pakistan in his eighth Test, was a display of both carefree and stunning shots, but also included some risky moves. His career with the England team has been a rollercoaster ride, with both highs and lows, which has both angered and excited spectators.
His innings in Visakhapatnam could not have been designed better to split England fans reviewing the situation over breakfast on a grey February morning. No one could deny his 76 at just over a run a ball was terrific. He unfolded those long legs and long arms to maximum effect – subduing Ravichandran Ashwin, and brunching off early Jasprit Bumrah.
On the 17th, Shubman Gill dropped him off Ashwin’s delivery at short midwicket. Despite Gill’s excellent catching skills, he then proceeded to aggressively hit four fours off Bumrah’s bowling with precise timing and gentle hands.
He confidently marched forward and hit a six off Kuldeep Yadav in a slog-sweep, scoring his 50 runs. He played a shot from way outside off-stump, taking advantage of the smaller boundaries at ACA-VDCA. He then gracefully dismissed Ashwin two more times with a cover drive and a back-foot punch through point. Just as drinks were brought out, England’s run rate was at five per over. An angry Rohit Sharma signaled for Axar Patel to begin his first spell of the day.
Crawley confidently played his second delivery, hitting it over midwicket against the spin. However, he attempted the same shot on the next ball but ended up with an ungraceful leading edge. He was then caught by Shreyas Iyer, who sprinted backwards from point and made a diving catch. This hasty ending to Crawley’s innings led to England’s downfall. Their strong score of 114 for one quickly turned into 159 for five as Bumrah’s reverse-swinging deliveries proved to be extremely difficult to play.
When asked if he felt bad about being fired or if it was simply his playing style, Crawley responded with confidence. “It’s definitely the latter. If I begin to doubt myself in those moments and don’t trust my natural instincts, I’ll go back to how I used to play a few years ago, when I wasn’t scoring many runs for my team.”
I am pleased that I have become more assertive, which has improved my consistency. Although I was disappointed to be out, I would make the same decision again. If the ball had not turned and I had hit it for a six, the opposing player would have been under immense pressure and I could have taken advantage of that for two hours or more. This strategy involves both risk and potential gain.
I have previously achieved success with this, but today it did not work out. I am disappointed in myself, especially since I lost wickets afterwards. However, I will continue to remind myself to trust my aggressive strategy because that is what brought me to this point.
Crawley’s 2021 trip to India did not go as well as expected. Due to an accident in the dressing room, he was unable to participate in the first two Tests. Upon returning for the third and fourth Tests, he only managed to score one 50 and mostly got single-digit scores.
He stated, “Playing in India was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. At the time, a score of ten felt like a notable achievement.”
On the day before his 23rd birthday, he slipped while wearing spikes. Three years later on Saturday, he celebrated his 26th birthday. While his overall statistics may not impress a casual observer, his performance since hitting Pat Cummins’ first ball of the Ashes series through the covers has been impressive.
Can Crawley be blamed for the collapse of England? In essence, yes, but it would be unfair to solely attribute it to him as it was also due to a remarkable display of fast bowling by Bumrah. Bumrah’s strategic and precise execution led to one of the most impressive dismissals, with his yorker causing Ollie Pope to fall in a dramatic manner as the stumps and bails scattered on either side of his body. This was an unstoppable force, and not even Crawley could have prevented it.