• Saurabh Nagpal

Dominic Sibley: An opener in the shape of an immovable rock


 

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You can also read this article on Medium.com https://medium.com/@saurabhnagpal79/dominic-sibley-an-opener-in-the-shape-of-an-immovable-rock-c48566799cc5

 

Written on July 30, 2020


From his short international career, one thing about Dominic Sibley is as plain as the sun in the sky — he loves to bat and bat and bat.


The youngest double-centurion in the history of the County Championship made his Test debut in November 2019. In his 15 innings, the 24-year-old has collected 588 runs at an average of 42.


But, it is his two gargantuan centuries that define his importance in the England team and his brief career. At times, the Warwickshire opener has been no less than a ‘rock’ for his side. His manner of doing business is somewhat archaic. Before getting a move on, he likes to absorb the pressure, wear out the new ball, and extract the life out of the opposition bowlers. It’s almost as if he enjoys spending his time leaving and blocking deliveries more than playing his shots. He is not a run-scorer, he’s a run-gatherer.


His maiden century came against South Africa at Cape Town in his fourth test. He stayed at the crease for over eight hours, faced 311 balls, and remained unbeaten at 133 against a bowling side that boasted of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, and Keshav Maharaj. The fact that he played more deliveries than Andrew Strauss ever did while opening the batting tells a lot about the type of batsman Sibley is.


He scored his second ton, recently, in the second Test against West Indies at the Old Trafford. Upon his arrival at the crease, he took the pledge to make his home there and never leave. It took him 106 overs to complete his ton. In this knock of 120 runs, he faced (and mostly left) a massive 372 number of balls and struck just five boundaries. It was the slowest hundred in Test cricket since November 2014, when Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal also required 312 balls to reach the three-digit mark against Zimbabwe.


Those who were familiar with Sibley before he hit the international stage know that his habit of mercilessly wearing down the bowling attack and sucking the life out of the game is not a novelty. He received his well-deserved senior cap because he hammered 1324 runs in 13 Division One County matches at an average of 69.68 and emerged as the leading run-scorer of the last season. In the process of doing so, he also faced 1009 more deliveries than any other batsman in the top tier.


How Sibley bats is not pretty, to say the least. He has an open-chested stance and relies heavily on the on-side to compile his runs. One won’t find an abundance of flamboyance and flair in his typical innings. However, this is neither to say that his style of batting isn’t a form of art, nor is it that he isn’t effective. His innings are full of old-fashioned grit, stubbornness, and determination.


Former England captain, Michael Vaughan was highly impressed by Sibley and said, “He is absolutely right for this England team. That is exactly what England have required for a long period of time. Someone that just wants to stay in, value their wicket, bat a period of time.

“Give the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Ollie Pope, these flamboyant players the foundation to go and play their way. So Dom Sibley deserves a lot of credit for just sticking to his game, I don’t think he should change.”


In fact, for a team that has been bowled out four times within a session in the last three years and has been thrice restricted under the score of 90 in 2019, an immutable player like Sibley is a blessing. His emergence, combined with Rory Burns’, has lifted the entire batting unit of the team. Since Sibley’s arrival, England have crossed the 400-run mark on four occasions.


While talking about which contemporary English batsman he would fancy bowling against, the West Indies legend, Curtly Ambrose, embraced the challenge of facing Ben Stokes. Fascinatingly, due to Sibley’s absorbing way of batting, Ambrose also added, “I wouldn’t really relish bowling against Dom Sibley too much.” To get such a compliment from a colossal cricketing figure like Ambrose means that the 24-year-old is doing something right.


Sibley has shown that he has got what it takes to be an international Test batsman. However, he is yet to encounter sterner challenges like an away tour to India or an Ashes series down-under. To stay relevant he would need to continuously evolve his game because Test cricket is deep waters. Once a batsman gets found out, it can be curtains for him very soon.


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