ECB ushers in homegrown coach
Forget the speculation surrounding the identity of Duncan Fletcher's successor - the issue has been cut and dried with the bare minimum of fuss. Peter Moores has been unveiled as the new England coach almost before the ink has had to time to dry on Fletcher's P45. It's a bold declaration of faith from the ECB. They have been guilty of much dithering in the course of the past 12 months, not least where the identity of the captain has been concerned, but today's announcement ushers in a fresh start for a stale team.
Although the details of Moores's contract have not yet been revealed, it is indisputably a full-time appointment and that can only be the right approach to take. The last time England endured an inter-regnum period was in 1999 while Fletcher was seeing out his time with Glamorgan. Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting oversaw the preparations of a listless team that sunk to the bottom of the world during their home series defeat against New Zealand. Given how dreadful England's recent experiences have been, there's really no place for further faffing.
There will be inevitable debate as to whether Moores is the right choice. He's certainly not the glamorous option - Sri Lanka's flavour of the month, Tom Moody, with his English wife and life-long roots in county cricket, was the ideal option in many people's eyes, while Dav Whatmore (who today announced his departure from Bangladesh) and John Wright were other big names with international experience to fall back on.
But what Moores does bring is a sense of direction. He was a solid professional with Worcestershire and later Sussex, whom he captained at the end of his 16-year career before stepping up to become the county's coach. In 2003 he coached them to their first County Championship title and, in 2005, he succeeded Rod Marsh as director of the National Academy. Onwards and upwards with every new appointment, he represents the type of meritocracy that the ECB would wish to cultivate given their stated commitment to grassroots cricket.
An appointment from within the English game was the politically expedient solution, especially when you consider that Fletcher - the first overseas coach in the team's history - completely bypassed the county system in his bid to strengthen the England side, and is now suffering the consequences, particularly in the pace-bowling department, as a generation of under-bowled and naïve cricketers attempt to fill the void left by the likes of Steve Harmison and Simon Jones.
"He is one of the highest qualified coaches in world cricket," said David Collier, the chief executive, in a subtle plug of the coaching schemes that have been put in place by the ECB over the past few years, and of which Moores is now the indisputable figurehead. What is more, he has worked with several of the cricketers who must now be given their chance to lead England out of the doldrums. No matter how impressive a Moody or a Whatmore might have been, they don't have the two-year head start that Moores has had since taking over at the Academy.
Alastair Cook, the Essex and England batsman, certainly thinks the appointment is an excellent one. He told Cricinfo: "When I've come across him he has been fantastic and I look forward to working with him. His vision, leadership and enthusiasm will stand him in good stead to do a good job."
Moores could even be the man to marry up those two competing entities, the County Championship and the Academy, both of which were ignored to a greater or lesser extent during Fletcher's dogmatic time at the helm. Unlike Fletcher, Moores has a grounding in the English game that will surely enable a greater flexibility when it comes to player availability between internationals. You don't survive 16 years on the county treadmill without knowing how much cricket is too much.
And as far as the Academy goes, it is hard to envisage the sort of set-to that existed between Fletcher and Moores's predecessor, Rod Marsh, two opinionated men who fought like cat and dog over the identity - among other things - of England's wicketkeeper. If the ECB intend to be consistent, then Moores' replacement as director will also be an appointment from within, and presumably a man with whom he has enjoyed a more harmonious relationship.
There will be a temptation to portray Moores as a type of Steve McClaren figure, a safe pair of English hands to make up for the iniquities of Johnny Foreigner. But the big difference is that McLaren, as Sven Goran Eriksson's successor, was anointed at the last gasp, following a protracted and embarrassing pursuit of another big name, Luis Felipe Scolari. The timing of Fletcher's departure suggested that there might be a late scramble for out-of-contract international coaches, but the speed of Moores's appointment quashes such a notion. The ECB have identified their man, and they have rightly put their full faith in him.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo