Sibley's happy to keep racking up the runs any way he can
‘To get stick for making a Test century was a bit of an eye-opener’: Dom Sibley’s unorthodox style has been criticised but he’s happy to keep racking up the runs for England any way he can
- Dom Sibley has his sights set on more success after making fantastic progress
- Sibley has achieved two Test centuries but has still been criticised for his style
- 25-year-old insists he will stick to his unorthodox style as he looks to push on
The bad news for bowlers facing England in what promises to be their busiest year ever is that the arch accumulator at the top of the order is hungry for more.
‘I’ve done OK but feel I’ve left a lot of runs out there,’ Dom Sibley tells Sportsmail ahead of Sunday’s departure for two Tests in Sri Lanka.
‘I don’t think I’ve shown everyone the player I can be for England but that’s exciting because I’ve got room for improvement.
Dom Sibley admits it was strange to receive criticism for his style after hitting a Test century
‘Maybe I’m being a bit greedy but I look back on Johannesburg, for instance (the fourth Test against South Africa last January), when I got 44 but then gave it away. And then in the Pakistan series last summer, I did the hard work and got in but again didn’t quite kick on, which has been my strength really.’
It says everything about Sibley that he is not satisfied with a first year and a bit in Tests that has brought him two centuries and two 50s during 12 matches in which he has cemented an opening slot with his unusual, quirky technique.
Sibley is determined to improve and has insisted that he will persist with his quirky technique
And all achieved with an old fashioned application that saw him display immense concentration against West Indies at Emirates Old Trafford last summer to make 120 off 372 balls and record one of England’s slowest ever hundreds.
Not that a front-on, leg-side dominant stance that, so far, has stood up to the extra demands of international cricket after bringing him so much success for Warwickshire has been to everyone’s taste. For Sibley is not exactly easy on the eye and has not received anything like the praise offered to England’s two other break-out Test batting stars of 2020, Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley.
There has even been criticism of his slow pace and methods in an impatient, modern cricketing world.
‘It was always my dream to make a Test hundred, so to get a bit of stick for doing it was a bit of an eye-opener,’ Sibley says. ‘I’d made a century and people were still making comments, so that was another challenge for me.
‘But we won that game against West Indies with pretty much a whole day washed out and the senior people in the changing room had no issues with how I played. The key is not to get sucked into making too much of outside sources and just listen to those in the set-up and others close to you.
The presence of Ben Stokes at the other end has proved to be hugely beneficial for Sibley
‘You get told extra scrutiny is one of the main challenges when you play Test cricket, but it did take me a little by surprise at first. You’re never fully prepared for it. It’s a massive step up but I’ve dealt with that quite well.’
Sibley, 25, has certainly been helped by the presence of Ben Stokes at the other end for much of the time during both of those Test hundreds — and England’s talisman was quick to acknowledge the part his contrasting colleague played in the victory in Cape Town this time last year, when Sibley made his maiden century.
‘I’ve really enjoyed batting with Stokesey,’ Sibley says. ‘I watched him in the World Cup final and that Headingley Test (against Australia) and then suddenly I’m in the same team as a hero, so it’s pretty cool to build a big partnership with him.
‘He’s been great and watching him from close up is pretty special. Cape Town and crowds watching us feels like a lifetime ago, but that knock he played at Newlands when he was smoking it from ball one was amazing. I felt pretty inadequate at the other end.’
Stokes did not see it that way, even trying to give Sibley his Cape Town man-of-the-match award for his unbeaten second-innings 133 that set the stage for Stokes to take over with bat and then ball to seal a famous win on the last afternoon.
‘I wasn’t going up there with him,’ laughs Sibley. ‘I stitched him up a bit actually because he said, “Come on, walk up here with me”, and as he walked off I did a runner. I didn’t want to go up there and look like a spare part! But we shared a beer in the evening and that was good enough. He’s an amazing cricketer.’
So where did that unusual Sibley technique come from? ‘I was just struggling at Warwickshire in my first full season with them and Jonathan Trott mentioned to me that I was standing a bit narrow and it might help me being a bit wider at the crease,’ says the former Surrey batsman.
‘Trotty suggested I open up a bit rather than try to be technically perfect and once I’d made the change I felt better straight away.
Sibley has been striving arduously to improve his footwork as he looks to develop his game
‘I got a hundred against Leicester and then went on a bit of a run for Warwickshire, before having a couple of sessions with (freelance batting coach) Gary Palmer, then working with coach Tony Frost. It wasn’t just one person. It was a combination of myself and others and that’s the way it works. Sometimes it has stopped me playing a certain way but I wasn’t scoring many runs before the change, so it has to be a good thing.’
And those levels of concentration? ‘I just try to break it down singularly,’ says Sibley. ‘I try to win each ball and not look too far ahead. Whenever I do get sucked in, I tend to make a mistake. That last game against Pakistan was on the best wicket we’d had all summer and I think I was on 20.
I was thinking, “I’ve got through the new ball, this is a great opportunity”, and bang, I got out. You can’t afford to do that. If you don’t look too far ahead, time goes a lot quicker.’
Now the Sibley method will come under the ultimate examination against spin as England face two Tests in Galle and then four in India.
‘I probably haven’t shown myself to be able to play spin that well so far in my international career, so it’s one of those where I will try to remember that I think I am a good player of slow bowling,’ says Sibley.
Sibley insists that it is important not to pay too much attention to what people say about him
‘It helps having been in Sri Lanka in March for those warm-up games and being in the nets there. It was a real eye-opener on what it takes to be successful there.
‘At least it was until Phil Neale (former England team manager) walked on to the pitch during the second warm-up and said, “Pack your bags, the tour is off”. It was madness. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but I wouldn’t change anything and it’s been great to be part of a team who have won a lot together.
‘I saw what I needed to improve in my game so I’ve done a lot of work on that in the last couple of months to give myself more options and improve my footwork. It’s going to be a great challenge. I feel like I’ve worked hard and now it’s a case of getting in the battle and hopefully scoring runs.’
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