April 24, 2014

Moores and the shadow of the past

His second spell as England coach might be nothing like his first, but memories of it will hover nevertheless

Downton and Moores: the wicketkeepers dunnit © Getty Images

The true conspiracy theorist will point out that the new England set-up is not the revenge of the establishment but of the wicketkeepers: Paul Downton, Andy Flower, Peter Moores and Paul Farbrace all spent their playing careers as members of the Secret Society Of Sticksmen.

Conspiracy theorists can see conspiracy everywhere. That's sort of the point. The return of Peter Moores has been something of a lightning rod for speculation - Is he being rewarded for keeping his mouth shut last time? Is he the one candidate certain not to ask for the reinstatement of KP? And yet his time in charge is just as likely to be shaped by the forces of story and narrative.

This week, another sport provided an example of its power in the connected world. The news that David Moyes was to be sacked as the manager of Manchester United was broken online in the early afternoon of Easter Monday by a group of journalists apparently briefed en masse by someone close to the club's decision-makers. Two hours later, the story had such reach and forward momentum that the dismissal had been accepted as fact. Had United wanted to keep Moyes, they may not have been able to - things had travelled too far and too fast for it to be plausible.

It was a story that had been waiting to happen, prefigured by United's history. When their last great manager before Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby, retired, his successor had been quickly removed, an event referenced constantly by the media from the moment that Moyes was appointed. There was an element of self-fulfilling prophecy about it all.

Peter Moores begins his job in a similar situation. The past hovers uneasily over him too, in this case the long-held narrative that you should never go back. He was cast in a particular role during his first term as England's coach, that of the brilliant county man out of his depth in the international game. His approach, launched at his players with an all-embracing enthusiasm, did not always sit well with the established stars of the game. Michael Vaughan felt that he and Moores had clashing personalities, and Kevin Pietersen famously advocated his dismissal. In all, he lasted 20 months, his teams having won eight of 22 Tests, all but one of those against New Zealand or West Indies. He gave a rather woolly performance in his first press conference back in the job.

None of this need have any bearing on the new England team he will build with Alastair Cook, who is a fan of his methods, and who Vaughan feels will work well with Moores. Yet the narrative from his first spell will bear down upon Moores during difficult times. He will feel it hovering above, waiting to be spoken, waiting to be written. The sense of history repeating may be difficult to stop should it gain any purchase in the early part of his return.

The story has a lingual element to it. Andy Flower understood that, and tried to move the public description of his job away from Head Coach and towards Team Director. This is a subtle but sensible choice: it says to his players that they do not need coaching but a different form of management, based on strategy and planning. It also offers a certain professional distance from the men that he manages. One of the criticisms of David Moyes at United was that he coached the players himself, whereas Alex Ferguson left that to others and watched on through the glass of his office, moving downstairs only when things weren't to his liking. Moyes demystified himself by being ever-present, a trap that Moores fell into first time around. Flower and Duncan Fletcher understood the power and control that distance can offer.

Moores now takes charge of a different team (or "group" as he is sure to have it). They will be younger and more open to him, and Cook's support will give him strength. He needs a willing media and wider public, though, and it's here that an old story is waiting to tell itself once more.

Jon Hotten blogs here and tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 27, 2014, 4:12 GMT

    I look at it somewhat differently. The problem Moores has in his new position is that he will be judged by his results too quickly. He is inheriting a team from which four of the stalwarts of the Flower years- Strauss, Trott, KP and Swann- are missing. You could also add in Collingwood, not so much for his batting as for his impact in the field.

    Moores has to bring in new players, assess whether they can handle international cricket (not always easy) and mould them into a side. That takes time. Unfortunately for Moores, as you can see from comments on this article, he is not even being given the luxury of one match before fans are criticizing him. If he doesn't win immediately (and the chances are he won't) they'll be calling for his head.

    Flower took over the side Moores put together and with only one significant new player (Trott) had a very good team. It might well be Moores' fate that the same thing will happen again and the next England manager will benefit.

  • Perry on April 26, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    England is reverting to its bad old ways i.e.. an inability to nurture talented players like Pietersen while relying on county stars who prove hapless in the international game. Moore's represents a return to a mediocre past. England needs somebody who will shake things up.

  • Dummy4 on April 25, 2014, 18:22 GMT

    If the recent Ashes stories are true then all Lehmann did was tell the players to stop looking over their shoulders and bought back a 'feel' for what is right not science and stats. Cook combined with Moores doesn't fill me with excitement but stranger things have happened.

  • Rizwan on April 25, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    There was little importance attached to the position of coach / Team Director in the 80s and 90s when the Windies team were unstoppable- Ian Chapple and Shane Warne . among others believe that the Captain should be in charge and not the coach - Unfortunately , ever since Andy Flower took over , he has marginalised the captain - Presumably , Kevin Peterson was goading Cooke to take stand up and run the show rather than meekly submit to the Team Director.

  • Matthew on April 25, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    @TimmyFromTimbuktu - couldn't agree more. Fantastic point.

  • G on April 25, 2014, 5:15 GMT

    Moores comes in when England have two weak Test teams visiting this summer viz. Sri Lanka and India. He can use it to establish himself since the opposition do not have the bowling to revive the 'Bring back KP' call.

  • Graham on April 24, 2014, 22:20 GMT

    He lasted 20 months in the job last time - I'll give him until the end of 2015 this time around. I really don't believe Moores has what it takes at this level.

  • Dummy4 on April 24, 2014, 11:59 GMT

    If the ECB wanted a basically decent man, without much of a clue, but who'd had some modest recent success at Club level... Why didn't they sign David Moyes?!

  • xxxxxxxx on April 24, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    Time will tell of course, but increasingly it seems that the best and most talented player in the team was excluded to help prop up a weak captain and now a weak coach.

  • David on April 24, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    At best, Moores can do a good holding job over the next 2 or 3 years. But he is never going to take England back to the heights they experienced under Fletcher of Flower. He's too orthodox, too correct (a style better suited to the English county game), and lacks that bit of vision, open-mindedness and unorthodoxy you need to get ahead at international level. His first press-conference suggests that nothing has changed - that at international level his thinking is still woolly and based around sound-bites and clichés.

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