Saker, 56, is currently in Bangladesh working with England’s white-ball squad, but has agreed to link up with the red-ball team during the English summer, and reprise a role he last performed from 2010 to 2015, including two previous Ashes wins in 2010-11 and 2013. As a native Australian, he also performed the same role for his home country between 2016 and 2019.
“I don’t think I’ll do much Test cricket, but I’m doing the Ashes,” Saker told reporters in Dhaka. “Ben said: ‘I’d like to get you involved in the Ashes.’ Rob Key [managing director] had already floated it a little bit, but being so busy I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do it. Once Stokesy pushed it, it made it an easy decision. I said yes straight away because of the magnitude of the occasion. I’ve been involved in Ashes with both parties and the cricket is as exciting as it gets. It’s the biggest Test event.”
With his focus on mindset over technique, Saker’s methods would appear to be a good fit for England’s current Test team, which includes two of his previous charges in James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who are set to embark on their tenth and ninth Ashes campaigns respectively.
“Working with England the first time was so much fun,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to do the Ashes with this group because they are the best team in the world to watch at the moment.
“Baz [Brendon McCullum] will pick a team that he thinks will win and he’ll explain what he wants from the players and then it’s my job to make sure they can deliver that,” he added.
“The evolution of Jimmy and Broady, they’re so confident in what they can do and they just go out and do it. That’s what you want from your bowling group. My job is to make sure the bowlers are doing that.
“It’s also creating an atmosphere in the dressing room that’s enjoyable. There’s no doubt that people are enjoying turning up to that Test team. It sounds like it’s a small thing, but the dressing-room atmosphere is a huge thing in international cricket.”
The England team that won in Australia in 2010-11 before rising to the top of the Test standings the following summer was blessed with a core of outstanding fast bowlers – with Anderson and Broad at the forefront but the likes of Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan also at their peak in that period.
England’s stable of quick bowlers for this summer’s Ashes could include two of the fastest in the modern game in Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, a point of difference that Saker believes could give them the edge in their bid for a first series win over Australia since 2015.
“To win Ashes and big series you need a good battery of fast bowlers and that is definitely the case about England,” he said. “You can say the same about the Australians, but playing on your home patch is always an advantage for a bowling group.
“It’s exciting if we can have Jofra [Archer] and [Mark] Wood available. Whether you play them together is another thing, but you need that pace against the Australians. The thing those sorts of bowlers can do, they can bowl a spell that can crack a game open.
“The key is to have a group of fast bowlers ready to get selected, so it makes it tough for the selection committee to make a decision. When you get that you usually get a pretty strong team.”