England may have left India empty-handed after series defeats across all three formats, but head coach Chris Silverwood reflected on a long winter of touring with pride in place of regrets.
Silverwood left home for Sri Lanka on January 2 and spent almost three full months on one of the most restrictive away trips ever undertaken, taking in quarantines and bio-secure bubbles in Hambantota, Galle, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune.
On the field, England peaked in the first Test against India, following back-to-back wins in Sri Lanka with a memorable success in the series opener against Virat Kohli’s men, who bounced back to take the red-ball, Twenty20 and ODI honours.
England did not make things easy, taking both white-ball legs to a decider and going all the way to a final dramatic over in the one-dayers thanks to Sam Curran’s rousing fightback.
Looking back on a long and arduous assignment, Silverwood could only commend his troops.
“I’m very proud of them, I’m proud of each and every player who has been out here,” he said.
“I’m proud of the effort and the attitude that’s been shown towards the game. I think we’ve learned a lot and from that point of view, I couldn’t ask any more of them. I think we take a lot of experience.
“It’s a very difficult place to come and win, we know that India are very strong in their conditions.
“But there’s been lots of encouragement. We’ve got valuable experience for the T20 World Cup that’s coming up here. Looking at the Test series, with the amount of experience the youngsters will take from playing in those conditions, the lessons they’ve learned, when they come back again they’ll know what to do and have a better game plan.”
Silverwood also revisited England’s much-debated policy of rest and rotation. The likes of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Moeen Ali were all taken out of the firing line at points during the Test matches, while Joe Root and Chris Woakes sat out the 50-over matches.
That attracted criticism in some quarters, with frequent comings and goings seen as disruptive to a flagship tour but Silverwood would not do things any differently given the psychological demands of touring in a pandemic and the already punishing physical workloads.
“I would do the same again,” he said.
“I’ve said along the priority has to be that the players are alright. Stepping in before anybody breaks, so to speak, is the best way to go. Prevention is better than a cure. Trying to keep the players fresh in mind and body is key to that and I think we’ve just about got that right. The way we’ve looked after people this winter has been very good.”
When Silverwood finally makes it back home he plans to catch up with Jofra Archer’s fitness, after the paceman’s medical assessment saw him receive an injection for his longstanding elbow issues as well as an operation on his hand injury first sustained in January.
“The fact is, when he’s at home getting his elbow injected it gave us an opportunity to assess his finger as well and see if there’s any more sort of infection there or anything,” he said.
“It didn’t really give him too much hassle to be honest. Obviously, I’ll see the specialist and they’ll make an assessment.”