Ashley Giles still remembers the night distinctively. It was 8:30 pm and he had ventured to the strength and conditioning coach’s room for a casual chat. At the time, Giles was the coach at Warwickshire and the team was playing an away fixture. As the conditioning coach opened the door, inside was a fresh-faced kid, lying in bed sipping his recovery shake and ready to fall asleep. Little did Giles know that his knocking on the door had nearly disturbed Chris Woakes from falling asleep.
"I immediately thought we might have something special here, he was 20 years of age and wasn't at the pub or just floating about, his sole priority was to ensure he was fresh and ready for the game of cricket next day," he tells Firstpost.
"I always say who are you when noone is watching and Chris Woakes is the best example of that."
There is a reason why Giles loves narrating the story. He is now the Director of Cricket at Warwickshire Cricket Club. The recognisable cricketer is dressed like a corporate CEO. Giles is now 45, and it has been over a decade since he retired as a professional cricketer. In that decade, life has come a full circle. He started off as the coach of his beloved Warwickshire, became the spin-bowling coach with the ECB, the head coach for the T20 and ODI England team for a short period, bagged another coaching stint at Lancashire before finally returning to his home as cricketing director.
"I'm no longer hands on. I'm no longer on the ground or in a tracksuit. My role is now more strategic and oversees everything from pathway cricket to women's cricket, to right up to the professional team," he says.
It takes a while, but eventually, he breaks down all his responsibilities and one can be assured that there is plenty on his plate.
"I have to look into recruitment, retainment, contracts, appraisals and above all managing, the group of people that ensure cricket is run successfully at our club. Cricket is a business now and there is plenty to take care of, so while it's a great job, it does keep me really busy."
One of Giles' priorities is to ensure the players inside the club have the right culture instilled in them. On the roadside just outside his office is a giant poster of Chris Woakes. Like Giles' post cricketing career, the conversation eventually comes a full circle and returns to Woakes.
"Right from my first day here at the job, I said if I can clone a cricketer it will be Woakes. He is everything you want in a cricketer and a professional."
But there is more to Warwickshire than Waokes and one department Giles wants to progress in England is the spinners. However, the former English spinner is of the impression that the nature of county cricket rather the pitches is preventing producing top-class spinners.
"At Warwickshire, and even at the ECB, we have a terrific program to encourage and have a path. Pitches in this country right now are probably drier than they ever before.
"Unfortunately, the county pitches don't really allow (spinners) to get into the game. the seamers are into the game and the game moves at a rapid pace, so it becomes difficult for the spinners to really settle or bowl a long spells."
Giles also cites England's history and the general culture in producing world-class spinners.
"You look at our recent spinners. Swanny (Graeme Swann) was a generational spinner, guys or spinner that take 200 wickets don't come along that often. Even if you look at Tuffnell, Myself and a Monty, we got around 150 Test wickets, so that is just the way it has been in England."
Speaking about the ongoing series, Giles is slightly sympathetic towards the tourists and believes it will be extremely difficult for India to claw back after being down 0-2.
"India have some fantastic cricketers, but it was a perfect storm for England. The conditions, pitch and the way England performed. In a five-match series, it is going to be really difficult to get something positive out of this, barring or one hope that if they can win a Test match that will be good for them, because they look so far behind England in this series — it is going to taking a lot of effort to achieve that."
According to Giles, England have caught India slightly off guard with the depth in their bowling and the conditions.
"At the start of the series, India would have thought about Anderson and Broad, but as we saw at Lords, in conditions that suit seam bowlers, the back-ups like Chris Woakes are genuine wicket-takers. So it is not simply about seeing off the opening bowlers because the backup strength is quite good, especially in English conditions, " he concluded.