Chris Silverwood, England’s head coach, says his players will relish the opportunity for a rematch with India in their own conditions this summer, but added that he was proud of their efforts on tour this winter, despite coming off second-best in all three formats.
After losing the Test series 3-1 last month, and the T20Is 3-2, England completed an unwanted set on Sunday evening, as they fell agonisingly short in their pursuit of 330 in the ODI series decider, despite Sam Curran’s career-best 95 not out from 83 balls.
It means that England still haven’t won an ODI series in India since 1984, having also lost the corresponding campaign 2-1 on their last tour in 2016-17, although their emphatic six-wicket victory in the second match of the series does at least preserve their No.1 world ranking for now.
“It was a good, competitive game and a good, competitive series throughout,” Silverwood said, after Curran had revived a flagging England run-chase with a stirring fightback, one that only ran out of steam in the final over as India’s T Natarajan held his nerve and nailed his yorkers to secure a seven-run win.
“I’m very proud of them, I’m proud of each and every player who has been out here,” Silverwood added, as the squad prepared to decamp from Pune, with several players due to link up with their franchises ahead of the start of the IPL next week.
“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.
“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 coming up, and if we look back at the Test series, the amount of experience the youngsters will take out of that 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.
“From a T20 point of view it’s been really interesting how India operate in their conditions, what types of balls they bowled. Equally our batsmen have had a look at those conditions. So there’s a lot of encouraging signs out here and a lot to take away. We’ll be working on various things between now and the World Cup.”
More immediately, it will be the turn of India to travel to England for a five-match Test series in August and September, and while the fearless performances of India’s rookies – most notably Rishabh Pant and the spinner Axar Patel – were a feature of their home campaign, Silverwood admitted that his thoughts were already projecting forward to the return series, for which he expected his players would be itching to get their own back in more familiar surroundings.
“These experiences will stand them in good stead moving forward,” he said. “When they play against India in England, that will give them a bit of spice to fight back with. I think they will.
“There’s a little time between now and then, but we’re looking forward immensely to the Test series in England. We always know it’s very competitive, with two very good teams going at each other. It’s an ideal run-in for the Ashes, to play India in five Test matches and pit ourselves against one of the best teams in the world can only be a good thing for us and help galvanize us.”
Captain Eoin Morgan missed the last two ODIs with a hand injury Getty Images
England’s challenge this winter was especially complicated given the strictures of another bio-secure bubble, in some cases for nearly three months since the Test squad flew out to Sri Lanka on January 2. But given the need to remain competitive on two very different fronts – with the development of the Test squad ahead of that Ashes campaign competing with the more immediate goal of the T20 World Cup in October – Silverwood acknowledged that compromises had had to be made to ensure the mental well-being of his players, most notably in the controversial resting of key multi-format players throughout the Test leg of the winter.
“I would do the same again,” he said. “I’ve said all 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.
Looking ahead to the summer, in which England’s white-ball team will face Sri Lanka and Pakistan in T20Is and ODIs, with Test series against New Zealand and India book-ending the season, Silverwood insisted that both formats would be treated with equal importance, but added that there were no concrete plans yet for how the squads would be prioritised.
“We hope things are going to ease off a bit in the future,” he said of the need for bio-secure environments. “I’d like to think they will. But I think the way we’ve looked after the players this winter has been very good. They have got a lot of cricket in front of them and we’ll look at the schedule moving forward.
“There’s a lot of cricket there and we do have to look after the players. We’ve got to make sure they arrive at big competitions fresh in body and mind. We have to look at all the best ways we can achieve that.”
One player who will be in high demand across formats is Jofra Archer, who is set to miss the start of the IPL after undergoing further treatment on a hand injury, reportedly following an incident involving a fish tank at home prior to the winter tours.
Archer was already receiving treatment for an ongoing elbow problem when the decision to investigate the wound was taken, but Silverwood was confident there would be no lasting complications from the injury.
“Obviously Jofra cut his hand before he came here but when he arrived the wound has closed up,” he said. “It didn’t really give him too much hassle to be honest. 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.
“I’m not quite sure what’s in there,” he added. “Obviously he’ll see the specialist and they’ll make an assessment, but it was just an ideal time for him to get it looked at while he was waiting for the injection to work on his elbow.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket