Ashley Giles has told of the hidden heartache he endured during his final days as managing director of the England team, revealing his mother had died shortly afterwards.
Giles, who lost his job five months ago following the 4-0 Ashes defeat in Australia, told Telegraph Sport’s Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club podcast he had learnt his mother was “seriously ill” after returning home for Christmas mid-tour.
He said he was then forced to fly back to Australia early when one of Chris Silverwood’s family tested positive for coronavirus after England had lost the five-Test series with two matches to play, consigning the head coach to quarantine.
The eve of the fourth Test saw a visibly-emotional Giles lay bare the toll the Covid-19 crisis – and playing international cricket in “bubbles” – had taken on his players but he made no mention of his own personal turmoil.
Opening up about it for the first time, he said: “I was pretty drained by the situation by then and I think many of us were. And, was it emotional? Yeah. But I was probably tired as well. I’d been away for eight weeks before Christmas, I’d come home to find my mum was seriously ill.
“I had nine days at home, was due to have 11, I think, and then flew out early because we had that Covid situation that affected all the coaches in Australia. And, so I found myself back on a plane on New Year’s Eve. And, so, all of that stuff together – just lost in an Ashes series – it was pretty emotional.
“Looking back on that, I could have come across as defensive, maybe. Maybe, I was a little bit. I was trying to defend our team and what we were doing. But, I think, many of the points I made, I would still make again right now, out of that position.”
Giles revealed his departure allowed him to spend the final three weeks of his mother’s life by her bedside.
“I got to spend the last three weeks pretty much by mum’s bed, literally, he added. “So, there’s some small blessings there.”
England’s 2005 Ashes-winning spinner said Covid had wrecked their chances of regaining the Ashes, with the pandemic forcing him to focus more on ensuring matches actually took place than on trying to win them.
He also revealed he suspected the team had caught the virus during their 2019-20 tour of South Africa – long before Britain’s first national lockdown.
Giles said that he had “loved” seeing England’s fairy-tale transformation under new head coach Brendon McCullum but warned so-called ‘Bazball’ may not be a panacea for the problems that cost him his own job, including their inability to win in Australia and India.
Asked whether the new approach could end up papering over the cracks, he said: “There’s always a danger of that.”
He added: “The good thing that comes out of this is the energy that it’s created behind Test cricket. Because, for a year, when I was in charge, that wasn’t the case, and we lost some of that enthusiasm.”