Olly Stone is still working out his place in England’s pace pecking order as he balances hopes of a Test debut in the West Indies over the next month with the trickier prospect of forcing his way back into World Cup contention.
Stone was handed his first senior call-up for the tour of Sri Lanka before Christmas, playing four one-day internationals before settling in for a watching brief as the Test side wrapped up a 3-0 series whitewash.
Missing out on spin friendly pitches in Galle, Kandy and Colombo may not have been the worst thing for the lively 25-year-old but, having been overlooked for the ODIs in the Caribbean, a maiden outing in England whites is a priority if he is to continue his upward trajectory.
Stone has been identified as one of the players who might add venom to England’s seam arsenal, an issue that was diagnosed after the 2017/18 Ashes and has yet to be resolved, but with James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran also involved he must first earn his spot.
Speaking after preparations began with an extended training session at the 3Ws Oval in Barbados, he said: “I’d love to have played in Sri Lanka, obviously, but the team did so well and to win the series 3-0 means the sides they went in with were the right ones.
“It would have been lovely to play but I learned a lot off the field and if I get a chance out here I can show what I learned.
“I got my first one-day shirt signed by all of the lads as something to remember. I’ll get it framed and on the wall but a Test shirt to go next to it would be amazing. If not I’ll just work hard and try to take a lot away from my time in the nets.”
Despite being lined up to bring some hostility to the bowling attack Stone speaks almost entirely without edge, as happy to learn from the likes of Anderson and Broad as attempt to dislodge them.
The pair boast the small matter of 998 Test scalps between them and have helped their new team-mate sharpen the focus of his time in the nets.
“You learn a lot from the senior players,” said Stone. “It’s hard to come away without improving. My mental game is getting better and my skills are topped up.
“It’s more about training with a purpose, even if you just bowl two overs make them up there with how you go in a match, being specific and making the most of your time.”
There was some surprise when Stone was retained for the longer format in the West Indies and left out of the 50-over games, particularly given his bright start in Sri Lanka.
The next time England name a squad it will be their World Cup 15 and although that renders Stone a firm outsider, he holds out hope.
“It was disappointing to be left out but the boys have done so well over the last year and a half that they have earned the right to be in,” he added. “All it takes is someone to get injured or something and you’re straight in there, you never know. I’m working hard and I wouldn’t say my chance is gone.”
He at least has the benefit of friends in high places, with his former Warwickshire boss Ashley Giles newly installed as the England and Wales cricket Board’s director of cricket. Giles is an avowed advocate of Stone and one of his final acts at Edgbaston was finalising a new contract to keep him at the club.
“We’ve been trying to get it sorted out for the last few months and to get it sorted before Ash went was good,” Stone said.
“It’s a great job he has come into and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. I wish him the best.”
Asked if Giles’ own description of himself as a ‘disciplinarian’ rang true, Stone added: “I think he takes his job quite seriously and doesn’t like anything to get in the way. So I’d think so.”
Provided by Press Association Sport