England news February 1, 2014

Flower offered role teaching leadership skills

Vithushan Ehantharajah

Andy Flower has been offered a new role with a prime focus upon identifying and developing leadership qualities in young England cricketers, according to the chairman of the ECB, Giles Clarke.

Discussions are already well advanced but Flower has yet to confirm that he believes the role will have enough impact to interest him.

"Andy Flower has a great deal to give English cricket," Clarke said. "I'm very confident he'll remain with us and I think he has a lot to bring us, particularly in the development of our young players.

"He has huge coaching abilities and is also a great identifier and developer of leadership in young men, and I think that's something we would all agree is something we need to develop more or and investing more in at Loughborough and in the counties as time goes on. "

Clarke, speaking at England's team base at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne the morning after England's T20 defeat in Melbourne subjected them to lost series in all three formats, remained effusive in his praise for the benefits Flower had brought to English cricket.

He hailed him as "a man of enormous integrity" and asserted that he was "the most successful coach in England's history."

He re-emphasised that Flower's decision to step down was entirely of his own choosing and arose from his belief - shared by the incoming MD of England Cricket, Paul Downton - that it was time to unify the coaching setup, across all three formats. The conclusion that the system of split coaches was not working had emerged during talks with Downton, aimed at examining Flower's key objectives and the issues English cricket was facing.

Clarke said: "Andy has been concerned that because there are players who go across formats, and of course the management team goes across formats, it's extremely important to have the same culture in the England side in terms of preparation, management, the way they approach everything and the way they all relate to one another other.

"I think since December 2012, when we decided with Andy that we would split the roles, we've learned quite a lot about what it's like dividing those roles and he felt that it was now important to bring the roles back together and it was better than way."

Clarke brushed off any notion of surprise at Flower's decision. Asked if he tried to change Flower's mind, he laughed: "When Andy Flower makes his mind up to do something, he's not the easiest of people to dissuade."

For now, Ashley Giles is the front runner to take on the Test mantle, unifying all three formats with the ODI and T20 roles he already occupies. Clarke identified Giles as a "very strong candidate" and a "valued employee of the ECB", but was also keen not to step on Downton's toes, whose job it will be to identify and acquire Flower's successor.

"Paul will conduct a proper process - there may well be other outstanding candidates who may emerge. It will be a matter for Paul and those he uses to advise him on that."

Clarke added: "With no Test cricket due to be played until June, when England host Sri Lanka, the main immediate focus is the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. Ashley is in charge of all that, anyway, and he's in charge of the West Indies, and will take charge of the side continuously, so that process is very clear. "

Clarke was also steadfast in his belief that Alastair Cook will be lead England out at Lord's as England captain, talking up the imminent future as "Cook's era".

As expected, the 5-0 Ashes whitewash was dismissed as a factor for Flower's stepping aside. It is a surprise, not least because of the manner of the defeats and the visible weariness of players who, it has been argued, had been pushed too hard, too much.

Instead, Clarke recalled the comments made by Dennis Amiss, the former England opening batsman and vice chairman of the ECB, after he and Hugh Morris had interviewed Flower for the role.

"Dennis reminded me that Andy said he reckoned it was a five year job," Clarke said. "And he's been proved absolutely right."