In happier times: Peter Moores (left) with then captain Kevin Pietersen © Getty Images
After the trials and tribulations of going through possible candidates to replace Andy Flower as the head coach, England management have plumped for Peter Moores. Bharath Ramaraj has a sneak peek into Moores’ coaching career.
One year in the world of sport can make a huge difference. During the early months of 2013, English cricket was still on a high. They had won a series in India, and followed it by convincingly beating Australia at home. Since then though, they have been on a downward spiral. England were browbeaten by Australia 5-0, Down Under, and their results in the shorter versions of the game have been abysmal too.
The fallout of England’s misery resulted in senior spinner, Graeme Swann, walking into the sunset of his career. Arguably England’s best batsman in recent times, Kevin Pietersen, was shown the exit door and Andy Flower stepped down as the head coach.
Curiously, one of the candidates that cropped up as a possible replacement for Flower was Peter Moores. Now, here was someone who had lost his job after he fell out with the then-captain, Pietersen, in 2008. And yet, today he is at the helm of England cricket once more. It is nothing short of a fairytale story for Moores, as in the professional world of sport not many get a second chance to showcase their wares. Moores has a task on his hands though, as England are at present devoid of confidence, and lacking in direction.
So the question is, can Moores again take England to top of the pile in terms of rankings? If we trace his coaching career, he has the credentials built over a 16-year long career in the County circuit. After a rather modest career with Worcestershire and Sussex as a player, he took over the mantle of steering a rudderless Sussex ship in 1998. In fact, at one point he was the coach-cum captain, but later resigned as captain of the line-up to concentrate on his coaching job.
Moores made his mark by taking Sussex to their maiden title in County Championship (Division 1) in 2003. There were skeptics, who reckoned that it all happened because of a wily leg-spinner with a jaunty smile, Mushtaq Ahmed, who touched stratospheric heights that season. But later in 2006, he guided Sussex to their second County Championship.
With Moores being annointed as the Director of England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) academy in 2005, he was tipped to take over from Duncan Fletcher as the national coach. The proud moment arrived when Fletcher resigned from his post after the 5-0 drubbing England received at the hands of Australia in 2006-07.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go according to plan for Moores. It was reported that he pushed the players too hard. There was also an inkling that Michael Vaughan, Pietersen and company didn’t exactly like his methods. It has to be remembered that Moores only played County cricket. As Moores discovered, it can sometimes be difficult to win the respect of glittering stars of a national team when you have played just County cricket.
Peter Moores (left) and Kevin Pietersen’s relations got worse and led to the former being sacked and the latter resigning as captain of England © Getty Images
With Pietersen being appointed as the captain in 2008, it was bound to get worse for Moores. When England toured India by the end of 2008, things came to a head between the two. Both disagreed on many counts including the selection of former captain, Vaughan. Pietersen is believed to have said that there was an ‘unhealthy situation’ in the camp. Soon, Moores was sacked and Pietersen was told to resign.
It is difficult to take anyone’s side here. Pietersen on his part would surely have had valid points as to why he wanted Moores to be removed as the coach. One can vividly remember Moores openly suggesting before the first One-Day International (ODI) against India at Rajkot in 2008 that they will hit the opposition batsmen with pace on a flat deck. England went into the match with four pacers and that stratagem backfired completely. In the first Test at Chennai too, England tried to bounce out India on a slow deck and that cost them dear.
Pietersen was also frustrated by the fact that his opinion on the coach was leaked to the media. On the other end of the spectrum, you had a coach with a successful career in County circuit and who was erecting a solid platform for England to climb up the ladder.
It was none other than Moores who showed immense faith in discards like Swann, Owais Shah and Matt Prior. The likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad were given a chance to lead the pace attack. During Fletcher’s regime, Swann was an outcast, as Fletcher never seemed to like his attitude. With Shah not employing the ‘forward press’ theory into his batting, he didn’t find much favour with Fletcher either.
Other than Shah, all the other players so mentioned played a key role in England flagging down opposition teams during their surge towards the No 1 ranking in Tests in 2011. Even now, Anderson says he is indebted to Moores for showing faith in him. Moores had even plumped for Anderson ahead of experienced campaigners like Steven Harmison and Matthew Hoggard for the second Test against New Zealand at Wellington in 2008.
Moores made a graceful exit from the scene and bid his time. In 2011, he took Lancashire to their first outright title in 77 years. If we scratch the surface underneath, one can see a team that was devoid of stars. Yes, there were ageless wonders like Glenn Chapple and Gary Keedy who bowled with untiring stamina and unremitting accuracy. But even the likes of Kyle Hogg, Simon Kerrigan, Paul Horton, Steven Croft and company raised their game that year. A fair share of credit for that has to go to Moores.
A little less than three years since then, the redoubtable Moores has the gargantuan task of resurrecting England’s dwindling fortunes. He doesn’t have a magic wand in his hand to suddenly transform England’s fortunes. Yet, as former captain Vaughan said, Moores is well suited to the role in the sense that he perhaps works better with the younger lot.
Moores though, has his fair share of critics even at the County level. Despite Lancashire winning the title in 2011 and then the second division Championship in 2013, they have struggled to guide younger players. Even the likes of Karl Brown and Luke Procter haven’t taken their game to greater heights. Only the Somerset-born Luis Rees has slowly but steadily been making his mark for Lancashire.
One can only wait and watch if Moores can turn around England’s prospects. He needs to build a new set-up which plays cricket with a dash of bravado and enthusiasm. Otherwise, England management’s ‘new era’ will seem like just another public relations statement.
(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)