In July 2011, I took the 45-minute drive west from Sydney to Penrith for a chat with Trevor Bayliss. We were to meet at the real estate agent where he had found some work on his return home from Sri Lanka, a world away from the hubbub of the World Cup final he had helped guide the team into only a few months before, and even further from the hail of bullets that shredded their bus in Lahore in 2009.
When Bayliss decided it was time to come back to Australia after four years based at the Cinnamon Grand in Colombo, he did so in the expectation that the New South Wales coaching job he had left for an international appointment would be there for him - his successor Matthew Mott having quit to take up a role as coach of Glamorgan. Instead, the NSW hierarchy opted against choosing Bayliss, opting for the younger Anthony Stuart.
This left Bayliss with little to do, compelling him to try to forge a new career in real estate at the age of 48. Speaking over lunch, ostensibly about Australia's forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka, it was evident that Bayliss was less than enchanted with the way he had been overlooked by the Blues, and that he felt he had plenty more to give as a coach. While Bayliss did not intend to make a fuss - it is not his way - he was forming resolve to re-emerge.
His mightily sound cricket judgment was made plain that day by a few of his predictions for the 2011 tour, which at the time few thought Australia capable of winning. Bayliss reckoned the new captain Michael Clarke would flourish as both a player of spin and a captain of it, while the Australian bowler he expected to shine was Ryan Harris. Clarke went on to lead the team to an away win in his first tour as captain, while it was Harris who claimed the vital wickets to close out victory in the first Test in Galle.
By that time the national coach Tim Nielsen's job had been spilled by the Argus review, and while Bayliss' record should have been impressive enough to make him a candidate, he was overlooked for that too. Instead, it was the general manager of the Sydney Sixers, Stuart Clark, who recognised the qualities of his former state mentor and appointed him inaugural coach of the "magenta" Twenty20 side.
"Trevor is a high quality coach with a huge amount of success domestically and internationally," Clark said at the time. "His ability and respect amongst the playing group provides the foundation to have a successful winning culture."
What followed was a season in which Bayliss did go about proving NSW wrong for underestimating him. The Sixers recovered from a slow start to lift the inaugural BBL trophy, and their success contrasted sharply with the results gleaned by the Sydney Thunder and the Sheffield Shield team over a largely barren season for Australia's biggest cricket state. Working closely with Brad Haddin and a young Steven Smith, Bayliss created a winning environment that prompted the Kolkata Knight Riders to come calling ahead of the 2012 IPL. More trophies would follow.
A year later, after Stuart had been sacked and the NSW executive and board overturned as a result of broadening discontent over performance and culture, Bayliss was returned to his former role as coach of the Blues. It was little surprise to those who had seen him work closely with players across the world that they went on to claim the Shield in his first season back in charge, again collaborating with the rapidly evolving Smith among others.
Bayliss' deep knowledge of Australian players will be a decided advantage for England, even if he will only have a few weeks to get himself settled into the role before the Ashes. In addition to his work with Smith and Haddin, Bayliss was the NSW Under-19s coach when Clarke was their captain, helping to forge the flamboyant tactical style that has won him plenty of admirers over the past four years. And this is before mentioning the likes of David Warner, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon - all coached by Bayliss in recent times.
He was rated highly enough by Cricket Australia to be employed as an interim coach last year for a winning Twenty20 series against South Africa, where he used the experience gained at the Sixers and KKR to bring the short form team together. After a first up loss in Adelaide, they would finish the stronger, and close out the series 2-1.
Philosophically, Bayliss believes in calmness above all else. He is admired in NSW for remaining level at all times, and more than one player has observed that it is impossible to know the match scenario by looking at his face. While firm in his directives and clear in his ideas on how the game is best played, he has little use for histrionics. He is also adept at managing players who may not see eye to eye, as evidenced by how NSW remained successful during a period when Haddin and Simon Katich both coveted the captaincy.
The lengthy queue for places in the NSW XI has long made it the most pressured environment among all the world's domestic teams, something Bayliss understood inherently from his own playing days. He will bring that desire to maintain an even strain to the England rooms, thereby corresponding neatly with the following observation of the team director Andrew Strauss in his autobiography:
"International cricket differs from county cricket in the sense that players need far less pushing and prodding in order to get themselves up for a game of cricket. Every time they go out there to play, they are playing for their careers. They are bound to be up for it. What is required at the highest level is a coach who is able to calm players down, allowing them to play to their strengths and instilling confidence in their methods."
Most of all, Bayliss will keep things simple. He is an uncomplicated character, who kept living in the quieter surrounds of Penrith well after he could easily have moved into Sydney's leafier districts. When queried about the commute that day in Penrith, he observed that he was generally travelling against the traffic, and had little interest in the faster living to be had to the east. Those who have decried some of the data-driven excesses of modern coaching will delight in the fact that when Bayliss interviewed for the NSW job in 2013 he was the only candidate not to make a PowerPoint presentation.
England have paid a high price to lure Bayliss away from Penrith for at least the next two years, but the value of their choice will be measured in how far England can progress. As Bayliss might have said to a skeptical buyer during his few months trying to close out property deals rather than cricket tournaments, this looks a very sound investment.