England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Edgbaston June 5, 2012

Flower defends England rotation policy


It was telling that, not for the first time in this series, it was a man who was conspicuous by his absence who dominated the pre-Test discussion at Edgbaston. Speaking about England's decision to rest James Anderson from the final Test against West Indies, Andy Flower defended the rotation policy, saying that the demanding fixture list meant it would be "crazy and naive" to think England could utilise just three fast bowlers - Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan - over the next couple of years.

The move has provoked a varied response. While some have understood that it is simply a sign of the times and more a reflection of England's hectic schedule than any slight on Anderson or the ticket-buying public of Birmingham, others have reacted as if it were an early sign of the breakdown of law, order and civilization. For example, Ian Botham, the former England allrounder and captain, wrote in his Mirror column that the decision was "complete madness" and "an insult to the English public who pay their money to go and watch the best players in the land represent them on the field".

Either way, it is a measure of the sensitivity of the subject that Flower, the England coach, took it upon himself to come and speak to a section of the media and provide an in-depth explanation of the rationale behind the decision. Flower, while at pains not to be seen to criticise officials at the ECB who have agreed the playing schedule, called the itinerary "incredibly heavy". He also reminded supporters that rotation was not a new thing - Andrew Strauss, the captain, was rested from a tour of Bangladesh in 2010 - and, while Flower declined to answer any questions about Kevin Pietersen, he did admit that the prospect of players choosing to specialise was an "ongoing issue with the schedules that we're being asked to undertake".

"We came into this series with one goal and that was to win the series," Flower said. "We've achieved that goal so our priorities do shift. I'm not intending to demean the importance of this Test but, since we won the series already, our priority on the Test front does now shift to the South Africa series. There is also a slight shift to the West Indies one-day series because that series stands at 0-0. We haven't won that series, we've won this one. Part of our decision making is based around those reasons.

"If it had been 1-1 going into this third Test, Jimmy would have played. He is not badly injured and he could play this Test if we wanted him to. But it's 2-0 and we've won the series already.

"The second point I would make is that the days of us playing our players until they are either worn down significantly, or snap physically or mentally, are over. We think it our responsibility to manage things better than that. It is our duty to make decisions in their interests and the interests of the team. In the past we tended to play the fast bowlers until they were either bowling so poorly we had to leave them out, or they break down. And that doesn't make sense to us.

"Would you enter your prize horse in every race through the year? You wouldn't. You would target the races you want to win. We've won this race already. Would you play your most valuable pitcher in every single game in a baseball season? No you wouldn't. In fact, you don't even see them play full games. You pull them out of games because physically it makes sense to do so. Eventually their shoulder or their elbow would go. Does Wayne Rooney play every game for Manchester United? No, he doesn't because he would break down if he tried to do so. The schedule is really busy, and that's why we have to make these decisions. It would be ridiculous if we expected our fast bowlers to play in every single game.

"These types of decisions are made for the good of the team but also they will extend the careers of bowlers like Anderson. Actually I think it's beneficial to him. I understand the reasons why he is disappointed but it is beneficial to him in the long run.

"My third point is we have to try to and grow our pool of fast bowlers that are available to the England side. You would have seen through the Ashes in Australia that it wasn't the same attack that was used throughout that series. When we left Steven Finn out and when Stuart Broad was injured, the guys who came in excelled. Over the next couple of years the schedule is incredibly heavy. It is not only going to be Anderson, Broad and Bresnan who are going to be our bowlers over the next couple of years. It would be crazy and naive to think so. We are going to use other fast bowlers. It is part of growing our pool of fast bowlers.

"My fourth point is the possible replacement or replacements we use in this Test match are fine bowlers in their own right who have already performed very successfully in Test matches in England. I don't see it as devaluing this Test, I see it as a really exciting opportunity for us and for those watching the game. We are making this decision in the best interests of English cricket. We are not trying to overcomplicate, or devalue the game in any way. I perfectly understand why James Anderson is disappointed to be left out and I would be surprised if he felt any different. He is hungry to play. That's okay.

"He will be using this time to get his body in as good order as possible. He is carrying a couple of niggles and this is a chance to get rid of them. If it was 1-1 he would be playing, but it's not. We make decisions that make us stronger in the medium to long-term. Those are the reasons why we've made those decisions. Some people will disagree with them and that's fair enough. But I hope you can understand the logic behind those decisions."

Flower admitted that Broad may also be left out of the final XI "for similar reasons" and dismissed the idea that either he or Anderson would be selected with a view to improving their Test statistics. "We don't select people to get their Test tally up," Flower said. "We make decisions in the best interests of English cricket."

It was also noticeable that, in Anderson's absence, England spent some time in fielding drills with prospective new members of the slip cordon. Jonathan Trott, Steven Finn, Jonny Bairstow and Alastair Cook were among those who are not always in the cordon to be put through their paces.

Anderson's absence is unlikely to have much effect on last-minute ticket sales at Edgbaston. The weather forecast - grim, as ever this summer, it seems - may prove more relevant, though relatively high ticket prices will not have helped. Warwickshire, in their defence, would point out that various group discounts and 'kids for a quid' schemes were available.

They may also point out that ticket sales as not as poor as has been suggested in some quarters. As of Tuesday, Edgbaston had pre-sold 52,300 tickets for the Test. While fourth-day sales are poor - around 4,000 - the first three days are respectable (16,500, 14,800 and 17,000 respectively). Indeed, some grounds outside London would need to turn people away with those figures.

It is an important game for Warwickshire. Having invested heavily in redeveloping their stadium to an excellent standard - something they were encouraged to do by the ECB - they then missed out in the distribution deal and will not host an Ashes Test in 2013 or an India Test in 2014. While they will host some attractive limited-overs games - not least the final of the ICC Champions Trophy - they do not host another Test after this until 2015. With hefty loans to repay, they need to maximise revenues from this Test.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on June 8, 2012, 20:02 GMT

    @Meety - Re Broad , he is like alot of decent T20 bowlers in that he can have matches where he goes for around 5rpo and others where it's upped to 8 or 9. What I like about him is his bottle. He can have a bad over but will often come back stronger. Re Morgan , yes maybe I overlooked him. He's looked horribly out of nick recently (albeit mostly in tests) and I don't think he was once used by his IPL team. I do quite rate Bresnan in all formats. Actually I forgot about him when I mentioned about players who play all 3 fmts for England. I'd be interested to hear who you think is a better all rounder than Bresnan.

  • Roo on June 8, 2012, 8:42 GMT

    Cannot even see why rotation is an issue... Oz have been using a rotation policy for a while now & is part of CA policy... Rotating fast bowlers makes sense at many levels - keeping those close to being picked in some Test form; all fast bowlers have injury concerns at some point so having someone slot straight in, eases issues... I would have no problems with Bresnan/Broad batting at no.7 [my 2 favorite Eng players - no coincidence :) ] & adding Finn/Onions to the 11...

  • Roo on June 8, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    @wvlc... Agree on your Botham comments... Also think Jimmy has a greater fitness level than Botham ever got to, so am sure he has another 5 good years in front of him...

  • Andrew on June 8, 2012, 3:54 GMT

    @JG2704 - just on the 4 "backbone" players, I would drop Bresnan from that category & put Morgan in. He is one of the best T20 batsmen in the game.

  • Andrew on June 8, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    @JG2704 - maybe I understated Broad's T20 credentials. I HAD been of the opinion that England's success in T20s were bowler led, however, apart from Swann, Dernbach & Sidebottom are the only statistically par or better bowlers in that format. So I actually now think that England's success has primarily been due to the batsmen with KP & Morgan the main credits. So I was surprised that only Swann's T20 stats are what I consider top class, with Broad's stats somewhere in the rest. I commented on an article about the Talisman Bresnan. I notice his FC, T20, List A & ODI stats are quite ordinary, at this stage I would pick quite a few other bowling allrounders in the Eng T20 side BEFORE Bresnan, (am not knocking his consderable achievements). LOL re: scrapping T20s now that KP has retired! As an Ozzy, he is the ONE Eng player that I have felt that no matter how well we played, if he is in form, he could/would destroy us. (Emphasis on no matter how well we played!).

  • John on June 7, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    @Meety - I think one thing we differ on is that you say Broad is a reasonably good T20 player whereas I would say he is an excellent T20 player. Even though we are currently 1 in that format I feel we have 3 or 4 players who have been the backbone to that side and we have lost one of them. So I'd say Broad,Swann and Bresnan and I think all 3 are harder to replace in the ODI/T20 fmts than in the test arena so personally I'd prefer them to rest Broad for the odd test and bring in Finn or Onions as I don't feel we would be losing so much quality compared to replacing him in shorter forms. In fact , now I look at our T20/ODI sides without KP - I think those formats are meaningless and should be scrapped

  • Jason on June 7, 2012, 5:22 GMT

    The Australian ODI series is part of a bi-lateral agreement with CA, in exchange for ODI's this summer in England, England get am ODI series ahead of the WC in 2015, which is designed to allow the england players more preperation time in Aussie conditions. I agree i would rather have had a 4th Test against SA than this series.

  • Andrew on June 7, 2012, 0:24 GMT

    @JG2704 - re: meaningless - LOL! You are allowed to change your mind if England lose!!!! My arguement is only in relevance. I love ODIs way more than T20s & couldn't care less if they (T20s) were only payed at Franchise level. IF, bilateral ODIs were cut out of the FTP, players would NOT have much of a leg to stand on with the issue of burn out. IF I was running the ICC (with their pay packet too!), I would instead have some short tri-laterals with an Associate team & two test nations. I'd replace the Oz 5-match series with Oz, Eng & Ire, play each other once & have a final (4 games all up). I admit it would be a box-office flop if Ire knocked Eng (or OZ for that matter) out, but it has in my view far more context than 5 bi-lateral matches, does some good for the 2nd tier of cricket.

  • Andrew on June 7, 2012, 0:16 GMT

    @landl47 - re: ODI correlation to Tests. A point of clarification from me, I am NOT referring to the results, I actually am not overly concerned whether Oz win or not (want them too win to stay at the top though), your CORRECT arguement that you have put fwd is on the basis of results. I beleive prior to the 05 Ashes Eng lost the ODIs, HOWEVER, they showed their hand pretty early on, & that INTENT & EXECUTION, by & large carried them thru to win the Tests. That is what I was referring to, hardly mentioned results, the important issues to me was WOULD there be any take outs from the series? You think not, I dunno (meaniing unsure either way, but it is more intriguing than the actual cricket IMO)!!!!!

  • Andrew on June 7, 2012, 0:10 GMT

    @JG2704 - re: Broad. I did say that, but it was prefaced with a view to the primacy of Tests & that Broad COULD be said to be injury prone. The bloke is only 24(ish?), so there is possibly 10 yrs of quality test cricket left in him. If Broad was to get injured (fingers crossed that doesn't happen), my theory is that it would be better he be injured from playing a Test than say a bilateral T20 (or for that matter a foreign T20 league). Broad is a reasonably good T20 player, & I think in isolation - his selection as captain of the T20 side was a good one on several fronts. I suppose it comes back to the fact I don't like rotation in tests. As I said previously, I understand why the ECB took their approach, but the reality is, it does devalue tests. Oz have had a fair few injuries to pace bowlers of late, but about 10yrs ago when the injuries weren't sp prolific, pace bowlers were rotated regularly in ODIs & pretty much NEVER in ODIs, I liked that, is that THE way to go? Up to opinion!

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