England news July 12, 2012

Time to give Flower a break

Just as England's players benefit from rest and rotation, so Andy Flower's long-term future as director of cricket might be extended and enhanced if he enjoyed similar treatment.

These are golden days for English cricket. After years of mediocrity, after years when success was the exception not the norm, after years of gallows humour, of early exits and embarrassing defeats, England are within an ace of becoming the top-rated side in all three formats of the game.

Whatever happened in the UAE, and whatever happens in the series against South Africa - there will be bumps in the road on any journey - English cricket has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance.

A key and enduring ingredient in that success has been Andy Flower. It is quite true that he has built on the work of others - the likes of Lord MacLaurin, Nasser Hussain, Duncan Fletcher, Micky Stewart, Michael Vaughan and David Lloyd all played their part - but Flower, with his planning, his dedication, his calm and his vision, has helped transform a side that was beaten 5-0 in the Ashes in 2006-07 to one that looks as if could inflict a similarly overwhelming victory over the same opposition next year.

Flower is a gem. He needs to be valued. To be nurtured. And, just as the players benefit from rest and rotation, so Flower's long-term future as coach might be extended and enhanced if he enjoyed similar treatment.

The topic is beginning to be discussed in senior circles in the ECB. The recognition is privately growing that England's non-stop schedule could one day lose a coach of inestimable value unless a solution is not only adopted, but vigorously defended.

Flower's schedule is relentless. This winter, for example, he will depart for Sri Lanka in September for the World T20. If England progress to the final of that, he will have about two weeks in England before departing for the tour of India and New Zealand which, but for eight days at Christmas, is unbroken until the end of March. This is a schedule that asks a great deal of any one. For a man with a wife and young children, it is a schedule that asks too much.

In The Plan, Steve James' study of how Fletcher and Flower have transformed English cricket, James recalls an interview that Flower gave a little more than a year ago. In it, he admits guilt that for most of the year he is an absentee father.

Flower said: "I'm not convinced I'm doing the right thing by the family by doing this job. I'm a bit greedy because I'm trying to get the best of both worlds by helping to raise a young family and also trying to make a difference with the England cricket team. I worry about the fact that this time can't be regained. I worry about the fact that the kids might at some stage resent me for being away during these years."

It is not just that the ECB - and, in particular Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket - have a duty of care towards Flower, it is that they should view resting him as an investment. If Flower, as he has hinted, walks away from the job in a year or two with a view to spending more time with his family, England will have a huge pair of shoes to fill.

But, if Flower is managed properly, if he is allowed more balance in his life, there is no reason to think he could not be fulfilling the same role in five or six years.

There are a couple of obvious opportunities to rest him. The ODI tour of India, which begins at the start of January, is in one option. The tour, though likely to be watched by many, has little relevance to future global ODI tournaments, with conditions in Asia markedly different to those for the next ICC Champions Trophy next year in England or the World Cup, to be played in Australia and New Zealand.

The Test tour of New Zealand provides another potential opportunity. While some will decry any suggestion that England are not prioritising Test cricket, it is also worth noting that it currently appears that several New Zealand players will miss the return tour due to their involvement in the IPL.

That only leaves the question of a substitute for Flower. While there are obvious candidates within the county games - Mick Newell, Ashley Giles, Chris Adams and Peter Moores all offer viable alternatives - the most likely man is already with the squad. Richard Halsall, ostensibly the fielding coach, has increasingly grown into the role of Flower's right-hand man and has already stood in for him when Flower was given a break for the ODI in Dublin in August 2011 and for two days of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane in November 2010 when Flower required surgery to remove a melanoma from below his right eye.

The benefit of Halsall is not only that he offers continuity - he knows the team, Flower's methods and would cause minimum disruption - but that his short-term promotion will not offer the complications that could arise if a new coach, with new methods, comes in to the role and enjoys immediate success.

It is to Flower's credit that he may not seek such opportunities. But, just as even the best bowlers needs a break between his spells, Flower, for his and the team's long-term good, needs a break.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Charles on July 14, 2012, 12:11 GMT

    @abhitupe Who called England invincible? The only "screaming" is coming from people keen to deride them as failures as the number one ranked team by jumping all over a single series loss and entitled Indian supporters who believe that no-one else should be ranked number one. If you want to talk about playing well outside of home conditions, India went on an eight match losing streak away from home in England and Australia, where their batsmen looked as clueless if not more so than England's did against Pakistan's spin over the winter, and their bowling was abject. England's batting performances in tests against Pakistan in the UAE were abysmal, but they won the ODI series 4-0 and the T20 series 2-1, whereas India failed to win a single match against England during the 2011 tour. Now who's poor away from home?

  • John on July 14, 2012, 9:04 GMT

    @TheBengalTiger on (July 13 2012, 12:20 PM GMT) - You certainly don't appear to have an inferiority complex. Strangely the opposite please publish

  • John on July 13, 2012, 20:09 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding on (July 13 2012, 08:47 AM GMT) and judging by the comms on these threads very few WI fans want Gibson in charge either

  • John on July 13, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    @ abhitupe on (July 13 2012, 08:40 AM GMT) 2 ways of looking at it there. The other way is that in the last 3 years England have lost just one test series home or away and I believe drawn just the 2 away to SA and SL , so I guess it depends how you want to view things. If you actually take the margin of defeat out in UAE our record stands up pretty well , and as CamS71 on (July 13 2012, 11:09 AM GMT) most aren't saying Eng are invincible

  • Mike on July 13, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    Trickstar- the last thing sub continent fans have is an inferiority complex. We beat you every time you come out here. As for saying that we are desperate for you to do bad- its not true. We take greater pleasure in seeing our own team win, not seeing the other team lose. Cant say the same for certain others though, whose sole ambition in life is to see India do badly

  • Cameron on July 13, 2012, 11:09 GMT

    @abhitupe: ehhh dude, no-one English is saying England are invincible so I have no idea where you're getting that from. Also they have not failed miserably in Asia at all. They've had their struggles & some failures for sure, but a 1-1 Test draw vs SL & a 4-0 ODI drubbing of Pakistan are NOT failures. As ever not factually based spoutings from the embittered. And there is not a single Enland player/coach/fan..etc is is happy with just a win in Aus. We want to win everywhere. BTW we've also recently won an ODI & drawn a Test series in SA. Please brush up on some facts before posting this abject nonsense.

  • Rayner on July 13, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    @jimmy2s, I would suggest reading up on the complete transformation of the structure of English cricket over the last 15 or so years, central contracts, the performance centre, restructuring the couties into a two tier system, yes this costs money but it was a deep cutting revival started by Fletcher and Lrd McLaurin, not just a 'lets pay everyone loads and hope they do better' solution as per the IPL, we've all seen how that works..

  • Jason on July 13, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    @TrickDaddy, yep just like India going for australian, Zimbawean and Saffa coaches, even Aus have gone for a Saffa. In fact of the 9 test nations only the West Indies and NZ use home grown head coaches, all other teams do.

  • Abhishek on July 13, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    This is how rubbish English team is. They failed miserably in Asia and come this october, if not fail they will struggle against India again. They are happy with success in England one series win in Australia...they call it invincible. I agree that they have a good team, but they are too bothered with outside issues. They want to scream and tell the world how we are number 1 and we need to nurture this.... Rubbish I say, play and play well consistently every where you can down under and after you do well. the world will call you invincible, why not?? But play first well even outside English conditions. The fact of the matter is England over the years has lost so many series against Pakistan, Australia and West Indies. Now, when they win comfortably at home, they feel they are invincibles. I still say they have the best unit for all the three formats, not invincibles though. They like to talk a lot

  • Ben on July 13, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    Just following on from Landl47, is it ok for Flower to pick and choose which series he's involved in but not ok for KP to do it? I'm not an avid fan of KP (just like him when he does well for Eng..) but just to throw a thought in there...come on Indian fans, you've been used to beating everyone at home, I know you have the t-shirt, but let us have our t-shirt too. And who decides a SEVEN match ODI series? Does ECB need that much money? (I suppose it does to pay for the rain this season...) Less pointless scheduling will make this article redundant.

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