Unselfishness is key to England's success - Maynard
Matthew Maynard, the former England assistant coach, said the chief reason for England's rise to World No.1 in Tests is the unselfishness of their players. Maynard, who captained and coached Glamorgan, worked under Duncan Fletcher in the England setup from 2004 to 2007 and grew close to many of the current England players.
"The big thing is that they really and truly enjoy each other's success," he told ESPNcricinfo in Centurion, where he has started his new job as head coach of the Titans franchise. "It was like that to an extent when I was there but not collectively like it is now. There were one or two players then who still had that little bit of jealousy when someone else did well, but those guys are gone now."
Rather than go into detail about the players whose influence was less than favourable, Maynard preferred to reflect on the members of the team who have excelled and blossomed since his time with the squad.
"Ian Bell has really stood out for me. He has proven what a quality player he is. He has got much tougher as he has matured. Batsmen at the age of about 29, as he is now, start to play their best cricket and understand how much hard work is required of them." Bell was England's second-highest run-scorer in the recent home series against India, with 504 runs including a double-century in the fourth Test.
Maynard heaped praise on England's bowlers, singling out Graeme Swann as a major factor in the team's success. "James Anderson really leads that attack and Tim Bresnan is an important component as well, but the player that has really changed them is Graeme Swann. If you look at all the best international sides in history, barring West Indies when they had that great pace attack, they have had a world-class spinner, not just a good one."
The 2005 Ashes triumph was the highlight of Maynard's tenure, and he said while that was an important turning point for them there were lessons to be learned from the slump that followed that series win. Seven of the next 13 series were lost, two drawn and just four were won.
Maynard said part of the reason they failed to establish continuity after that Ashes victory was because they genuinely did not know how to. "It was the pinnacle for us and we hadn't really looked beyond that series at what we were going to do after that. It was as if we had reached the top of the world."
The real summit was only mounted this summer when a 4-0 whitewash of India allowed England to be crowned the best in the world. It was a process that Maynard believes was possible because of the way Andy Flower has crafted the England squad, which is substantially different to the squad that Maynard worked with, under Fletcher.
"After that Ashes win, we had a few injuries. We lost Marcus Trescothick, Ashley Giles and Steve Harmison. What Andy Flower has done is tried to develop cover for everybody so that if something happens to anyone, someone else can step in. Instead of having just a top XI, he has a squad of 18 or 19 players. The only position he does not have cover for is that spinner's spot."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent