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England's one-day series in India will mark the start of a new coaching era with the job split between Andy Flower and Ashley Giles
January 1, 2013
A brave new world is upon us. Andy Flower is staying at home, content that his life is back in balance and that professionally his commitment remains unwavering, and Ashley Giles, suitcase packed and England blazer donned once more, is heading to India as coach of the limited-overs sides. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the rest of the cricket world will be intrigued to see how it all works out.
Under what is surely English sport's most ambitious job share, Flower remains team director with day-to-day responsibility for Test cricket and he will also oversee Giles, who will retain his role as an England selector and take over direct responsibility for the coaching of the 50-over and Twenty20 sides.
Job sharing is not easy. It demands that a selfless commitment to the greater good is always paramount, that systems of management are in place and understood to ensure smooth transitions, that trust between those involved is absolute, egos never destructive and frustrations patiently borne. Achieve that and you may benefit from additional energy and ideas. Without such qualities, a certain amount of finger pointing would be inevitable.
England are fortunate that in Flower and Giles they have two compatible coaches with a mutual respect who do not yearn for absolute power but who have always preached the benefits of a strong collective. They are fortunate, too, that they are job sharing in a set-up not hostile to the notion, a structure hailed by Giles when taking the job as "the most professional sporting outfit in the world."
Giles faces a tough India baptism, designed to bring one or two more "butterfly moments" that he has conceded will be inevitable. Resting players so that they can cope physically and emotionally with the unremitting schedule is now firmly established as England's policy - and that means removing them from the two limited-overs formats whenever possible and only weakening a Test XI when unavoidable. Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Jonathan Trott and, latterly, Jonny Bairstow, whose compassionate leave has been extended for personal reasons, will all be missing in India. Then, in New Zealand, Kevin Pietersen will be absent.
As part of a selection panel that sanctioned such a policy, and which recognises its long-term benefits, Giles is not about to protest about the hand that he has been dealt, but he faces a formidable challenge as he seeks to follow up England's Test series victory in India with success in the shorter formats.
Giles was never a great player, but he has always been a great team man and a shrewd thinker. The team ethic fostered by him at Warwickshire has played a central part in their success and suggests that he and Flower should dovetail well together. As the most obvious example, Trott's progression from self-absorbed county professional to England batsman owed much to Giles' warning that he must learn to put team achievement first.
"Gilo told me I'd never play for England the way I was," Trott recalled last year. "My mood was determined by how I performed not by the team's success. If I didn't do well, it didn't matter what happened to the rest of the side."
Flower has been slightly coy about presenting the shared role as a lifestyle change. It also offers him the chance to do more strategic planning ahead of Test series, such as the back-to-back Ashes series which will occupy England's thoughts later this year. That the adjustment will have benefits is assured because Flower is nothing if not thorough when it comes to planning, and it promises to give him greater longevity in the job, but for all the business references we can anticipate about the need to retrain and upskill, this is a role change that had its germination in his personal needs.
Many will have welcomed in the New Year fortunate enough to possess a stressful job which provides them with endless satisfaction and yet unable to suppress the nagging thought that their life is somehow out of kilter, that however ambitious they are they were not put into the world to succeed at one aspect of their life to the detriment of their greater selves.
|England are fortunate that in Flower and Giles they have two compatible coaches with a mutual respect who do not yearn for absolute power but who have always preached the benefits of a strong collective|
For all that, job sharing has long been an emotive subject. Others will look on, convinced that such a daily obsession is an essential attribute for the most successful, that even to talk of family is weakness, that power sharing invites instability and should never be countenanced, and that such an arrangement can by its very nature only be temporary.
And where will it all end? It was perhaps no coincidence that immediately after Flower's new deal, England's bowling coach, David Saker, conceded that life on the road was so unrelenting that Giles' vacated Warwickshire post was briefly an attractive one - it was just the thought of turning away from two successive Ashes series that was too hard to bear.
Times have changed. Five years ago, England's resistance to the idea of a split captaincy persuaded them to make Pietersen captain in all three formats, a gamble which backfired spectacularly when Pietersen, imbued by an excessive sense of his own power, rebelled against the coach, Peter Moores, in a manner which caused both to lose their jobs.
England, shaken by the experience, had litle choice but to turn to the split-captaincy solution, even briefly adopting a triumvirate of leaders to respond to the different demands of the game's three formats with Andrew Strauss as the guiding hand in charge of the Test side, Alastair Cook as his loyal and capable young lieutenant long identified as his successor and cutting his teeth in the ODI format, and Stuart Broad to bring attacking, aggressive instincts to England's T20 cricket.
If the media imagined that tensions were inevitable, with the worth of the three captains constantly compared to the detriment of team spirit, it never happened that way. All three seemed comfortable with the arrangement and, if there were any difficulties, there were kept out of sight.
It was as if the three forms of cricket were now as accepted as distinctive with success in one form of the game not automatically seen as candidature for another. One-day cricket is so formulaic it does not present much of a CV for the Test job and, in any case, when Cook took over he seemed very much the Strauss disciple, right down to the cover sweeper. And perhaps the importance of the captain was not quite what it was. Many decisions now owed less to a captain's individual instincts than statistical data known by all.
It has not always been that way. When Nasser Hussain resigned as England's Test captain in 2003 it was with the growing recognition that Michael Vaughan's leadership stock was rising as captain of the one-day side. Hussain had railed at England to drag them back to respectability, but his job had been done and it was time for a captain of different style to continue the advance.
Flower can consider all of this with equanimity. He could hardly be in a more impregnable position. He has already coached England to a Twenty20 World Cup, victorious Ashes series home and away and a Test series victory in India. He has already built a successful relationship with Giles in his role as a selector. The ECB has also regarded him as continuing beyond the 2015 World Cup - just not quite in this manner.
What is certain is that England are in for an intriguing year.
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