England’s fast bowling coach David Saker has only been in the job for 18 months but in that time he has played a key role in the astronomical rise that has seen Andrew Strauss’ side break their Ashes hoodoo Down Under before sending India packing in comprehensive fashion to claim the title of the world’s best Test side.
Saker’s influence was felt particularly keenly during the historic victory in Australia, where – having reportedly championed the cause of surprise pick Chris Tremlett – the Victorian’s local nous proved vital, as he nurtured a highly skilled and relentlessly efficient bowling unit that the Aussies simply never came to terms with.
The 45-year-old earned a three-year contract on the back of the Ashes victory and 12 months on he believes his stable of pacemen are the best in the world, with plenty of strength in depth should injury strike.
“We have a group of about six or seven fantastic fast bowlers and I am very fortunate to be working with those guys,” said Saker. “Chris Tremlett is coming back from injury and looking like getting back to his best, Steve Finn was outstanding in India and has made a real claim for a Test spot, Jimmy Anderson and Tim Bresnan continue to perform well and we have Stuart Broad as well.
“So we’ve got a great group of fast bowlers, and we have Graham Onions who hardly ever gets mentioned who is another fantastic fast bowler.”
“I think it is the best attack in the world, for sure. We have got a guy who can swing the new ball and get early wickets, we have some tall guys who get the ball to bounce sharply and can cause batsmen trouble, and we have the world’s best spinner, so we have great variety and all bases covered as a bowling group.”
With the low attendances at the recent Test series in South Africa and India and the postponement of the inaugural World Test Championship until at least 2017, there has been increasing concern that the future of the longest format is under threat. But Saker believes there will always be a place for Test cricket and expects the upcoming series between England and South Africa next summer to be a fantastic advert for the game.
“I think Test matches in England are always even as far as bat versus ball; bat doesn’t always dominate and the ball doesn’t always dominate and I think those sort of Test matches are always the most entertaining,” said Saker. “I watched the two Tests in South Africa very closely and with great interest. The home side looked very good and it is going to be a great battle here in England this summer.
“They have got a very good bowling attack as well and it will be interesting to see how those Test matches go and we hope that we can come out on top. The batsmen will have to work very, very hard for their runs, on both sides, and I think that will make for a very good Test series.”
The England coach was at Edgbaston Cricket Ground with Chris Tremlett, as he continued his road to recovery from a back injury which occurred during the first Test against India back in July.
Warwickshire CCC last hosted a Test match during that series in a match that all the headlines were stolen by Alastair Cook as he scored a career best 294, but despite its tradition of international cricket and its recent £30million redevelopment, the club have not been rewarded a Test match in 2013 or 2014, something Saker cannot believe.
“Yeah it is a little crazy not to have a Test match here with the new building, but we have a lot of Test venues in England and Wales and they have to be shared around and I think it is a system that does work well. It would have been easier for me as I live locally, but as I said we have to share the quota of Tests out between all the Counties and I think we do that well.”
The next step for England is the UAE in the New Year – where Strauss and his team will take on a resurgent Pakistan side in a three-Test series – and Saker says he is in for the long-haul, with the side intent on holding on to the No.1 ranking.
“I hope to stay in the job for some time to come – I love it. It has been a great 18 months, we have won quite a few things during that time and it has been great to work with such a great group of guys.”