Buchanan meets with Flower
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John Buchanan has arrived in England and held discussions with national coach Andy Flower as part of a week-long fact-finding mission he hopes will result in a broader role within the ECB. Buchanan, who led Australia to a 5-0 series victory in the last Ashes series, met with Flower in Birmingham on Monday to share his thoughts on Ricky Ponting's current squad and England's recent visit to the battlefields of Flanders, a trip similar to Australia's tour of the Somme prior to the 2005 Ashes series.
The former Australia coach will travel across England over the next week, meeting with coaches from England's elite programmes, as well as county mentors Chris Adams (Surrey), Peter Moores (Lancashire) and Mick Newell (Nottinghamshire). He will also spend time with England Lions before their tour match against Australia at Worcester, before presenting a proposal to David Parsons, director of England's National Performance centre in Loughborough, regarding a future role within the England set-up.
As wide-ranging as Buchanan's brief in England is this week, most attention will focus on his dealings with the national team barely a week out from the first Test in Cardiff. The very notion of Buchanan passing on insights into Ricky Ponting's team has raised the ire of many in Australia, and prompted curt responses from the touring players.
"I provided [Flower] with some of my thoughts," Buchanan told Cricinfo. "I've been keeping a bit of a gaze on the Ashes build-up from afar, and passed on a few things I've picked up as an observer now removed from the team.
"We also talked about England's trip to Belgium, which was something I took a fair bit of interest in. It was good to catch up with him briefly, and was just one of quite a few things I am looking to accomplish on this trip."
Buchanan has taken a keen interest in Australia's preparations for this summer's Ashes series, and believes selectors will lean towards fielding an all-pace attack in Cardiff. Nathan Hauritz's figures of 1 for 158 in last week's tour match against Sussex did not inspire confidence, leaving Buchanan to predict that part-timers Marcus North, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke will share Australia's spin-bowling duties for the majority of the Ashes series.
"I guess the salient point here is what strategy do the Australians want to take?" Buchanan said. "Do they want to utilise their fast men as the main thrust to their attack, and use (Marcus) North, (Simon) Katich and (Michael) Clarke for their spin, or do they want to take a less hostile approach and take a spinner that would allow them to adapt to more than one kind of strategy or surface?
"I suspect they will be leaning towards the former. They will have to be confident in North, not only as a spinning option but also his batting. From what I have been reading, North struggled a bit with the bat in Hove, but he has a lot of experience in English conditions. If Watson returns from injury that could give the selectors a little more to think about, but unless [North] has a woeful game against the Lions, I think he would be pretty close."
Buchanan is hopeful his week in England will pave the way for a more regular role with the ECB. "I will speak to David Parsons before I leave but I am not sure yet as to what specifically a role would entail," he said. "It could mean checking in every now and then with Andy Flower and the national team to exchange ideas, working with the high performance centre in Loughborough or spending time with touring teams.
"I think we all will have a better idea after this week, but I don't think (a full-time position) would be the best way to utilise my time or knowledge."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo