Sport Cricket Flower wilts, but the memories remain

Flower wilts, but the memories remain

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Shortly after England capitulated to an 11th defeat of the summer in Friday night’s T20 match in Melbourne, Andy Flower, already back in the UK, called time on his five-year tenure at the helm of English cricket.

Flower’s decision represents three things – 1) a personal about-turn after he publicly stated a desire to continue in the wake of the whitewash, 2) the end of one of England’s finest eras and the end for their finest coach and 3) the failure of the split coaching system that he and Ashley Giles attempted to cultivate over the last 12 months.

The Zimbabwean’s achievements with England are myriad. He should be remembered for an Ashes trifecta, an unlikely win in India (their first in 27 years), a first international trophy and a brief dalliance with the number one spot across three formats, all from the deepest of nadirs: the dismissal of a bickering captain-coach combo and 51 all out in the West Indies.

Sadly, as is the way with these things, it is likely that his last, and lowest, moment will be the abiding act of his stewardship.

If Dave Brailsford and Team Sky’s marginal gains strategy could be said to have redefined management in the post-Armstrong era of cycling, and brought with it Britain’s first and second Tour de France winners, then Flower has done the same with “Team England”. He took his team to new heights by leaving no stone unturned in terms of fitness, nutrition, planning or discipline. At their best, England were fitter, their batsmen went bigger, their bowlers starved the opposition and their fielders were efficient and ruthless.

During this summer’s Ashes, though, Flower’s England fell apart. A whitewash is one thing but the manner and weight of those five defeats  – by 381, 218, 150, 281 runs and eight wickets in just 21 days – was quite staggering. The freefall has continued into the limited overs leg of the tour. Rigorous discipline and thorough planning wore senior players down to the point of exhaustion, the 82-page menu looked absurd and the fun looked absent. Furthermore, Flower’s frayed relationship with Kevin Pietersen, looked beyond repair.

For now, all England should thank Flower for they enjoyed the best of times under his rule. All good things come to an end though, and the time is ripe for a change of approach.

The players had listened to one voice for too long and Flower’s scientific approach to the game suddenly looked inflexible, pigheaded and lacking in flair, especially when compared to Darren Lehmann’s positively horizontal modus operandi.

Now, following their worst tour ever, England must let the good times roll.

With Hugh Morris, the Managing Director, and Geoff Miller, Chairman of selectors, being replaced by Paul Downton and James Whittaker respectively, now was the perfect time for Flower to move on. Monday’s flight home from this miserable tour should represent a new dawn for Team England.

Quite who will replace Flower is not yet confirmed. Ashley Giles, who has been looking after England’s limited overs cricket for a year, appears the thinking man’s choice, not least because, when announcing his departure, Flower called for the coaching roles to be reunited. As England don’t play a Test until June, Giles will likely take temporary charge while an appointment is made. If he’s not the chosen one, however, a peculiar situation will arise whereby he’s out of a job too.

Despite losing both the series under his remit in Australia with some interesting selections and some very ordinary cricket, Giles has much in his favour: he’s already on the inside, he knows the players, is calmness personified and is deemed a “safe pair of hands.”

There are already calls for blockbuster international names, of course. Gary Kirsten, who guided India and South Africa to the top of the Test tree, and Jason Gillespie, coach at Yorkshire, are two such names.

For now, all England should thank Flower for they enjoyed the best of times under his rule. All good things come to an end though, and the time is ripe for a change of approach.

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