Dom Sibley has revealed how the sight of team-mates going for a jog in the heat and humidity of Sri Lanka prompted him to shed nearly two stone in weight.
Sibley, who will open the batting for England in Wednesday’s first Test against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl, admitted he had become ‘self-conscious’ about his physique, which had led to being nicknamed ‘The Fridge’, after the rotund American footballer William Perry. And when the tour was abandoned in March after less than a fortnight because of the coronavirus pandemic, he decided to use lockdown to get himself into shape.
At 6ft 3in, the 24-year-old Sibley has always cut an imposing figure at the crease, though not entirely in the way he would have liked. Now, encouraged by the England management, he has used the time off to cut down on luxury food and drink, and fine-tune his fitness. He now weighs around 14 stone. On the Zoom call organised on Monday by the ECB, there was even a suggestion of cheekbones.
Dom Sibley has lost two stone in weight during lockdown after focusing on his fitness
‘We all like a little treat after a few runs, but it’s great to be a bit more disciplined,’ he said. ‘It’s been tough, but it’s good to feel the benefits now. On the scales, I’ve lost 12kg.
‘You look at the guys who have been in the system a long time. Stokesy is a bit of a freak when it comes to his training. It was seeing him, Root and Buttler running after a session in Colombo. I remember being absolutely spent, so that was a real eye-opener.
‘In Sri Lanka, for the first time in my career, I felt a little bit self-conscious about my physique and my weight. I remember sitting on the plane, thinking I need to do something.
‘I’ve always been someone who hasn’t necessarily been the fittest in the squad and I’ve always, whether at Surrey or Warwickshire, been coasting in that respect. I’ve had taps on the shoulder before, and haven’t really done anything about it. That wake-up call was overdue, and a good lesson for me.’
Sibley has slimmed down from November (left) to now ahead of England’s Test return
‘People have said I look different, which is nice, but in terms of batting it’s a case of doing what I’ve always tried to go: bat long periods. Hopefully being a bit fitter will help me do that.’
Against West Indies, Sibley will resume his old Surrey alliance with Rory Burns, and intends to build on a maiden international winter that began slowly in New Zealand, before picking up steam in South Africa, where his unbeaten 133 set up England’s memorable victory in the second Test at Cape Town.
He has played only six Tests, it’s true, but an embryonic average of 40 proved beyond all the other openers England tried during the years they were trying to find a partner for Alastair Cook. Now, in a sense, he will have to start all over again as cricket embarks on an era of behind-closed-doors international matches.
Sibley had been nicknamed ‘The Fridge’ in reference to the NFL star William Perry who had taken on a similar nickname during his carerr. He is pictured in London in 1996
Sibley impressed against South Africa in January where he made his maiden Test century
‘With not playing for a long time, there will be some nerves,’ he said. ‘But it’s comforting to know everyone else will have them as well. I’ll try and take confidence from what I did in South Africa against a good attack, and use it to show I belong at this level.’
Sibley fully expects a peppering from the West Indies quicks, especially after the South Africans exploited his tendency to hit the ball in the air off his hip. To compound that, Jofra Archer had him caught behind down the leg side during England’s intra-squad game last week.
‘The best thing about Test cricket is that you’ve always got new challenges, and suddenly my strength is being turned into a way to get me out,’ he said. ‘That’s just another challenge for me to overcome.’
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