Joe Root thinks Trevor Bayliss’s poker face will help England stay grounded as they live out their childhood dreams with a World Twenty20 final at Eden Gardens.
England brought one of the least experienced squads to India, but have defied expectations on the road to Kolkata.
Their opponents will be familiar foes, a West Indies team who beat them in the first match of the Super 10 stage, but confidence is high in a side that has been through a rollercoaster of emotions since.
They have pulled matches against South Africa, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka back from the brink before turning in a near perfect game in the semi-final with New Zealand.
But the one constant has been the inscrutable gaze of Bayliss, whose measured demeanour should again prove invaluable as the tournament climaxes in front of 66,000 fans.
“Trevor has been great throughout,” said Sheffield-born Root.
“He’s got an emotionless face, whether we feel like we’re in front of the game or feel massively behind it, you never get any sort of tension or emotion from him.
“You dream of these opportunities as a kid, to play a World Cup final, and every time over the past couple of days I’ve looked round the dressing room or at the lads on the bus they have just been smiling.
“I think everyone is excited and can’t wait to get out there on Sunday.
“But it always feels like Trevor is very calm and relaxed about everything. Whether that’s the case under the surface, I’m not sure.
“That’s one thing that’s really important in these tournaments, especially in the final, having that calm head in the dressing room that can bring you back down when you get too high or give you a lift if you need one.”
Root has been hugely influential himself.
He scored a world-class 83 to inspire the side’s record 230-run chase against South Africa, took a brilliant, decisive catch at the climax versus Sri Lanka and helped finish off New Zealand in partnership with Jos Buttler.
He is second only to Virat Kohli as the competition’s leading run-scorer from the Super 10 stage onwards with 195 and will be a prize scalp tomorrow.
But he took the moment to praise captain Eoin Morgan’s leadership.
Morgan is short of runs, averaging 15.25 in five innings, but continues to set the tone for his team.
The Irishman says he ‘puts no ceiling’ on the side, and they have responded by playing some of the most fearless cricket ever seen from an England XI.
“I think Morgan’s captaincy has been fantastic across one-day cricket and T20 cricket,” said Root. “We’ve chosen this way and approach, which has probably been a bit of a shift for us, and we’ve stuck to our guns.
“That’s a massive factor in how we’ve got here. The management have been very calm, a positive management that has supported Eoin’s view on how we need to go forward.
“Guys have gone out and been brave and played the way the captain has asked them to.
“We’ve kept wanting to improve and when it’s gone wrong we’ve not taken a step back, we’ve looked forward every time.”
A dream final from the neutral perspective would probably have involved the hosts playing in front of a sell-out home crowd, but Root is unmoved by the identity of the opposition.
“I don’t think it matters, if you are going to win the World Cup you have to be the best team through the tournament,” he said,
“If we are going to win we are going to have to beat the side that beat us already, otherwise we would have had to have beaten India on home soil, so it’s irrelevant who we play.
“Every game here so far has been rocking so let’s hope it will be on Sunday.”
Chris Waters’s verdict: Page 8