The batsman who will open in the first test for England hopes his routine will help him prepare for the bowlers of Sri Lanka.
It probably doesn’t require pharmacological help, but Zak Crawley is someone who lies in bed, stares at the ceiling and imagines how he’s going to produce a match-deciding result, like Beth Harmon, the protagonist in ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’
Crawley has done that extensively since England landed on Sunday in Hambantota and went straight to his rooms to quarantine himself, not least because in the series against Sri Lanka he is scheduled to open again. However, on Wednesday, after the latest Covid Exams, he was among those who took to the field for the first time.
Only Moeen Ali, who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival and would have to undergo 10 days of isolation in a separate wing of the Shangri-La Hotel, and Chris Woakes, who tested negative but had to undergo seven tests in close contact with Moeen himself, were absent from a session in which players worked in small groups ahead of further tests on Thursday.
The joy of returning to action was offset by the realization that two friends are already stuck inside watching Netflix for Crawley, who is only 22 and has no issues with the bubble lifestyle that overshadowed his first 12 months in international cricket.
They are doing well, but for them, I feel.
It’s massively frustrating,’ said Crawley, after England trained at the MRIC Stadium in Hambantota. It’s one of those viruses where people like us, young and healthy, don’t know that we have it until we get screened.
Until he was checked, Mo didn’t know either.
I’m sure they’ll be fine when the other side comes out.
I was really happy to leave England and come and play some cricket here. At this moment when other people can’t do anything, we’re very fortunate to be able to do so.
“It’s going to be a nice challenge.
In their home conditions, Sri Lanka are very competitive and if we don’t play well, they’re going to run us down.
I’ve thought a lot about that, so hopefully I’ll be mentally prepared.
Asked how he sees it, Crawley said he’s a batsman who places a lot of focus on imagination. “You sit there and look at the ceiling and think about how you want to play when you go to bed and before you close your eyes,” he said. “I do that quite a bit.”
Even if you’re just daydreaming, you’re also worrying about that.
“I find it really helps to think about it before you practice.
I have worked quite a bit over the winter in the bubble at Loughborough.
I feel like I have a strong game plan that I’m going to practice and hopefully use in the games here on the net.
Here, too, there are nice memories to fall back on.
He posted a century in England’s second warm-up match on an earlier visit to Sri Lanka last March, as well as his first Test hundred in August – a spectacular 267 against Pakistan that heralded his presence on the world stage – only to have the tour postponed halfway through the match due to the global shutdown and his innings stripped of his first-class status.
Though his preferred position remains No.3, the paternity leave of Rory Burns during this tour means that Crawley can bat in the new ball alongside Dom Sibley once again.
The right-hander will draw on his experience from two trips with the Kent Academy to India, along with last year’s 105 batting in Colombo.
It’s all about improving his defense for the immediate challenge of spin, in his view, and maybe understandable for a player who stands 6-foot-9.
He said, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about it.
Our defense is not as tight as it naturally needs to be because the ball does not spin as much in England – and maybe spins differently -. That’s something we have to incorporate into our games.
A solid defense gives you an ability to strike later on.
He looks well positioned in Sri Lanka and on the subsequent tour of India to prove that his success at Southampton last summer was just the first move.