'I get asked a lot if it’s unusual working for England' - David Saker is England's Ashes spoiler from within
The Victorian was part of the backroom staff as England claimed their only series win Down Under in 36 years in 2010/11 while he was in Australia’s dressing room when they regained the urn in 2017/18.
He rejoined England under white-ball head coach Matthew Mott before last year’s T20 World Cup-winning campaign, where Test captain Ben Stokes approached Saker about a specialist role for Australia’s visit.
“I said ‘yes’ straight away because of the magnitude of the occasion,” said Saker. “Once Stokesy pushed it, it made it an easy decision. It’s looking to be a hell of a series with these two teams.”
James Anderson has been juggling his playing duties with an ad-hoc consultancy role in the absence of a designated fast bowling coach in England’s Test series against Pakistan and New Zealand this winter.
But Saker will fill the vacuum and sit alongside fellow assistants Marcus Trescothick, Jeetan Patel and Paul Collingwood under Brendon McCullum, who has inspired England’s Test team to 10 wins from 12 matches.
There will be fierce competition for an England spot, especially among the fast bowlers although with five Tests in six and a half weeks, Stokes wants as many options as possible with rotation likely.
Saker worked extensively with Australia’s vaunted frontline attack led by Pat Cummins from 2016 to 2019, leaving his post 11 months after the Cape Town ball-tampering affair, but feels the express pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer to complement the seamers gives England an edge in their own backyard. To win an Ashes and a big series you need a good battery of fast bowlers and that is definitely the case with England, but you can say the same about the Australians too,” said Saker.
“The outliers are obviously the 150kmh bowlers. It’s exciting if we can have Jofra and Wood available, whether you play them together is another thing but I think you need that pace against the Australians.
“Playing in English conditions I think it puts their bowling group in front of the Australians, without a doubt. It’ll come down to whatever team can bat the best really, I think both sides know that.”
Saker, who worked with England from 2010 to 2015, is relishing the opportunity to work with Anderson and Stuart Broad again.
The veteran pair flourished under Saker and continue to blaze a trail with 1,261 Test wickets between them. Anderson, at 40, especially continues to defy expectations.
“I am quite close with Jimmy so it’s great to see his journey – I played cricket against him when he was 16 or 17 so to think he’s still playing cricket now is extraordinary,” said the 56-year-old Saker.
“His accuracy is amazing, he’s still got that amazing skill, probably doesn’t swing the ball like he used to but he doesn’t need to. He uses his wobble seam really well, he wears teams down.
“He and Stuart have evolved amazingly well.”
Saker has also agreed to be in situ for the defence of England’s World Cup crown later this year, with the twin challenges falling outside the Big Bash League, where he is head coach of Melbourne Renegades.
“It’s tour-by-tour really,” he said, ahead of England’s dead rubber T20 against Bangladesh at Dhaka on Tuesday.
“I get asked a lot by my friends at home if it’s unusual working for England.
"But it’s like any job, really.”