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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.

George Dobell

July 12, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Andy Flower takes his whiteboard to training, Lord's, May 15, 2012
When will England's white board have written on it a holiday for Andy Flower? © Getty Images
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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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by threeslipsandagully 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?

Posted by JG2704 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

Posted by JG2704 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

Posted by JG2704 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

Posted by TheBengalTiger 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

Posted by CamS71 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.

Posted by Selassie-I 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..

Posted by YorkshirePudding 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.

Posted by abhitupe 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

Posted by MrBrightside92 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.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 13, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

@ the_blue_android /BengalTiger - We won't be looking past the SA test/ODI series for any team.To do so for India would be like a boxer looking past someone like Ali to someone like fight Joe Bugner.

Posted by amclean on (July 13, 2012, 5:24 GMT)

@ ordsalvord - I can't see that working. Andy is the boss, he just needs a bit of flexibility and should be able to hand the day-to-day running of the team to his assistant coach and captain. I wouldn't under estimate the role Andrew Strauss had played. As @ Nutcutlet suggests, the tour of NZ next March would be the logical time to take a break (and perhaps not for the whole tour). NZ is really struggling, is about to lose the best coach it could ever have, and dare I say it, has the climate and playing conditions that are most similar to England!

Posted by the_blue_android on (July 13, 2012, 3:25 GMT)

Yeah.Soon after the test series in India, England would claim that the series is not very relevant.

Posted by landl47 on (July 13, 2012, 3:10 GMT)

The ECB should realize how important Flower is to the national team and let him decide what breaks he would like to take and when he wants to take them. They can rely on him to make decisions which are not only in his, but the team's best interests.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 13, 2012, 3:05 GMT)

@TheBengalTiger on (July 12 2012, 21:00 PM GMT), England have said openly that their primary aim in ODIs is to win the next WC. As many people, both England and opposition supporters, have stated, England are playing a brand of cricket right now that suits in conditions that help fast bowlers but not necessarily in spinning conditions. As the story says, the next Champions Trophy is in England and the next World Cup is in Australia/NZ so winning in the subcontinent, which would likely require reconfiguring the side somewhat, does little to help the team win those tournaments. If the team is going to risk a series by giving Flower a break then logic dictates that it be one that least helps them achieve their primary goal. It's not a slight against India so you can put your claws away. It's simple practicality. England will want to win every series if they can but, if the WC is the main goal, ODI series on the subcontinent are, for now, less important.

Posted by TrickDaddy on (July 12, 2012, 23:37 GMT)

England can't produce coaches of high quality all they can do is get coaches from Zimbabwe and then not want to support Zimbabwe. Fletcher and Flower both Zimbabwean coaches who have transformed England from a 5-0 ashes team to a team that preety much white washes Aus! That shows how England has improved, give credit to Zim!

Posted by ordsalvord on (July 12, 2012, 22:18 GMT)

England play three different formats of international cricket and have a specialist captain for each team. Flower is an expert at Test cricket so to help him concentrate better on the Test team would it be worth the ECB employing a specialist ODI and or T20 coach? This would relieve Flower of pressure and possibly strengthen the national team across each format. just a thought.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 12, 2012, 21:01 GMT)

@vinuuu, I'm sorry but you are wrong about England playing mostly at home. In fact since the 1st Jan 2009, they have played 44 tests, of which 23 have been in the UK and 21 overseas, by the end of the year (31st Dec) it will be 26 Home and 25 away, by the start of the English summer in 2013 it will be 26 home and 28 away, by the end of the 2013 Ashes in Aus it will be 33 home and 33 away. I dont know the stats on ODI's but then I dont care about them.

Posted by TheBengalTiger on (July 12, 2012, 21:00 GMT)

making excuses for the India tour already? how does it have little relevence, its an international odi series, all such series should have relevence. You cant just pick and choose series you win and make them matter, and ignore the ones where you get thrashed.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 12, 2012, 20:52 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster on (July 12 2012, 18:01 PM GMT) Would a coach also not have a great input in team selections , tactics etc?

Posted by JG2704 on (July 12, 2012, 20:44 GMT)

@vinuuu on (July 12 2012, 15:41 PM GMT) LOL - Conveniently also forgetting the 4-0 win in ODIs in UAE and getting the better of Pak and India away in T20s. I won't bother saying that Eng plays by and large the same amount of tests at home as away and we both know that Australia were in transition when we won the last Ashes series there and Australia are just next door and we play them all the time ,, right? Please publish

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (July 12, 2012, 20:34 GMT)

@ gnomeorram - SPOT ON MATE! Most of those type of commentators on here never even actually watched England play. They look at the scorecard and draw their conclusions from there. Am sure the Pak series would have been very much different had Eng able to chase a modest total of 145. As it turned out they choked...lesson learned and applied in SL in 2nd test. Had Monty held on to one of two chances Jayawardena offered him, the SL series might have had a different result. You'll get your turn India and come Christmas the only ones celebrating are going to be Flower, Strauss, and Co.

Posted by yorkslanka on (July 12, 2012, 20:28 GMT)

@nlight- you feel that you lost due to bad form?how about you were beaten by the better team at the time?show some humbleness my friend..

Posted by Trickstar on (July 12, 2012, 20:20 GMT)

@gnomeorram Excellent post, the problem with this tedious lot from the sub continent is that they are that desperate for England to do bad, mainly due to their own inferiority complex, they don't listen to facts or reason. Like you said the one day loss to India and the Pakistan test series loss is all they can cling to, they fail to mention when saying England are only good at home is that we've beat SA in a one day series away, Pakistan away, The Ashes away. Not long before Flower was coach we won a one day series in SL, Test series in SA and NZ. They seem to not understand the difference between a dominant team at home and a decent one away like England and a great side everywhere like WI & Aus of old, how long did it take that Aus side to win on the sub continent, years, people seem to forget. A lot of people hold SA as a great side they do pretty well away from home but some people fail to mention that they have not been dominant at home, in fact they have 1 series win in 3 year

Posted by Vilander on (July 12, 2012, 20:08 GMT)

Love to see England team do well, it would be good to see them in India soon, to get humiliated again.

Posted by Trickstar on (July 12, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

@360review You're so quick to have whinge, pick fault and have a go at England that you completely failed to see the point the writer was making, that the next world cup will be in Australia and so an Indian one day series has absolutely no bearing on that at all, looks like you have missed that fact and you're reasoning is arrogant and clearly lacks respect.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (July 12, 2012, 20:01 GMT)

@vinuuu: I wonder if you've read the article? It looks as if your tired & cliched comment has gone missing from another thread! Here, it is signalled as 4 wides! To return to sensible and relevant discussion: having read the article it would appear that (a) Andy Flower does indeed need a rest, and (b) Richard Halsall should deputise. Now it has to be built into the upcoming schedule. I would suggest that after India he is given the extended break that he so richly deserves. England can and will take NZ in their stride, and the ODIs v India in January can be confidently left in the hands of his deputy. This should be a matter that is put in place without further delay, before the less enlightened & more excitable quarters of the popular press start over-reacting and try to make something out of nothing. Give the man a break!

Posted by Rally_Windies on (July 12, 2012, 20:00 GMT)

when you give a man who has years of experience of captaining a mediocre side, and always had them punching above their weight class, an actual competent team ...

this is what happens ..

If Australia really want to get back to the top....

Flower is what they need ....

poor WI .. Gibson is not substitute for the real thing ........

Posted by nlight on (July 12, 2012, 19:52 GMT)

I would argue that the main reason for the losses against Pakistan was that the team was out of season/lacking competitive fluency. Once the players found their touch after the main event, they were more than a match for their opponents.

Older England supporters have been waiting a long time for a run of good results such as we've enjoyed recently. Clearly, Andy Flower has been pivotal in that success and every effort must be made to ensure he is retained for as long as possible.

Posted by Muhtasim13 on (July 12, 2012, 19:50 GMT)

@360review, England spent over 3 months in Australia before the last world cup. So which matches in the sub-continent are you referring to. And why are you even ranting about George's comment regarding the India series? If India can allow Tendulkar to rest in any series he wishes, then why can't England allow their coach to take time off?

Posted by yorkslanka on (July 12, 2012, 19:19 GMT)

coach needs rest??what about the the players??

Posted by 360review on (July 12, 2012, 18:14 GMT)

Funny how George mentions "ODI tour of India, has little relevance to future global ODI tournaments" and forgets the fact that they did not make it to finals in last ODI world-cup even when they had matches in sub-continent prior to world-cup. The reasoning is arrogant and clearly lacks respect for different cricket conditions around the world. Flower should be rested, but then again who will help England complain to the opposition team about a not out while Flower is out resting.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (July 12, 2012, 18:01 GMT)

I personally believe that in this day and age the coach is an unnecessary entity in cricket. It's not like he's teaching them how to bat and bowl. Sure, Flower can take a nice long break before the tough winter tour of the Indian subcontinent. He deserves it especially after taking England to glorious new heights following his appointment.

Posted by applethief on (July 12, 2012, 18:01 GMT)

Oh come on Dobell, no matter how hard you sing it, the rest of the world knows all England did was throw a lot of money at the problem and hang around to wait for the other great sides to decline. Nothing more to it, plain and simple.

Posted by gnomeorram on (July 12, 2012, 17:33 GMT)

Well that didn't take long, did it? Two comments in and another tedious remonstration that Eng aren't as good as they think they are...English conditions...lions in their own den blah blah blather burble. So what exactly have England done overseas? Well, followed up a desperately poor Test series against Pak with an ODI whitewash and T20 series victory; drawn a Test series in Sri Lanka; drawn a Test series and won an ODI series in SA; won the T20 world cup; oh yes, and given the Aussies their biggest ever home series smackdown in the Ashes. But here's the best bit, vinuuu: like George says in his article, this is a team still on a journey. They've certainly got a taste for winning, but setbacks like the UAE Tests mean they know there's still room for improvement. What's great about this Eng team is not how good it already is, but how good it's going to be. So by all means cling onto your fraying subcontinental comfort blanket. I doubt there'll be much of it left by the end of the year.

Posted by amclean on (July 12, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

This article is very timely George as England have, unquestionably, the best cricket coach available. Brian Clough regularly took holidays during the football season and it did not prevent the amazing success that he and Peter Taylor had at Derby County and Nottingham Forest. Clough did it for two reasons: to remain fresh during the nine-month season and to be with his family. With the disciplined practices he and Andrew Strauss have established in the team, there's no reason why Andy Flower needs to be there every day.

Posted by denessa on (July 12, 2012, 15:51 GMT)

YES FLOWER NEEDS A BREAK ......THE SCHEDULE IS TOO PACKED.......HIS FAMILY NEEDS SOME QUALITY TIME WITH HIM....FOR THE GOOD OF HIS FAMILY HE SHOULD GET SOME MUCH NEEDED REST.....

Posted by vinuuu on (July 12, 2012, 15:41 GMT)

He may be the successfull coach But he is successfull only in English conditions .England has been playing most of its cricket in the english conditions but if they can win in the subcontinent conditions then we can say that they are top on the world. dont forget what happend in India (Lost 5-0 ODI Series) and Against Pakistan.

Posted by FreddyForPrimeMinister on (July 12, 2012, 15:38 GMT)

Agree 100%, George. Jimmy Anderson didn't want to be rested and there is the possibility that neither will Andy Flower - but the ECB should take the same step as Flower himself and insist that a rest is for his own long term good!

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