Flower proud of England's revival
An ability to "learn and adapt" has been identified by Andy Flower as the key to England's series success victory in India. By drawing the final Test in Nagpur, England secured their first series win in India since 1984-85 and inflicted a first home series defeat upon India since 2004.
It was a far cry from the events in the UAE a few months earlier. At that time, as England succumbed to a 3-0 series defeat against Pakistan, England's batsmen had no answer to the spin threat of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman.
But Flower, the England team director, took particular satisfaction from the way his team had accepted their failings in the UAE and worked to improve. He also admitted that an element of complacency may have crept into the squad after they had reached the No.1 Test ranking at the end of 2011.
"I don't know if lost focus is quite the right phrase to use," Flower said, "but if there are degrees of hunger and desire perhaps we dropped off a couple after getting to No 1.
"We had a tough time in the UAE against Pakistan at the start of the year, and one of the most satisfying things at the minute - certainly for me, and I'm sure for the players - is that they've shown they can score runs. We've come out here and very importantly shown that this bunch of cricketers can learn and adapt.
"They have proved they have learned a lot. For some of the older players, guys that have been around and have excellent Test career achievement, that is testament to their humility and their maturity to continue their learning into this phase of their careers. They have still adapted their game and shown their game can improve. It's taken a lot of hard work, a lot of thought and a lot of skill out there in the middle. They should be very proud of themselves.
"We certainly refocused on this challenge in India. We knew we would have to display that we have learned certain things about the game of cricket in these conditions if we were to prevail so it's nice to see that has happened. I certainly wouldn't describe it as a year of decline."
Flower credited Alastair Cook as a key figure in England's success. Cook, the England captain, led from the front with a defiant century in defeat in Ahmedabad that showed his team what could be achieved with patience and composure. While Cook also made centuries in Mumbai and Kolkata, an increasing number of his team-mates contributed decisive performances as the series progressed.
"That innings at Ahmedabad was vitally important as a lead," Flower said. "It provided evidence that runs could be scored if you use your brain, if you've got a reasonable method, if you show courage and discipline. He did that and for the captain to do that was especially important. He has been very influential in the series. We are very lucky to follow a quality bloke like Andrew Strauss with a quality bloke like Alastair Cook as leaders of the England side.
"I said to him I thought tactically he has been excellent - and you can't always say that about English sides in the sub-continent. I think he's been a good observer of the opposition, and what works for them, and he's used some of that to our advantage."
There was also praise for Kevin Pietersen who returned to the squad for this series having been dropped following revelations about his poor relationship with his England team-mates. Pietersen started nervously, but made a brilliant century at Mumbai which helped alter the direction of the series.
"He has been excellent since he has been back with the England side," Flower said. "The guys have enjoyed having him around and he has fitted in really easily and everyone has made an effort to make it work. It has worked.
"He has played superbly. I thought his innings in Mumbai on a difficult, turning track was one of the better innings I have seen played against spinners in those type of conditions. It was a very, very skilful innings; even more skilful after he had struggled in the first Test because that piled a certain amount of pressure on him. So for him to handle that pressure, turn it round and then dominate the opposition as he did was great testament to him holding his nerve."
While the victory provided a happy ending to a difficult year, Flower was keen to stress that there had been other positive achievements among the disappointments.
"We've had up-and-down results," he said. "We didn't play that well against the spin in the UAE, but we've also done some superb things.
"We became number one in one-day international cricket; we drew an important Test series in Sri Lanka, and won one against the West Indies. And then we lost to a very good South African side in England. I don't think there is any embarrassment in that. That happens in international sport."
Flower is now taking a break. While England return to T20 action on Thursday, Flower will be back in the UK with his family having relinquished his day-to-day involvement with England's limited-overs squads. Ashley Giles starts in the role of England's limited-overs coach in the New Year.
But it would be incorrect to conclude that Flower is not still the man in charge in all formats of the game. The idea is that Giles will bring new energy to the limited-overs teams, allowing Flower to remain fresh and to spend more time with his family. Certainly he is still planning for challenges ahead in all formats, with the Champions Trophy, to be played in England in 2013, a particular target.
"I do have a young family and they have supported me amazingly well over my playing and coaching career and it is time for me to make sure that I can give a little more time to them," Flower said. "The purpose of the move is to make us a more efficient organisation and to use our resources as wisely as possible so certainly that will assist me to remain involved with the English side.
"Ashley Giles is a smart cricket coach with very good experience of both coaching and playing and I think he can do a very good job with the limited-overs sides. We hope he can take the limited-overs teams forward. We don't know if the system is going to work ideally, just like we didn't when we introduced three different captains for the three different facets of cricket that we play. But our job is to make it work.
"It is going to be a busy year. We've got the Champions Trophy - one of our priorities - happening in England and we'll have a chance there. Then there's the two Ashes series in the second half of the year. That's going to be some tough, sustained cricket. But we've shown out here that we can play that type of cricket, and that we learn to survive in different conditions."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo