Dominic Sibley has shed 1st 12lbs (12kg) after feeling embarrassed about his fitness when he compared himself with senior members of the England team.
Sibley has prepared for his first Test series at home by losing weight during lockdown with equipment provided by the England strength and conditioning coaches.
“I've always been someone who hasn't necessarily been the fittest in the squad and I've always, whether at Surrey or Warwickshire, been coasting in that aspect,” he said. “I have always prided myself in training really hard on my batting but maybe that side has not been something I have done to the best of my ability.
“Being in Sri Lanka for the first time in my career I felt a little bit self-conscious about my physique and my weight, just seeing how fit some of the senior guys are and how impressive they are in training. I just remember sitting on the plane thinking I need to do something, especially during lockdown when we couldn't improve anything cricket-related. It was an opportunity for me to improve that side of my game and I'm glad to have been able to stick to it.”
Sibley is a big target at the crease and perhaps losing weight will make him lighter on his feet especially against quick bowlers targeting his chest and arm pit area although he says so far he has not noticed any effect on his batting.
He was caught down the leg side off a Jofra Archer bouncer in England’s intra-squad warm up match last week so even his own side have picked at a potential weakness first successfully targeted by South Africa in the final two Tests of their series earlier this year when they stationed a leg gully to cut off one of his favourite scoring areas. He knows what to expect from an experienced West Indies attack that will have done its homework if England bat first on Wednesday.
“It’s somewhere I’ve scored a lot of runs in county cricket with that shot. It’s just another challenge for me to overcome. You’ve got to find ways to deal with it. It was interesting in the practice match that they went with that as well so it was a good experience,” he said. “In the second innings I dealt with it a bit better.
“It’s a case of being in control of that area around the nipple to hip. Choosing when to play and when not to play and choosing the most low-risk options. It’s going to be a case of me managing that and those risks.”
Sibley will open with Rory Burns this week, breaking up his partnership with Zak Crawley, who drops to four with Joe Denly staying at three. It suggests Denly is senior to Crawley and is more likely to keep his place when Joe Root returns next week unless Crawley heavily outscores him at the Ageas Bowl
Both sets of players are likely to 'take a knee’ before the match in a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The two captains, Ben Stokes and Jason Holder, were due to meet last night to discuss the issue. There will be a minute’s silence before play to remember Sir Everton Weekes, who died last week, and the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ECB has confirmed that crowd noise will not be piped into the ground. They will provide an MC announcer after requests from the players who believe it at least makes the occasion feel like a Test match, rather than a warm-up game. The big screen will show replays as normal as well. Television viewers will hear a low level crowd hum recorded from previous Lord’s Tests but this will not be used in the ground itself.
England will play three ODIs against Ireland starting on July 30 and ending on Aug 4, meaning two England teams will play different formats just 24 hours apart. The Ireland ODI series finishes at the Ageas Bowl the night before the first Test against Pakistan starts at Emirates Old Trafford on Aug 5, it was confirmed on Monday. Ireland will play a warm up game against England Lions to prepare for the series.