Offspinner finds form with Yorkshire after difficult winter away with England
Dom Bess has admitted to feeling like he “hated cricket” in the wake of a difficult winter tour of India, but believes that the lessons learned in the subcontinent will improve his chances of success with England in the long run.
Despite taking 17 wickets at 26.58 in four Tests against Sri Lanka and India, offspinner Bess struggled for consistency and was dropped after helping England to victory in Chennai in February. He returned to the side for the final Test in Ahmedabad but went wicketless in an innings defeat, and began the county season looking to rediscover his form with Yorkshire.
After limited success in the opening two rounds of the Championship, Bess produced his best performance for his new club with a maiden five-for on day three of their match against Sussex at Hove. Afterwards he said that his focus had been on helping Yorkshire to achieve success, rather than worrying about pushing his case for a Test recall.
“After India I had a good break away from it, because I really did start hating cricket,” he said. “It got too much at times, certainly in that bubble in India, there’s a lot of pressures going on and it was really important for me to come back and get away from it.
“In all honesty, I’m not thinking about [England] at all. Of course it’s there, but I’m not pushing that. It’s about banking what I do, making sure it’s a long-term process. I’m 23, so I’m looking at four-five years’ time, and what I do now – if the chance did come, I can go back into the international scene and know my game more. If it’s this summer, it’s this summer.
“It’s more the trust and the process of that, trusting England that they’re not just going to throw me out, and it goes both ways. I had some really tough lessons in India. I had some great support from Jeetan [Patel] and Richard Dawson, who I’m in regular contact with. I’m in regular contact with Leachy [Jack Leach] as well. And I think it’s really important that you build that entourage, because it’s not about yourself, it’s about the team, whether it’s England or Yorkshire.”
On returning from India, Bess had “two or three weeks off”, getting to know his new home in Leeds and spending time with his girlfriend and the puppy they have adopted.
“It was nice to see them and get away from it, because in India, in the bubble, everything was about cricket. And it’s fine when you’re going well, but when things aren’t going well it is very tough. But I only see what I had in India as a great positive. It’s been a tough time really, but one hell of a learning curve for me. And it terms of where I see my game, I know what I’ve got to do. That’s so exciting, knowing that I’ve still got so much work to do, when I’m so close as well, at times.”
Bess had to wait until the first innings at Hove for his first wicket of the 2021 season – having bowled more than 60 overs without success in games against Glamorgan and Kent. He also suffered a rib cartilage injury in the field at Sussex but was able to shrug off the problem to lead Yorkshire’s push for victory in the fourth innings.
Championship cricket in April can prove challenging for spinners, but Bess said that fully embracing such experiences was the reason behind moving to Yorkshire from Somerset, where he had largely had to play second fiddle to Leach – also his main rival for a spot with England.
“I’ve bowled on different wickets. I bowled up at Headingley first game and it started snowing. I bowled in probably the coldest conditions I’ve ever bowled, and then we came down to Canterbury and I bowled on an absolute road – not even a road, as it barely bounced. So I saw two contrasting things, and then we come down to here, I thought I did a pretty good job first innings.
“I’ve also probably been a bit unlucky at times with decisions and things like that, but that’s the game. I’ve been really happy with how it’s come out, and how my process has been, because that was a big work-out. It’s about the long term. But all these experiences, this is why I moved to Yorkshire, to play first-team cricket for the whole year. It’s only going to help me and challenge me.”
Bess said that he had spoken to Chris Silverwood, England’s head coach who was at Hove on the first day, and was enjoying playing alongside Joe Root – captain of the Test side but just another senior pro at Yorkshire. His immediate goal, however, is bowling Yorkshire to victory on Sunday.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick