Wicket-keeper James Bracey, who is primed to make his Test debut against New Zealand, revealed that being a reserve turned out to be a boon and added that he learnt a lot by just watching Root and Stokes bat. Bracey further asserted that he is confident that, if given a chance, he can deliver.
Logistical and health challenges posed by the Covid pandemic meant that teams, regardless of whether they were playing home or away, were required to carry extended squads (reserves included) and a beneficiary of the same was James Bracey. Touted as the next wicket-keeper batsman of the English Test side, Bracey spent time with the English camp in the home summer of 2020 and also travelled with the team in winter for the tours of Sri Lanka and India, which proved to be challenging for the side.
Like several other reserves, Bracey was largely confined to hotel rooms on match-days, but the 24-year-old, despite getting no playing time, is pleased with the time he spent with the national team. Bracey, a wicket-keeper, asserted that he learnt a lot by just watching Root and Ben Stokes bat from behind the stumps, and insisted that his time as a reserve turned out to be an invaluable learning experience.
"The big thing for me was when I found myself keeping in nets and you've got Root or Stokes in front of you, you can pick up a lot on how they approach it," Bracey told Sky Sports.
"A lot of it with spin is your movements and your balance, using the crease, using your feet and that sort of stuff. The best view for me for learning was actually just watching them and you pick up little things that they do and areas that they're looking to hit different bowlers.
"Obviously, I've asked questions and tried to get answers out of them but I think I learnt a lot from just watching, learning and then trying to implement a few of those things into my practice."
However, despite getting an invaluable opportunity to learn, the 24-year-old admitted that extended time on the fringes, absolutely playing nothing, got frustrating at times. Bracey said that he enjoyed the summer stint at home more than the winter ones but insisted that he ‘still learnt a lot’ from the experience with the national team.
"Last summer was my first taste of it so the excitement and shock of actually being there, I just loved every minute of it, chucked myself in and the bubble stuff didn't really hinder me too much," he said.
"I learnt a lot, got a load of work done and came out of that in a really good place. This winter has been slightly different. Second time around, away from home, tough work and obviously once you start losing as a team there's a different energy in the camp. It's no fault of anyone, that's how cricket is.
"It was tough at times, being on the fringes, because you find yourself working really hard but feeling there's not much coming from it - that's how it felt personally.
"So it's a tough balance to strike, I still felt like I learnt a lot, my game still got better and I still really enjoyed the experience but it is tough at times and it can hit you hard."
With England expected to rest their multi-format stars for the New Zealand Tests, Bracey, who is currently averaging 53.11 in the ongoing County Championships, has been primed for a Test cap against the Kiwis. With all of Crawley, Burns and Lawrence in decent form, Bracey still only has an outside chance of making his debut, but the 24-year-old is confident that he can deliver should the Three Lions choose him to do the job for the country.
"People were saying, 'Are you frustrated that you didn't play? Are you frustrated that you just spent all that time training?' - especially last summer when Gloucestershire were playing and I was in the bubble training.
"But I saw it as, not many players get to spend that much time around the England group. I've learnt a lot and got a lot of positives out of that.
"The biggest positive I took from it was coming out, spending time back at Glos, speaking to (former head coach) Richard Dawson and my parents, people like that, they asked me how I got on and I said felt like if I was put in the Test match side tomorrow then I could do a job, I feel like I could cope and do a job.
"Obviously, you never truly know until that opportunity does arise, but I've got confidence that I can deliver."