Trevor Bayliss admits England’s concession of the highest Test total scored against them may yet have a bearing on whether Alastair Cook decides to stay on as captain.
The England coach acknowledged there was “not a lot” he could say to help the players as India batsman Karun Nair turned his maiden Test century into an unbeaten 303, in only his third innings, and drove the hosts to their own national-record score of 759-7 declared.
It will fall initially on Cook, and his opening partner Keaton Jennings, to lead England’s attempt from 270 runs in arrears to try to save the match by batting out the final three sessions of a series in which they already trail 3-0.
After they had reached 12-0 on the penultimate evening of this fifth Test, Bayliss agreed England’s latest chastening experience could yet influence Cook’s deliberations – scheduled over the coming weeks – about whether to extend his record 59 matches in charge into next summer and the Ashes winter to follow.
Bayliss will not be in attendance to witness the rearguard in Chennai because he was set to fly home to Australia last night in time for a pre-Christmas hernia operation – and his 54th birthday on Wednesday.
Asked if days like the fourth at the MA Chidambaram Stadium could help make up Cook’s mind, he said: “Possibly. That’s a decision only he will know the answer to.”
Bayliss did not address the topic with his captain, after Nair had delivered another huge blow to the tourists’ morale and standing in this tough series. He does not intend to either until Cook has spoken in his end-of-campaign debrief with England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss.
“He’s done it for so long, whether I say yes or no, it won’t change his mind whether he keeps going or stops,” he said.
“If he keeps going, fantastic; if he stops, that’s up to him, and I’ve got no problems with that either.
“I won’t actually sit down to have a chat with him. We’ve got six or seven months until our next Test match, so there’s plenty of time for him to have a think about it.”
Cook’s side had no answer to Nair as he, Ravi Ashwin (67) and Ravindra Jadeja (51) piled on England’s misery in stands of 181 and 138 and only three wickets fell for 368 runs in 82.4 overs on Monday.
“We got totally outplayed today, for sure ... we just weren’t in the game,” said Bayliss.
“But the one thing, throughout the five Tests here in India and two in Bangladesh, is that I can say the guys haven’t stopped trying. On this tour, we’ve been outclassed – you put your hands up and say ‘Well played, India’.”
He added: “They’ve batted better than us and bowled better than us.”
Nair had occasional luck on his side, most importantly when Cook dropped him at slip on only 34 on the third afternoon.
“Our catching is still below par – I think the last three catches we’ve dropped have only cost us 500,” added the coach, with a rueful half-smile.
“That’s disappointing and something we’ve got to keep working on.”
As for the immediate future, he is hoping to arrive in Australia to reports of a draw beginning to unfold in Chennai.
“I’m as confident as I can be,” Bayliss added.
“These guys have character. We’ve been in a few tough situations over these seven Tests and have come out and played well the next day after a bad session or two.
“They won’t want to get on the plane in a couple of days’ time, having lost another Test match. They’ll want to bat as well as they possibly can.”
Nair became only the second India batsman after Virender Sehwag to make a triple century, in what was only his third Test innings.
The 25-year-old, whose two previous scores were four and 13, said: ‘’They say ‘make hay when the sun shines’.
“We are 3-0 up, so I think they are already out of the game ... I’m just happy I got in and made the most of it.”