Dom Sibley inspired to lose weight by the professional ethics of senior England players.
DTom Sibley was greeted with a “Hello Refrigerator” from Joe Root when he joined the England team last winter. But now a thinner version of the Warwickshire opener enters his first home test after losing 12kg during the lockdown.
Sibley has never considered his bulky 6-foot, 3-inch frame an obstacle when it comes to scoring points, and that nickname for the roster – a likely nod to William Perry, the former football player – was barely mentioned in dispatches.
A century of inaugural testing compiled over eight hours in Cape Town during January certainly proved that, but when Sibley was in Sri Lanka for the aborted tour of England two months later, he decided to make a change that will become more obvious when he takes to the field against the West Indies on Wednesday.
“For the first time, I felt a little self-conscious about my physique and my weight,” said the 24-year-old. “You look at guys who have been in the system for a long time… Ben Stokes is kind of weird when it comes to training. It was after seeing him, Root and Jos Buttler running after a session in Colombo.
“I remember being absolutely spent, especially in the heat, so that was a really big surprise. The graft that these guys put in to stay at that level, for the time they've spent [in the team], is something I want to do. That was part of my motivation. I just remember sitting on the plane at home thinking, 'I've got to do something', especially during lockdown when we couldn't improve on anything cricket related. It was an opportunity for me and I'm glad I was able to fulfill it. ”
Sibley admits to having done this before, compared to more assiduous work on his hitting, and believes it can help his agility on the pitch and avoid injury. Had he not made the most of the enforced break, he said, he would have entered the summer late with some regrets.
It's a shame he and Zak Crawley, another making his debut over the winter, don't experience a home crowd this year. England have now confirmed test dates in August against Pakistan, which will also be behind closed doors at the two biosafety venues, the Rose Bowl and Old Trafford.
As a patient run accumulator, the lack of crowd atmosphere to give opposition players a boost of energy could take a toll on Sibley's hands, but he knows he must be on the alert: his frontal technique has led many district attacks to distraction, but internationally. players are beginning to explore possible chinks in its armor.
South Africa came in with a slip in their legs and started aiming for the ribs, a tactic Jofra Archer successfully deployed during the team's three-day warm-up match last week. Sibley – recruited into the side to help implement England's long-term approach under head coach Chris Silverwood – knows the West Indies' quickness will ask similar questions.
“It is somewhere I have scored many runs in county cricket. That's the great thing about Test cricket, you always have new challenges and suddenly my strength is turning into a way to get me out of there. That's just another thing for me to get over. You need to find ways to deal with it.
“I played the pull shot from a young age, but in South Africa, with the bouncy shanks, I didn't feel in control so I chose to step out of the way. But in this area – from nipple to hip – it's all about being in control, choosing when to play and when not to play. It will be my case managing those risks.
Risk management is the hallmark of a series that is being staged in such strange conditions during a global pandemic. For Sibley, who demonstrated discipline in her recent battle with the fridge, it tends to result in runs.