England news November 28, 2012

Schedule flogging England's best

England have lost the full-time services of the best coach they have ever had through an unsustainable fixture calender. Andy Flower may not be the last casualty

A relentless schedule that is incompatible with family life has persuaded Andy Flower to relinquish at least part of his role at the helm of the England cricket team. While Flower will remain accountable for all teams and will continue to travel with the Test side, Ashley Giles will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the limited-overs sides.

Flower, a married man with school age children, could no longer justify the sacrifice of personal life for professional success. With no end in sight to the demands the ECB places upon its employees, Flower has become the most obvious casualty of an unsustainable fixture list that is flogging all concerned into early retirement or mediocrity; a fixture list that has now seen the partial loss of the most successful cricket coach England have ever had.

The recent form of Stuart Broad, one of the few men to play in all formats of the game, should also sound a warning to the ECB.

It takes only a glance at England's fixture list to see the problem. From the moment they departed for Sri Lanka and the World T20 in September, Flower has been in demand. After a couple of weeks in England, the team departed for Dubai and then India. But for a nine-day break over Christmas, those involved in all three formats will not be home until the end of March. In between all that, there are training camps, selection meetings, planning meetings, media requirements and sponsors' events. It is remorseless.

Nor is there any end in sight. Next summer will see England play another Test series against New Zealand, an Ashes series and host the ICC Champions Trophy. Then there are various ODI and T20 series. And, well before the end of October, the squad depart for an Ashes tour that lasts until the end of January. Within three or four weeks of its end, they depart for the Caribbean and, before the next English season, have to fit in the World T20 in Bangladesh.

It is easy to criticise the ECB for underplaying its duty of care towards its employees, but it is less easy to find a solution. The business model of the English game relies heavily on broadcast revenues that can only be maintained by guaranteeing huge amounts of cricket. Much of the money has been well spent: in grass roots cricket; in disability cricket and in women's cricket.

While some - mostly those with an agenda - will blame the counties' financial demands, the truth is that the national side - its salaries, its costs and its support structures - represents the most significant increase in expenditure in recent years. The only way to keep players out of the clutches of T20 leagues - rebel or authorised - is to pay them handsomely. And to pay them handsomely, they must fulfil the broadcasters' requirements.

Obvious concerns remain. Will the coaches be able to work together; what happens to the support staff; does Andy Flower's new role impinge on Hugh Morris?

Flower relinquishes control of England's limited-overs sides with a record of which he can be proud. Most tangibly, he led England to the 2010 World T20 title - the only global trophy they have ever won - and, less tangibly, to No. 1 in the ODI and T20 rankings. It will smart him to leave after poor displays at both the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 World T20 as England failed to do themselves justice in either competition. But their ODI cricket, in particular, has improved drastically in recent months.

But the work of any man will mean nothing if it comes at the cost of his family. Flower, after four years containing far more highs than lows, has decided - quite rightly - that his priorities must lie at home. The demands of Test tours remain onerous, but the breaks between them at least provide time for rest and recuperation.

It would be stretching a point to suggest that the Kevin Pietersen episode has claimed another victim. But it cannot have helped. Perhaps there is a certain irony, too, in the fact that Flower will now enjoy some of the rest that Pietersen claimed he wanted when his limited-overs retirement was announced.

The promotion of Giles is not unexpected and he has been appointed without consideration of other candidates. That says much about his qualification for the role - he should command the respect of the side for his record as a successful player at international level and a coach at domestic level. It also conveys the fact that he has been viewed as part of the England team establishment virtually since his debut as an international player in 1997. He is seen, by the England team management, very much as "one of us" and he remains a selector, albeit presumably a selector with more influence than before.

The sceptics will point out that his record as coach in T20, in particular, is not the best. But he inherited a failing club when he took over at Edgbaston at the end of 2007 and has impressed as a coach, a man manager and a spotter and developer of talent.

Warwickshire have improved in all areas and, apart from winning the Championship title in 2012, he also led them to the CB40 trophy in 2010. Besides, his Warwickshire team has been blessed with players, the likes of Chris Woakes, Rikki Clarke, Keith Barker and Boyd Rankin, who are much better red ball than white ball cricketers and, at county level, the Championship remains the priority. A man who has experienced the extremes of success and failure in sport, he will remain calm in the face of adversity and offers, as much as is possible, a like-for-like replacement for Flower.

Obvious concerns remain. Will the two coaches be able to work together; who has the final say if there is a disagreement; what happens to the support staff; does Andy Flower's role as England team director impinge on Hugh Morris' as managing director of England?

But England have navigated such choppy waters before. They managed with separate captains for the three formats of the game without conflict or complication. By choosing characters they know and trust, characters they know have the best interests of the team at heart, they have reacted to an imperfect situation with an imperfect solution. But it may well prove as good as any they could have found.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 7:45 GMT

    can some one send this article to Lords cricket ground and mark it URGENT.......................

  • John on November 29, 2012, 2:21 GMT

    @ sureshshankar on (November 28 2012, 23:40 PM GMT), there's rather a lot of nonsense in your comment. Firstly, KP asked to be able to play T20 only and not ODI. He was told that he couldn't and had to either play both or neither and he chose neither. Flower has now been relieved of the coaching duties for both T20 and ODI. This just reinforces the point that England consider T20 and ODI to be closely aligned and for Test to be separate. There is nothing inconsistent between the ECB's behaviour now and then. Secondly, how long was Gayle kept out of the WI team and how long was KP kept out of the England team? Perhaps things were more formalised between the ECB and KP but I'm not so sure that the WICB just said sorry to Gayle and welcomed him back with open arms. It was a long road to get him back into the side.

  • Suresh on November 28, 2012, 23:40 GMT

    The irony of it all ..... KP got flak and re-integration for asking for the same thing as Andy did. And the 2 people who helped England win in Mumbai were the two who do not fit easily into the mould of England's current model - KP and Monty. What does it prove - that belonging to the club is still more important. At least the Aussies and WI have each learnt to say sorry to one of their own who did not quite fit, but have proved to be a great performer, I'm talking about Pup and Gayle here. Sports teams are not business organisations where alignment is everything. And cricket boards and managers need to learn to manage different individuals, temperaments, situations like Alex and Arsene do.

  • Rod on November 28, 2012, 21:24 GMT

    I would be very interested if someone with more time and/or talent than I have could figure some actual numbers about the schedules of different countries during a partiocular time period, i.e., if someone was involved in every match and every tour a country played, how many days out the year would that be, and how does England comapre to other teams.?

  • Jackie on November 28, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    Are you aware Phil Wood that Flower is a selector?

  • ian on November 28, 2012, 19:46 GMT

    @jackiethepen: I offer a challenge to you: write a post in which you do not mention Ian Bell accompanied with slavish amounts of praise of which you alone consistently seem to think he is fully deserving, nor Andy Flower in tones of disparagement & disapporoval. You overplay the first to the extent that several people have remarked that you must be related to him & you seem not to be generous-spirited enough to appreciate precisely how much Andy Flower has achieved for English cricket. I look forward to you first Bell-free comment!

  • Michael on November 28, 2012, 19:00 GMT

    it is a pity there is not a separate body in place which can just review situations in cricket and come up with viewpoints based purely on whether they are sensible or not- never mind the dosh. Obviously one would hope that the policy makers might exercise considerable common sense in their decisions...BUT...it just does not happen as they mostly see money in front. Money is okay but not at the expense of people. Broad is mentioned here and that is there for all of us to see. Looking at the Future tours programme you have to ask yourself is this mad?? Probably yes. It is not necessarily the games which are excessive but all the training. Any old timer would tell you that present regimes are too much for the body. Things like 7 match ODI series are an obvious overkill. T20 fixtures also. Conversely short Test series are something which needs looking at again. The flying around as well needs to be reviewed to make movement more logical. It really is all mad....

  • Jackie on November 28, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    Don't diminish Warwickshire's record in 40-over cricket. Not only did they win the Final in 2010 but they were only beaten in the 2012 Final by Hampshire having taken one more wicket after the result was a tie. Warwickshire have also been fortunate to have the services of Trott and Bell occasionally, both long serving Warwickshire batsmen. Giles spotted Bell's prowess in 40-over cricket and was repaid by Bell top scoring in both Finals, the first of which he also captained. Flower obviously benefitted from Ashley's work with Bell, because he promoted him to open with Cook when KP retired. The pair led England to the top of the rankings after a successful summer.

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2012, 17:10 GMT

    I don't see how Giles can continue as a selector in his new role.

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