By Bharath Ramaraj
In December 2008, when England found themselves in dire-straits after the Peter Moores-Kevin Pietersen fiasco, that saw the axe being wielded on both the coach and the captain, they needed an honest man with fresh ideas at the helm of the affairs. Just when reputations of England’s glittering stars seemed to be tarnished forever, Andy Flower, with his charmingly unobtrusive manner of handling things, emerged as a genuine hope. He along with other members of the coaching staff turned England’s fortunes around with meticulous planning and instilled that unwavering self-belief in the team.
However, every coach has a shelf life. Five years since his appointment, after Australia whitewashed them 5-0, they perhaps need a change of guard.
Despite getting a thumbs up from England’s top management, and Flower showing the desire to continue as the coach, on expected lines, he has received heavy criticism from all quarters of England for the abject poor performance, Down Under. It is one thing for a few players in a squad not to perform, but when almost everyone in the touring party underperforms, it doesn’t bode well for the team.
Flower was a fantastic player, who played with a never say die attitude during his playing days. Since England crumbled in the face of a fiery spell by Jerome Taylor in 2009 at Jamaica, they have showcased that similar sort of Flower’s tenaciousness in their quest towards unmatched brilliance. With meticulous planning to back them up, they scaled new heights and were ranked No 1 in Test cricket in 2011.
But there are always flaws even among the best of coaches going around. With time, England seemed to be a side that was robotically managed by the backroom staff. Yes, the likes of Pietersen, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ian Bell and company played with flair and panache. Yet on the field, many times, they seemed to be a bunch of players who looked jaded and joyless. In short, it didn’t seem like a happy unit, where players were enjoying each other’s success.
Just take a look at Boyd Rankin. The towering giant from Warwickshire has bowled some frightening spells for his County. However, while playing in the final Test match against Australia at Sydney, he looked bereft of confidence and bowled floaty stuff that was taken to the cleaners by the batsmen. Perhaps, because nerves got to him, he also suffered a cramp. A genuine fast bowler like Steven Finn has regressed under Flower and company rather than improving with numerous changes being tried on his run-up.
Duncan Fletcher resigned from the coaching role after the Ashes 2006-07 and the 2007 World Cup. Perhaps it is time for Flower to leave as they need someone who can bounce off fresh ideas and create an environment, where players can flourish again.
In 2007, Moores took over from Fletcher and brought in players who were discarded from the setup like Graeme Swann, Owais Shah and Matt Prior. He also instilled the confidence in Stuart Broad and James Anderson to lead the pace attack. Barring Shah, all of them went onto become cornerstones of England’s resurgence. Flower succeeded Moores again at a difficult time and took the side to dizzying heights. Now, maybe it is time for someone else to come to the fore and take over the mantle of coaching a side ravaged by a 5-0 whitewash and rebuild it brick-by-brick.
It also has to be said that more than a coach, a national team can shine brightly in the international arena, if there is a strong domestic structure in place. The general feeling among county cricket’s cognoscenti is that with restrictions on number of Kolpak players playing in domestic cricket, has led to home grown talent not yet ready to step up to the level playing for the counties. So, there is perhaps a dilution the standard.
England need to do a thorough inquisition into what went wrong in the Ashes series and restructure their domestic cricket. Just a smokescreen of a report won’t help them to regain their lost glory.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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