James Bracey on mixing with the full England squad
1 July 2020
The 23-year-old Gloucestershire batsman is still getting used to mixing with the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and James Anderson at the 30-man training camp being held at the Ageas Bowl.
Bracey will be taking part in a three-day practice match starting today and will be hoping to remain with the squad when it is reduced in number ahead of the First Test against West Indies, starting on July 8.
But the product of Winterbourne and Bristol Cricket Clubs stresses that, even if he is not retained, memories of training for the first time in front of ECB Cricket Director Ashley Giles, England head coach Chris Silverwood and national selector Ed Smith will stay with him forever.
“While I will be disappointed if I don’t make the reduced squad, I will know that I have given 100 per cent from the moment I arrived at the camp,” said Bracey, who has risen from local club cricket to international recognition in the space of four years.
“At times it has felt surreal for me to be rubbing shoulders with the best players in the country.
“It took a little while to adjust, but already I feel much more comfortable in the environment and ready to ask questions of the more experienced players.”
Bracey reported to the Ageas Bowl last Tuesday, but like the rest of the squad had to wait for the results of Covid-19 testing before starting practice two days later.
“The squad was split into two groups of 15, one working in the morning and the other in the afternoon,” he said.
“I have been in the afternoon group. Each batsman gets around 30 to 40 minutes in the nets at each session and I have found myself facing the likes of the Overton twins and Ben Stokes, as well as our top spinners.
“I also spend between an hour and 90 minutes each day working on my wicketkeeping with Chris Read, which is proving invaluable.
“Chris is building on the work I have already done with Richard Dawson and Bruce French and I am really feeling the benefit.
“Whatever happens, I am going to return to county cricket a better player and more advanced towards fulfilling my ambition to play Test cricket.”
So, what is it like for the hugely promising left-hander facing England’s quickest bowlers in the nets?
“It’s a real challenge for me because they are all looking to impress the selectors and therefore giving it all they can,” he said.
“Over the first couple of days I felt I played well and showed good basic technique without being fluent.
“But since then I feel I have got closer to playing my natural game. It helps to be able to talk to so many talented guys and pick their brains.”
While Bracey is the only Gloucestershire player in the squad, there is a familiar face in the county’s head coach Richard Dawson, who is in charge of the spin bowlers.
“I talk to Richard a lot,” said Bracey. “For example, he tells me how brilliant Joe Root is at playing spin because he adopts a low-risk approach, which is something I am working on.
“There are three nets going on at the same time, one where you face the fast bowlers, another for the spinners and the third where the coaches use slingers.
“The batsmen switch between each net during the sessions, so you get to face all types of bowling.”
When not practising, the players have to stay in their rooms at the hotel on the ground, filling their time as best they can.
“A lot of the lads have brought game consoles. Jofra Archer is probably the king of that particular entertainment,” said Bracey. “I am a more modest player, so I have also brought books to read and watch Netflix.
“I have still to face Jofra in the nets and that also applies to Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. I can’t wait to be tested by them.”