In his first column for Sky Sports, England batsman Zak Crawley reflects on his double century against Pakistan, explains how Rob Key got him planning for international cricket, and reveals his batting heroes…
If you had have offered me an average close to fifty after eight Tests, I would absolutely have taken it.
One score has boosted the average quite nicely and hidden a few of the lower scores but hopefully I can build on this and keep the stats going the right way.
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Sri Lanka vs England
January 14, 2021, 4:00am
With regards to my double century in my last Test, some bits are a bit of a blur – the hundred moment itself, for one – but I have got pretty clear memories of the innings.
I always have snippets on my phone so that if I am out of nick I can go back to see when I was doing well and I definitely have a few videos of that innings. I remember a few shots quite vividly.
The length of time I batted gave me great satisfaction, as it was something I had never done before. My highest score before that was 168 for Kent and after that probably 110 or 120.
But what was most satisfying was getting three figures. It is something I had thought about since I was a young boy, so it was very special.
The feeling afterwards, in the dressing room with the guys, looking back on what you have achieved, make all the bad times you have gone through feel worth it.
‘Key a massive influence’
I know there are jokes in the Sky Sports commentary box about Rob Key championing me and being my mentor but he has been a massive influence on my game. He has a great cricket brain.
He was the first one who was talking to me about playing for England. I was always preparing to be a good county player, probably not setting my sights high enough.
It’s going to be the nervous 210s for @nassercricket as Zak Crawley creeps up on @robkey612’s Test best 🤞#ENGvPAK pic.twitter.com/z3Iskd3WE2
He was the one who said, ‘we are going to train like this and get you ready’. I am texting him often or giving him a call and talking about the game. He has been brilliant for me.
He offers me tips and thoughts but he always says you have to be your own coach as only you can affect your game out in the middle.
Most of what we focus on is game-plan stuff, rather than anything technical. Ways of playing different bowlers and how I can counteract them rather than about anything like my backlift, for example. He is very big on that and that’s the way I like to train.
I went to pre-season with Kent in his last year as a player, while when I was in the academy he always used to come down to our sessions. That’s how our relationship began and as we both like our golf and have played together, it has developed from there.
I do expect to open against Sri Lanka but I do not think that will require a particular change in mindset. I see the top three spots as pretty similar places to bat.
I opened out here in Sri Lanka last year in the warm-up games before the series was postponed, so I have experience of opening in these conditions, albeit not in a Test match, which is where you feel most pressure.
Most of my heroes batted at No 3 – including Ricky Ponting, who was my big hero growing up. My dad’s era was Viv Richards, though, so he often showed me footage of him. I always wanted to bat like Ricky and Viv. I have to do a lot more to be like them but it’s something to strive for!
Like those two, I like to be proactive and score runs while I can. I do not want to be hanging around and then get a good ball and trudge off with not very many. My mindset is generally to score.
That’s not always the case, though. I remember in the Test match when I got that big score against Pakistan I did not try to score a run of Mohammad Abbas’ bowling the whole innings. There are some bowlers you get a feel for while others you cannot score a run off, so it is about having different games.
You look at the great players in the world at the moment – Steve Smith, Joe Root – and there is not just one method, they can adapt their game. I do not want to only bat at one pace, I want to be quite versatile and have a game for all circumstances.
My game against spin will be tested in Sri Lanka but I am confident.
I have put in some good work over the last couple of months at Loughborough on spinning wickets and have been to the subcontinent a few times before. I will save my judgement on conditions until we are in amongst it on Thursday but the ball usually does turn in Galle.
Our batting consultant, Jacques Kallis, has been offering advice and we are all listening intently as he is such a great player. Someone like him can only have a positive impact, especially on a young group like us who are in awe of him.
The whole group is pushing in the same direction and no one is afraid to speak up and share their point of view. It does not matter if you have played a single Test or 150 Tests.
The experience in the side is fantastic. Not so long ago I was watching our senior players on TV and being in awe of what they were doing in Ashes and other series around the world.
Now I am sharing a dressing room and getting on well with them. Hopefully they can be around for a while longer as they certainly add a lot to our side.
Bubble life is not ideal as we would love to be able to play in front of crowds and go home when we can but this is the situation we are in and I have found it fine, to be honest.
The fact there are plenty of young lads a similar age to me in the squad has helped me. We have played cards and over here we have a pool we can use and also play golf.
Kallis says he plays golf off scratch and Paul Collingwood is pretty handy, while without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I would like to put my name in the hat as one of our best golfers on my day.
Maybe we can have a proper competition some time but my focus right now is on the cricket.
Watch the first Test between Sri Lanka and England, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4am on Thursday.
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