Fifteen months ago, a couple of months into his first full season with Warwickshire, Dom Sibley was in a difficult place.
After joining the Bears from Surrey midway through the 2017 season, he started promisingly in both red and white ball cricket. But the early weeks of the 2018 Specsavers County Championship season did not go well. He was finding ways to get out – chipping up to the infield, copping a rough decision, perishing to a brilliant catch. Not a great habit for an opening batsman.
Warwickshire’s vice-captain was, he admits, on the verge of being dropped. For both player and club, his form was a big worry.
I remember, when I was considering coming to Warwickshire, sitting down with Ashley Giles and Troughts and Belly and saying to them I was really keen to play for Warwickshire, but my ultimate goal as a cricketer was to play for England.cite=”Dom Sibley
A little over a year later, the 24-year-old is about to become an England player following his selection for tour the of New Zealand where England will play two Tests, the first starting on 20 November.
Sibley has forced his way into international cricket by sheer weight of runs. Centuries in six successive first-class matches spanning the end of last season and the start of this. In the championship this year, 1,324 runs – significantly more than anyone else in Division One, with five three-figure scores including a double-century and century in the match at Trent Bridge last week to lift the Bears to a stunning win over Nottinghamshire.
They say that to earn selection for England you need to ‘knock on the door” by excelling in county cricket, Sibley has not so much knocked on the door as battered it down and left it in splinters.
That is enormous credit to the quietly-spoken son of Epsom, both as a cricketer and a bloke.
Only just over a year ago, Dominic Peter Sibley was at a crossroads – and he thought his way to the right direction and then grafted and batted his way right up that road.
“At one stage last year I know I was close to losing my place in the four-day team,” he recalls.
“So I worked really hard and invested a lot of time in my technique and thinking how I can improve. I thought a lot about different ways to improve and am pleased that all that hard work has paid off in terms of the amount of runs I have scored.
“Thinking back to the struggles of last year, if someone told me at the end of this year I would be the leading run-scorer in Division One and have five hundreds with a couple of doubles in there I’d have grabbed your hand off.
“I put a lot of hard graft in during the winter, coming back to Edgbaston at night after long days training and doing gym sessions by myself and hitting lots of balls. I’m just pleased it’s all paid off.
Now hopefully I can transfer that into Test cricket if I get a go.
“I am really pleased and excited to be selected. There were a few articles written in the last week and my friends and family were saying ‘oh, you’re picked’ but until you get that confirmation you can’t think about it too much. So it was a thrill to have it confirmed
“I remember, when I was considering coming to Warwickshire, sitting down with Ashley Giles and Troughts and Belly and saying to them I was really keen to play for Warwickshire, but my ultimate goal as a cricketer, as it is for everyone I think, was to play for England. I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly but it is something I have always been working for.”
Sibley’s form at the top of Warwickshire’s order has been immense – and shows no sign of diminishing. To score that many runs requires many factors to come together – technique, concentration, physical fitness, strength of mind. But also appetite – and Sibley has that attribute which all the most productive batsmen share: an insatiable appetite for runs. That was illustrated at Trent Bridge last week when his 215 not out and 109 powered the Bears to victory.
“People have asked me about the double hundred last week but, for me, the more pleasing innings was the second one because it was different to any other innings I’ve played this year,” he said. “To score a century at a quicker rate in a fourth-innings chase and contribute to a brilliant win, with a good opening stand with Rhodesy and then a stand with Burge, was really pleasing for me.
“That is the best thing – contributing to a win. The championship win at home to Surrey here this season was amazing – I didn’t contribute too much to that but I got a couple of fifties in the win at York and that was really pleasing.
“Going through those tough times at the start of last year toughened me up as a person and made me a better player and I just want to keep contributing for the Bears and hopefully for England. I love it at Warwickshire and I think we are building something special here as a team with some great youngsters coming through.”