April 2009
« Mar   May »

John Stern: Flower may be right man for England but ECB still frustrate

April 15th, 2009 by John Stern in England and tagged , , , ,

The ECB may well have got the right man but their methods, not for the first time, leave something to be desired.

A global search for the best man for the job, led by hotshot headhunters Odgers Ray and Berndtson, has brought them back to their own doorstep. Hugh Morris, the England team managing director, won’t say how many were on the shortlist or which other men were actually interviewed for “reasons of confidentiality”. That old one. The ECB still haven’t satisfactorily explained why Peter Moores was sacked in January and Kevin Pietersen forced to resign as captain at the same time.

It is believed that John Wright was interviewed on the phone and that’s it. On the phone? For a job that pays the thick of a quarter of a million quid? The whole headhunters and shortlist business looks like smoke and mirrors. They wanted to give Flower the job from day one and this whole process simply bought the ECB time to see how Flower coped in the West Indies.

It also bought Flower time, we learned today, to see if he even wanted to apply for the job which is understandable given that, along with Moores, he had been on Kevin Pietersen’s blacklist.

Flower’s press conference at Lord’s today revealed precious little other than thoughtfulness and honesty. He declined to answer a number of questions about things like selection, central contracts and specific strategies but he did so politely and apologetically. What he didn’t do was bulls**t nor did he waffle on in rehearsed-speak.

He is an impressive individual and it is perfectly plausible to imagine him being excellent at his new job. But there are two things we don’t know. One is whether he really is the best man for the job because it seems the ECB haven’t properly examined all the other options and the other is whether Flower’s appointment will actually make any difference. The coach’s role in cricket is still so vague and intangible compared to that of a football manager.

One final thought: Flower talked about wanting “players to be challenging themselves” and fitness being “non-negotiable”. Common-sense thoughts but haven’t we heard them somewhere before? Maybe it is all about presentation. Maybe Flower isn’t that different to Moores he just communicates in a different way. Same message, different method.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

You can read what the TWC summit make of Flower’s appointment here

Posted in England | 1 Comment »

The TWC summit: Is Andy Flower the right choice for England?

April 15th, 2009 by TWC in England and tagged , , ,

So England have appointed Andy Flower, not as their new coach, but as their new team director of cricket. But is there more to Flower than tough talking and a name that delights the headline-writers? Was he really the best man the ECB could find? For all the inside praise of his good work in the Caribbean, England’s batsmen have markedly failed to improve under his tuition and his close links with the previous regime raise questions of whether much has changed within Team England at all.

You can read what John Stern has to say on the appointment here, but our panel are bursting to add their tuppence below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England | 2 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: Self-styled scapegoat Bell talking a bad game

April 15th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket

Getting dropped can be a good thing. Andrew Flintoff came back fitter and leaner after his early battles with the bulge, and managed to convince us he was sticking to cranberry juice. Andrew Strauss has scored seven hundreds in 17 Tests and averaged 54 since he was left out of the tour of Sri Lanka in December 2007. Hell, even Don Bradman was dropped once. But – and I know it’s the question on everyone’s lips – what will happen to Ian Bell?

This blog has already compared and contrasted Bell with Paul Collingwood, his statistical – but not temperamental – near-equal. When Collingwood was one innings away from the chop, he made 135 against South Africa at Edgbaston. When Bell was in a similar position, he scored 28 and 4 against West Indies in Jamaica, getting out both times with an interval approaching and, in the second innings, kickstarting a collapse that ultimately cost England the series. If the timing and execution of that limp cut shot were revealing in their own way, what happens next will reveal even more.

The first step after being dropped – no mean feat for an England batsman of recent vintage – is to accept the error of your ways. Which is why the interview Bell gave to Cricinfo during last week’s game between MCC and Durham at Lord’s was mildly alarming.

Here is what he is quoted as saying about his omission after the Kingston fiasco: “Changes had to be made. It’s difficult: no one got any runs and we were beaten heavily so someone had to go and it was my turn. In the warm-up games the runs came, but obviously I just had that one opportunity in Jamaica and we didn’t play well as a side so changes had to be made.”

You don’t have to read between the lines to discern the sub-text: Bell regards his dropping as a selectorial game of black jack in which he just happened to be unlucky enough to be dealt the wrong card. He believes it was “my turn”; he reckons he “just had that one opportunity”; he paints himself as the scapegoat, taking one for a struggling team.

Only later in the interview (“I have a record I can improve on and I’m desperate as hell to get back into the team”) is there any acknowledgement of a talent that risks going to waste, that has scored one half-century in 12 Test innings since apparently breaking through with 199 against South Africa at Lord’s, that looks better than anyone in England when he is on song. And this is the side of Bell we need to hear more of, the side which also told Sky Sports “I do kick myself sometimes”.

If Bell genuinely feels picked on, he needs his agent and advisor Alec Stewart – dropped more than once in an era when the selectors were far less patient than they are now – to take him to one side and gently point out he doesn’t know he was born. Because until he is able to shed what sounds suspiciously like a sense of grievance, there is no way he can address the issues that cost him his spot in the first place.

As we’ve said before, if the stylish Bell could distil Collingwood’s substance, England would have a world-beater on their hands.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in England, Test cricket | 4 Comments »

Site by Anson Robson Marketing © 2010 The Wisden Cricketer All Rights Reserved