CHENNAI: “I will go loony, be running off,” this was Dom Bess' response to the question, “If you get Kohli's wicket,” on talkSport radio ahead of the first Test. On Day 3, he did exactly that, taking his sunglasses off, high-fiving Ben Stokes and Joe Root at the MA Chidambaram Stadium after dismissing the Indian captain. This is Bess' first trip to India, but already a lot was expected from him and the 23-year-old showed why as he picked up four wickets on Sunday including that of Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant to tighten the screw on India.
To know about Bess, one needs to go back to the six months he spent at the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy (DLCA) in Adelaide as an 18-year-old. Bess was like any other cricketer in the program before former Australia pacer Shaun Tait picked him out for special mention on the sidelines of Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunders practice matches against the DLCA side. “We were in Sydney with Tait being part of our side,” Shaun Siegert, who was high-performance coach said. “And Tait picked Bessy as the one who would go on to play international cricket. And mind you Bess did not even pick a wicket in those games. This lad was nobody back then, but the thing that was most impressive about him was his character as an individual.”
Siegert, who was a coach at the DLCA for 13 years, now works at Joe Root's Academy. In Adelaide, he has a reputation of being a hard task-master and comes across as a coach who not many players would take out for a drink if their paths meet again. Apart from cricketing lessons, Bess' days at the academy focussed on other things, which has not only shaped his career but also his personality.
“I pay a lot of attention to a cricketer's character and Bess is easily amongst those who had the hunger and desire to keep going higher. He is the sort of guy who doesn't wait for things to happen and that character reflects on his cricket too. He is constantly looking for answers to get better,” Siegert said. Between October (2015) to March (2016), Bess would spend his time in Adelaide on his own. Cooking, washing clothes and taking public transport to move around. The camp can be hard as Siegert says, especially for those who are used to being spoon-fed. By January-end, homesickness creeps into many players and Bess was no exception. “And If you ask Bess what was his biggest take away from the camp here, he would say the maturity of him as a person. I remember it was around this time of the year. He looked down and out, tired. But how he dealt with it and continued the rest of the program was incredible. Lot of them would have given up. But he just kept working,” Siegert said.
Moving back to Taunton, Bess didn't get a place in the Somerset side because of Jack Leach's presence. After a few games with Somerset second XI, he would make his championship debut in 2016, which would turn into a big one. Five-for on his debut including the wicket of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell in successive deliveries earned him a regular spot. Bess and Leach would go on to become a successful combination for Somerset as his 37 wickets in 2017 season earned him an England call-up.
“He could have moved to a different team as Leach was around. But he is always ready to fight. He competes with himself, which makes him better every day. He loves challenges, steps up his game during adversities. Take his Test debut, he couldn't get a wicket, but scored a fifty and he is the sort of player who likes to contribute whichever way he can,” Siegert added. As his old ward is in the middle of a challenging tour, Siegert will be watching it from Adelaide. “I won't be surprised if he evolves like Nathan Lyon. He will struggle at times, but he will find ways to improve as a cricketer and he is showing up until this point. He doesn't get overawed by situations and circumstances.” Indians will nod in approval.