February 1, 2014

Flower power and the demise of the machines

Criticisms of an over-reliance on data will sting Andy Flower, who must discover the more human side of analysis if he is to successfully develop the leadership potential of England's next generation
38

It was in the news this week that an English neuroscientist and computer boffin had become a multi-millionaire after selling his company, Deep Mind, to Google. Demis Hassabis has been researching how to make computers behave like humans. The cruellest perception of Andy Flower as he reached the end of his reign as England's director of cricket was that he was approaching the problem the other way round.

The charge, although essentially unfair, is not as glib as it sounds. Michael Vaughan, an Ashes-winning captain, feels he has seen enough on England's Ashes tour to level it, suggesting that England's players were too weighed down by instructions to be able to play instinctive, proactive cricket, even wondering whether they had become "scared" of Flower. He also called them "robotic". In his view, it seems, this was the age of the machines.

Flower deserves the accolades he has received. Three Ashes victories, a World Twenty20 title, a win record over five years of Tests of 45% and brief spells ranked No. 1 in all formats of the game together justify the widespread assertion that he has been the most successful England coach in history.

It has also been a good thing to have such a deeply principled man in charge of England's cricket. The positive effect of his integrity on those around him is hard to measure (although you would not put it past the ECB to appoint an Integrity Measuring Assistant and give it a go) but it should not be underplayed.

The dedication and professionalism he had shown as a player was just as evident as a coach. When results turned against him, he worked ever harder. There was a lot of talk about how exhausted and joyless his team became. He probably became quite exhausted and joyless himself. But he would not relent. Even at the end, when he was accused of being too intense, his response was to suggest that he had not been intense enough.

As he considers whether he can have a fulfilling future within the ECB - he is right to ponder it because he is too driven to spend the rest of his working life as an apparatchik in an insubstantial role - the allegation that he became so obsessed with the minutiae of coaching that he lost the human touch will rankle with him.

For all that, history may well reflect that the big theme of Flower's reign was the growing tension between the strict coaching disciplines he adhered to and the need for free expression. Flower remains adamant that England's large support staff - the biggest in cricket history - was designed to enhance individual performance, not stifle it, but the experiment remains unproven.

One of the great advocates of the need in competitive sport for daily disciplines and marginal gains has been Dave Brailsford, performance director of the British cycling team. Anybody who watched Great Britain's rush of gold medals at the 2012 Olympics was liable to be converted to the philosophy. Flower was a disciple. He did little without purpose. If you wished him "good morning" you might imagine that he was already analysing how good a morning it was, and what elements would have to be introduced for it to remain so.

Praise of England's professional planning and search for the "extra one percent-ers" turned into criticism that an ability to think for themselves had become suffocated under a pile of data

But cricket is a more complex sport than cycling, with more imponderables, and the tension between a systematic approach and the somewhat conflicting need for freedom was thrown into even sharper focus the moment Australia appointed Darren Lehmann as coach. Lehmann's Australia responded to England's ordered, attritional game by encouraging attacking, aggressive cricket at every turn, keeping Australian spirits high with a basic philosophy of mateship, encouraging the entire nation to be brash in their desire to unsettle the tourists, and finding every opportunity to take England out of their comfort zone.

This achieved, there was a striking frailty about the way Flower's England, a team that had delivered a golden era, fell apart so quickly in Australia. When the pressure was on, and the data was turning redder by the week, their ability to think on their feet seemed to be lacking. Marginal gains gave way to considerable diminishment.

"Flower Power" originated in the 1960s in California as a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War. It became a general term for the hippie movement, an alternative lifestyle promoting the human condition in its loosest form: artistic and cultural experimentation, freedom of expression, as well as a suspicion of authority and prescriptive approaches to life. "Flower Power", English cricket style, seemed to be ruled by an opposite creed.

That creed was never more successful than when England trounced Australia on their own patch in 2010-11. It was to be the peak of Flower's England. They played energetic, skilful cricket, their mental strength was considerable, their fitness and fielding exemplary, their plans were thorough and well-executed. A subsequent Test series win in India was also reliant upon an appetite for well structured, grafting cricket.

Under his guidance, a very good England side reached its peak. Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell are in the top nine England Test century-makers of all time. Matt Prior became one of England's most successful batsman-keepers. James Anderson and Graeme Swann have been bowlers of world class.

Flower will no doubt reflect that accepted strengths in victory were routinely perceived as weaknesses during the defeats that followed. Praise of England's professional planning and search for the "extra one percent-ers" turned into criticism that an ability to think for themselves had become suffocated under a pile of data. He found such a charge illogical.

His regime has been praised as the most intellectually stimulating environment English cricket has ever known and it must have been educational to be involved in many of those discussions. But in the Australia dressing room, Lehmann was not overly concerned with intellectualism and, not for the first time, there was no denying the impact of his methods.

Lehmann refreshed Australia, whereas Flower had been slow to recognise the level to which England needed to be refreshed. While his knowledge of the set-up was detailed, while his appetite for self-improvement at coaching seminars and from coaching books was admirable, he was the second successive England coach of Southern African stock - Duncan Fletcher being the first - to be too divorced from the next generation of players seeking to make their way in the county game.

Flower's envisaged future role is to develop leadership skills in the next crop of England cricketers. Strauss had such skills in abundance and they served England well. As a partnership of equals, Flower's demanding nature and Strauss' softer emphasis on individual responsibility was ideal. When Cook succeeded Strauss, Flower's role naturally became more dominant. He was more intimidating than he realised. His determination to mould Cook, a cricketer of high integrity, into a great leader remained unfulfilled.

As Flower and the incoming managing director, Paul Downton, concluded that England were best served by one coach in charge of all three formats, and Flower concluded once more that he could no longer contemplate such a lifestyle, it would be his failure to oversee Cook's development into a captain of substance that would have most disturbed him. Unsurprisingly, Cook received his longest and most heartfelt explanation of why he felt he needed to stand down.

It would be no surprise if both Flower's recognition of Cook's qualities as a man, but also his limitations as a leader, is behind his hankering to improve such qualities in young English professionals largely cossetted from the outside world. But if Flower is to take up his role at the ECB as a leadership mentor for young English professionals, it is to be hoped that he opts not to do this purely in the sterile world of a Loughborough meeting room but also out on the cricket circuit, interacting with them in real situations.

Google, after all, want their data to feel more human. Flower could learn a little from their new "cybernetic friend".

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Extra...Cover on February 2, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    One swallow does not make a summer - and this applies to both England and Aus. The same English players who went to the top of world cricket are mostly still there, and it would be foolish to underestimate their capabilities in future series. They'll get over this capitulation in Aus and come back stronger. Similarly, it's easy given the past two months to forget just how average this Aus team has been in their previous few series, getting severely beaten left right and centre (England, SA, India etc). Their players will need to achieve a lot more than beating a depressed England team to erase the memory of a truly awful couple of years.

  • Madpashcrickers on February 2, 2014, 10:54 GMT

    Excellent article, a lucid insight into the inner workings of the machine.

    I was fascinated to read of Andy Flower's admiration for Dave Brailsford, who of course has done much for British cycling - but it suddenly struck me there may be a link between the mechanistic approach of these two and some strikingly poor England performances in both cricket and cycling.

    I'm thinking of last years world road race championships in Tuscany, where despite fielding a team including two Tour de France winners in Wiggins and Froome, plus other stars like Cavendish and Thomas - not one single Brit crossed the finish line.

    You may say I'm stretching a comparison well beyond breaking point here, but the lack of heart and fight shown by the cycling team is strikingly similar to what happened in the Ashes - when the going got tough there was no team spirit or collective will to fight it out.

    In that sense Harris & Johnson were like the Tuscan deluge - a shock to the system that broke the machine!

  • Clyde on February 5, 2014, 2:11 GMT

    A coach is OK if he is adopted by the player. I can only see disaster if a player feels he has to listen to someone appointed officially. The disaster would take the form of the automated, non-adapting players we saw from England in the recent Ashes. The idea of Flower's now, in effect, coaching leadership is appalling evidence of the strength of management succubus. As an Australian, though, I must welcome that signal of continuing demoralisation of our main opponent.

  • py0alb on February 4, 2014, 10:34 GMT

    I'm sorry I don't agree at all. Australia won so convincingly because they out-thought England on every possible level, from player selection to pitch preparation to field settings to batting plans to sledging and public propaganda. They even had Warne deliberately feeding bad advice and ridiculously overblown and inaccurate opinions about Flower's "methods" to the English media. The very fact that articles like this are still being written is proof just how much the English press fell for it hook, line and sinker!

    Meticulous Aussie planning and preparation won the first two tests, and the propaganda fed to the UK media did the rest.

  • enlightenedone on February 4, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    wasn't it the same writers who were praising Flower's methods not too long ago. it was like that movie "moneyball" i remember it, andy was brad pitt. look this tour was somewhat of an anomaly for england. obviously they have enough talent there to comeback strong. it wasnt too long ago that the aussies were under scrutiny. and the indians are under pressure right now in new zealand. but most of what i was thinking has already been stated concisely by "Extra_cover."

  • Nutcutlet on February 3, 2014, 23:02 GMT

    Vaughan is right. All the evidence of this disaster-strewn tour was that England was playing to a script that the Australian team had, from the off, already read, digested and laid the best plans for scuppering it. England was completely predictable, off-colour, psychologically out of kilter, with a captain who, knowing he cannot ad lib, had tried to learn his lines, soon found they were irrelevant anyway as he was in the wrong play. By the end it was chaotic, an embarrassing shambles. Let's be absolutely clear, this was the worst Ashes tour England has ever, even though the 5-0 of 1921 was pretty awful. By the end, Australia - a good side - but a long way from great - looked like world-beaters. And now, what do we hear? The cricketing equivalent of elevating the defeated PM to the House of Lords (Lord's?) - leaving a mess behind for others to clear up. 'Twas ever thus. And I would suggest that being a 'captaincy coach' is absurd and oxymoronic. Captains are born, not coached!

  • ScottStevo on February 3, 2014, 21:11 GMT

    @Extra...Cover, Aus test record in the last 2 years is Win 10 Loss 8 Draw 5. Eng is Win 10 Loss 10 Draw 8

  • dunger.bob on February 3, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    @ Extra...Cover: We'll know more about Australia shortly when we take on SA. Down here we're all very hopeful of putting up a good fight and showing that there's more than one swallow in our summer. Our confidence is obviously sky high atm but we've already had a bad start with the only practice match of the tour washed out without a ball being bowled. .. Look, we know England hardly turned up and South Africa are by far the best Test team going around and it's going to be very, very hard to beat them, but we think we've a least got a shot. For some reason SA has never scared us and we nearly always bring our A game when we play them. .. I think our guys respect the hell out of the Saffers but they still think they can beat them. They always think they're a chance against SA and that's one of the reasons they're usually great series to watch. If I was a neutral I reckon I'd watch this one because it should be good.

  • on February 3, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    While I agree with most of what is written by David , I still feel we are over emphasizing the role of Coaches in all this - either the great run of England under Flower or the current disaster. I feel that this is just an ageing English team who have had players playing for long who came up against an Aussie team hungry for victory ( am not using young here because I reckon the Australian team would not have been much younger but definitely had players who were less experienced at the test level and hence hungry to prove themselves. It is as simple as that - captaincy , Coaching all do play a part but that is all to that , ultimately it is a Eleven a side team game and the team who had the better playing eleven in all matches won !

  • dunger.bob on February 3, 2014, 7:24 GMT

    I started reading these responses and I was quickly super impressed with their quality. Some of the fairest and most thoughtful responses I've seen in years. I just had to say that. Buttering up period over.

    I think it's just a fact of life with coaches in nearly all sports that 4-6 years is about their shelf life. Someone's probably studied it and given it a name, but in my line of work it's called 'product life-cycle' and it's remarkably consistent across a whole range of things. .. Time was up, that's all. Ain't no big deal really, happens to em all, even the best of them.

  • Extra...Cover on February 2, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    One swallow does not make a summer - and this applies to both England and Aus. The same English players who went to the top of world cricket are mostly still there, and it would be foolish to underestimate their capabilities in future series. They'll get over this capitulation in Aus and come back stronger. Similarly, it's easy given the past two months to forget just how average this Aus team has been in their previous few series, getting severely beaten left right and centre (England, SA, India etc). Their players will need to achieve a lot more than beating a depressed England team to erase the memory of a truly awful couple of years.

  • Madpashcrickers on February 2, 2014, 10:54 GMT

    Excellent article, a lucid insight into the inner workings of the machine.

    I was fascinated to read of Andy Flower's admiration for Dave Brailsford, who of course has done much for British cycling - but it suddenly struck me there may be a link between the mechanistic approach of these two and some strikingly poor England performances in both cricket and cycling.

    I'm thinking of last years world road race championships in Tuscany, where despite fielding a team including two Tour de France winners in Wiggins and Froome, plus other stars like Cavendish and Thomas - not one single Brit crossed the finish line.

    You may say I'm stretching a comparison well beyond breaking point here, but the lack of heart and fight shown by the cycling team is strikingly similar to what happened in the Ashes - when the going got tough there was no team spirit or collective will to fight it out.

    In that sense Harris & Johnson were like the Tuscan deluge - a shock to the system that broke the machine!

  • Clyde on February 5, 2014, 2:11 GMT

    A coach is OK if he is adopted by the player. I can only see disaster if a player feels he has to listen to someone appointed officially. The disaster would take the form of the automated, non-adapting players we saw from England in the recent Ashes. The idea of Flower's now, in effect, coaching leadership is appalling evidence of the strength of management succubus. As an Australian, though, I must welcome that signal of continuing demoralisation of our main opponent.

  • py0alb on February 4, 2014, 10:34 GMT

    I'm sorry I don't agree at all. Australia won so convincingly because they out-thought England on every possible level, from player selection to pitch preparation to field settings to batting plans to sledging and public propaganda. They even had Warne deliberately feeding bad advice and ridiculously overblown and inaccurate opinions about Flower's "methods" to the English media. The very fact that articles like this are still being written is proof just how much the English press fell for it hook, line and sinker!

    Meticulous Aussie planning and preparation won the first two tests, and the propaganda fed to the UK media did the rest.

  • enlightenedone on February 4, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    wasn't it the same writers who were praising Flower's methods not too long ago. it was like that movie "moneyball" i remember it, andy was brad pitt. look this tour was somewhat of an anomaly for england. obviously they have enough talent there to comeback strong. it wasnt too long ago that the aussies were under scrutiny. and the indians are under pressure right now in new zealand. but most of what i was thinking has already been stated concisely by "Extra_cover."

  • Nutcutlet on February 3, 2014, 23:02 GMT

    Vaughan is right. All the evidence of this disaster-strewn tour was that England was playing to a script that the Australian team had, from the off, already read, digested and laid the best plans for scuppering it. England was completely predictable, off-colour, psychologically out of kilter, with a captain who, knowing he cannot ad lib, had tried to learn his lines, soon found they were irrelevant anyway as he was in the wrong play. By the end it was chaotic, an embarrassing shambles. Let's be absolutely clear, this was the worst Ashes tour England has ever, even though the 5-0 of 1921 was pretty awful. By the end, Australia - a good side - but a long way from great - looked like world-beaters. And now, what do we hear? The cricketing equivalent of elevating the defeated PM to the House of Lords (Lord's?) - leaving a mess behind for others to clear up. 'Twas ever thus. And I would suggest that being a 'captaincy coach' is absurd and oxymoronic. Captains are born, not coached!

  • ScottStevo on February 3, 2014, 21:11 GMT

    @Extra...Cover, Aus test record in the last 2 years is Win 10 Loss 8 Draw 5. Eng is Win 10 Loss 10 Draw 8

  • dunger.bob on February 3, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    @ Extra...Cover: We'll know more about Australia shortly when we take on SA. Down here we're all very hopeful of putting up a good fight and showing that there's more than one swallow in our summer. Our confidence is obviously sky high atm but we've already had a bad start with the only practice match of the tour washed out without a ball being bowled. .. Look, we know England hardly turned up and South Africa are by far the best Test team going around and it's going to be very, very hard to beat them, but we think we've a least got a shot. For some reason SA has never scared us and we nearly always bring our A game when we play them. .. I think our guys respect the hell out of the Saffers but they still think they can beat them. They always think they're a chance against SA and that's one of the reasons they're usually great series to watch. If I was a neutral I reckon I'd watch this one because it should be good.

  • on February 3, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    While I agree with most of what is written by David , I still feel we are over emphasizing the role of Coaches in all this - either the great run of England under Flower or the current disaster. I feel that this is just an ageing English team who have had players playing for long who came up against an Aussie team hungry for victory ( am not using young here because I reckon the Australian team would not have been much younger but definitely had players who were less experienced at the test level and hence hungry to prove themselves. It is as simple as that - captaincy , Coaching all do play a part but that is all to that , ultimately it is a Eleven a side team game and the team who had the better playing eleven in all matches won !

  • dunger.bob on February 3, 2014, 7:24 GMT

    I started reading these responses and I was quickly super impressed with their quality. Some of the fairest and most thoughtful responses I've seen in years. I just had to say that. Buttering up period over.

    I think it's just a fact of life with coaches in nearly all sports that 4-6 years is about their shelf life. Someone's probably studied it and given it a name, but in my line of work it's called 'product life-cycle' and it's remarkably consistent across a whole range of things. .. Time was up, that's all. Ain't no big deal really, happens to em all, even the best of them.

  • Madpashcrickers on February 2, 2014, 20:44 GMT

    Re: Posted by Joll on (February 2, 2014, 19:26 GMT) "So, the question has to be asked, do top players need coaches?" Excellent point and I agree with you the answer is, probably no. Look at what Saker's coaching has done for Finn, arguably our most exciting fast bowling prospect since Simon Jones. My idea for a brave new England structure is to have no coaches and no team manager - just a "captain's committee" of down-to-earth former top pros to help and advise the skipper. Of course you would need an Operations Manager and admin staff to run the show but crucially this would not be a team management or coaching role in any sense. I would go for folks like Collingwood, Thorpe, Giles and Fraser as ' the committee' and Newell for Ops Manager if they were interested. I would dispense with all other support staff except a physio and maybe a medic for tours. I would get rid of Loughborough-type facilities and invest the money saved literally in grassroots cricket - e.g. club pitches etc.

  • JoshFromJamRock on February 2, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    Cricket, as with all true sports, is about attacking and dominating your opponent. England just lost because they never liked to be attacked and were hesitant to dominant the few opportunities they got. Their reluctance to fight fire with fire led to their downfall. The few who tried either got dropped or criticized i.e. Carberry and Kp.

  • Madpashcrickers on February 2, 2014, 20:03 GMT

    Well DesPlatt I agree Anderson has been a staunch servant to England over the years and a hard worker for the team but I think his quality is overstated. Last time I looked at the ICC player rankings maybe a month ago he was rated number 9 in the world two places below Peter Siddle at number 7. I don't know how these ranking are calculated but I would say that's about right. Siddle is certainly a shade quicker and somewhat more accurate, and he tends to be more effective than Anderson, but no-one goes round shouting about Siddle being the best bowler in the world - you tend to hear the words workhorse, would run through a brick wall all day long for the cause etc in connection with Siddle but he doesn't grab the headlines in general. When I started watching tests in 76, England had any amount of skilful seamers like Hendrick, Lever, Old and co but I don't recall them being touted as the greatest in the world. I agree with you about the sledging, I find it all rather childish.

  • Joll on February 2, 2014, 19:26 GMT

    Firstly, micro-managing players does not work. Secondly, neither Sobers nor Bradman, arguably the two greatest batsmen ever, were coached. So, the question has to be asked, do top players need coaches? If Sobers and Bradman were never coached, doesn't this suggest coaches may be the problem, not the solution? Can it truly be said modern batsmen, with all the coaching they undergo, are better than those, say, in the 1930's, such as Hammond, Headley and Hobbs, who were rarely, if ever, coached? Maybe the time has come for coaches to back off and to allow batsmen and bowlers to develop their own style and technique. Perhaps if the England management team had taken a more "hands-off" approach, the Ashes series in Australia would have turned out differently.

  • DesPlatt on February 2, 2014, 19:16 GMT

    Madpashcrickers ; you can't be allowed to get away with your overall summing up of Anderson in particular. Even in today's devalued Test wicket hauls, you don't get over 300 without being special. Look at his figures in Australia last time and his excellent performances in the sub continent. Between 2008 and the Trent Bridge Test 2013 he could get something out of any wicket. He is exhausted now and was poor this last series you are right there. Despite my Lancashire allegiance , I'm not his biggest fan because I hate sledging and he went down in my estimation after poor behaviour in a Roses match in 2011. As a Test bowler, however he has been terrific and second only to Steyn over the period mentioned.

  • St0rmbringer on February 2, 2014, 19:02 GMT

    Folks that need coaching, you've got to just look as far as India(Which, I dare say is far or near depending how many you've downed so far) something like Young Alice in wonderland, One coach made them world champs in every format and the other makes you lose and the third that BCCI gives you (Duncan Fletcher) Doesn't do anything at all. Ask the ball machine when itis'nt all full.

  • on February 2, 2014, 16:47 GMT

    GermanPlayer: they were only number 1 in all formats very briefly mate! in fact, blink your eyes and you will have missed it! besides, many sides over the same period also achieved such an accolade. including South Africa and India. and the first series they played after becoming #1 Test team in the world against Pakistan, they were whitewashed 3-0! hardly world domination old chap!

  • cheguramana on February 2, 2014, 16:28 GMT

    I think English cricket wl be well served by both the ECB n Flower taking a break from each other. I wud be wary of putting Flower in powerful position so soon after recent disasters. U need to give him also time to work out where he's gone wrong. Maybe a season coaching one of the County teams ? Btw David, how much do we really know what goes on behind the scenes in Aus team ? They mite very well hv as much data/info analysis as the British team, it's the attitude on ground that's completely different.

  • on February 2, 2014, 16:28 GMT

    Unnikuttan: Surely you don't mean 3 comprehensive victories against Australia surely? if so, how can you possibly call the close fought 2-1 triumph in the 2009 as comprehensive? Australia even topped all the bowling and batting averages that series. and as for the 3-0 2013 victory...don't even get me started on that one. Australia could have, and probably should have won 4 of those test matches.

  • On-Drive on February 2, 2014, 15:58 GMT

    In the era of internet, too much 'Fowler' type analysis is done and documented like this article. While Fowler could be a minor reason for England's failure, Mitchell Johnson's bowling coupled with England's inability to handle raw pace are the reasons why England failed. If Johnson had not played for Australia, in all probability, England would have won the series or not seen this 5-0 result.

  • on February 2, 2014, 15:55 GMT

    For anyone blaming Broad for the Ashes defeat, you should note that he took 21 wickets at 27, a perfectly respectable return. Anderson taking 14 at 43 was poor. Whether the problem is out of form players playing, players being overly tired, or players being oppressed by the atmosphere, all of them can be linked by the persistent use of a small group of players and failure to successfully bring new players in to the side, which was a common problem throughout the Flower era. This was briefly mentioned in the article where it was suggested that Flower had a lack of knowledge of up and coming county players. The trouble with this assessment is that there is a panel of selectors and their job should include an in depth knowledge of all the available options. It is also interesting to make the comparison to cycling. One of the more controversial decisions made for the 2012 Olympics was that Hoy wouldn't defend the sprint. It would be nice to see decisions like this being made in cricket

  • IPSY on February 2, 2014, 15:51 GMT

    I have nothing against Cook as England's captain, but I know a number of English captains resigning in many parts of the world outside England, due to poor leadership performances away from home; performance which were not quite as abysmal as the Nine-out-of-ten drubbing he got from Australia, in the two longer formats of the game. Also, I again fully agree that Andy Flower is a man of integrity and a good coach, but the mere fact that he has no time for a bit of humour makes him something of a monster coach - not really the best kind of coach. As is implied in this piece, cricketers are human beings - they are not machines!

  • Unnikuttan on February 2, 2014, 14:46 GMT

    Too harsh a piece Mr.Hopps. Remember the period when Nasser Hussain was captain (to quote him, The captain when England was crap) or Gooch or Alec Stewart - From these depths he has taken them to the pinnacle. Not 1 Ashes Not 2.. 3 comprehensive ashes victories including one in Australia. It was these very 'robotic' methods of Alec Stewart that fetched England such great rewards...in Test cricket...and once in T20. (England were never any good in ODI's anyway)

    I dont think Flower is the problem. Its the Big 3 (Broad, KP, Cook) who appeared burned out or jaded during the last Ashes tour.

  • Madpashcrickers on February 2, 2014, 13:47 GMT

    Re: Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (February 2, 2014, 12:49 GMT)

    "It always baffled me that nobody had the nerve to walk up to Broad and the other bowlers and tell them to pitch the ball up fuller, instead of short-pitched garbage at low pace that gets easily dispatched to the square-leg boundary ..."

    I completely agree and I would go a little further in fact - nobody had the bottle to drop Broad and Anderson from the side when they weren't performing well.

    These two are the most overrated England new ball pairing I can remember since I started watching cricket in 76.

    You sum it up perfectly - "short-pitched garbage at low pace" is their stock in trade - they are neither quick, nor accurate, nor do they do much with the ball, except Anderson occasionally swings it in helpful conditions - but plenty of bowlers can do that just as well.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on February 2, 2014, 12:49 GMT

    For a management group that spent such a large part of series with their heads buried in their laptops and reams of data, it always baffled me that they could never follow a weather forecast and plan accordingly. It always baffled me that nobody had the nerve to walk up to Broad and the other bowlers and tell them to pitch the ball up fuller, instead of short-pitched garbage at low pace that gets easily dispatched to the square-leg boundary (and it was during series that opposition weren't driving the ball well). I don't think they understand the concept of required run rates in shorter formats. I think Flower is being scapegoated here, and they can change drivers all they like but at the end of the day, the ECB machine as a whole needs revamped and serviced fast.

  • GermanPlayer on February 2, 2014, 12:00 GMT

    So Giles did manage to win one game in Aus. Just goes to show how good a coach he is and how much negative influence Flower had on the team. One more tie, well done ECB!

  • GermanPlayer on February 2, 2014, 11:57 GMT

    They won 3 Ashes, a T20 and achieved no 1 ranking in all formats. Andy Flower was the best coach in the world and the ECB was not bothered about anything. But when they losr the Ashes 5-0, suddenly they complain about the human side of Andy Flower. How pathetic from ECB!

  • Madpashcrickers on February 2, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    One further striking potential similarity between the cycling debacle in Tuscany and the Ashes - Pietersen and Froome.

    Apparently Bradley Wiggins never spoke to Froome since midway through the 2012 Tour de France when Froome left Wiggins behind on a big climb. So how would you expect team spirit to shape up in a road race where these two were supposed to work for the collective good.

    Similarly no-one in the England dressing room appears to have any time for KP - anyone who has played a team sport knows that even one deeply unpopular individual in a team can bring down collective morale to the point where there's little enjoyment in playing.

  • on February 2, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    "The biggest support staff in cricket", well, it hasn't worked has it? Cricket is chess in whites and as such, needs to be instinctive as the first ball is bowled.

  • wickdwitch on February 2, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    It seemed to me that Cook was cast adrift by those who were supposed to be the 'support staff' - he often looked lost and bereft of ideas or working off a checklist - 'after x overs bring on y bowler' and seemed to have an inability to think on his feet or take a chance. Clarke on the other hand seemed to have the freedom to take a chance - and yes, bowlers who bowled to the plan, and fielders who took catches. Lyon took 2 in the leg-slip/leg-gully area - who PUTS a fielder there, let along gets someone CAUGHT there? Clarke was willing to take off a bowler who has taken a wicket, if the next batsman in was thought to be vulnerable to another bowler. There was no pouting, no 'why me?' just an understanding of the plan .... and wanting to back up your fellow bowler (player). As said earlier "Team Spirit" was the 12th man on the field for Australia - and he never flagged, and was always there, reminding everyone that they were a team - & a as a team was how they were going to win.

  • dynamco on February 2, 2014, 7:57 GMT

    Ian Chappell 'a coach is what the team travel to the ground in' England played as 11 individuals whereas Lehman had 12 on the field in all games; the 12th player, Team Spirit, made the difference. Oz took wickets which England could never do, because Cook had no attacking fielders in the right position with the bowlers following a captain's plan to attack weaknesses. The first to go should be Gooch. Cook is a good hitter of bad bowling but his instinct moves him backwards first to any length, by the time he has come forward his front foot is not to the pitch of the ball, rather it is just over the popping crease leaving him caught behind or LBW candidate. The flower wilted & a personable replacement could do wonders - the skills are with the players, esp the new guys but they need that 12th team player on the field with them.

  • SagirParkar on February 2, 2014, 5:44 GMT

    very measured and well written article from Mr Hopps once again.. i am very quickly becoming a fan of this guy's writing!

  • on February 2, 2014, 2:22 GMT

    In any role, it is the leaders ability to connect and inspire, and come time, take position to defend his players/ people. Professional coaches do have some basic tools to apply - essentially to put the tools together, and for the leader's fundemental ability to direct it towards result. Today, far too much has been placed on result, inducting an element for motivation, but a flawed concept in consequence. Ever changing rules complement that, but also a fact of life, if you will. As to opporunity, who gets the most, the concept of first amongst the equals does prevail. Draft......

  • DingDong420 on February 1, 2014, 21:51 GMT

    Please don't let Ashley Giles anywhere near the job, third rate bowler and look completely devoid of any answers on the odi's /c T20's in Oz at the moment

  • CoverDrive88 on February 1, 2014, 21:31 GMT

    I wouldn't have any trouble criticising Flower. It looks a lot like short-termism to me - wear the best players out with constant demands and leave English cricket in a sad state, but I'm alright mate, look at my track record. Certainly not intentional but short-termism just the same. I suspect the damage has been significant and the poor results might follow for at least as long as the few good ones. If he is put in charge of developing young leaders, the struggle could be very long.

    And add Mickey Arthur to that Southern African thing. Homework!! Test suspensions for not doing homework!! How was Khawaja supposed to answer a question about how to improve performances? Drop him and put me in?

  • timbojimbo23 on February 1, 2014, 20:48 GMT

    You often hear great coaches talk about how sometimes winning papers over the cracks. I think this was very true for England when they won 3-0 in England. There was so much not right for them but since they won they didn't address them and kept going the same way. And you can see what happened.

  • amclean on February 1, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    I agree with the sentiments @cloudmess. The difficulty for English Cricket it seems is the split-coach experiment which they appear to have concluded had not worked in the year it has been in operation. It was put in place to extend Andy Flower's tenure as coach and he probably concluded it was not optimal for the team. The problem though is that optimal is not always possible: Gary Kirsten will not take the job for the same reasons as Flower wanting a part-time position. Ashley Giles is not optimal either as England have regressed in one-day cricket under him. It would be interesting to know if adding Giles as Flower's assistant in Tests was considered. That would have been the best outcome, or at least better than a newcomer to over all formats.

  • cloudmess on February 1, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    This is an intelligent and fair-minded piece. It seems churlish and ungrateful to criticise Andy Flower at all, when he has done so much for English cricket. 3 Ashes series against one loss, a 20-over World Cup, periods of no 1 in the game. Rewind the clock to early 2009, we'd take him every time. He has had a touch of genius about him. If he really did become too intense and overbearing to get the best out of the players, then he was still young enough to learn from that. I hope that he did resign out of his own volition, because there is nothing to say he couldn't have turned the current situation around. I worry about what lies ahead when England go back to promoting their next coach from within, a good bloke with all the right badges etc and no real vision of his own, like they did with Peter Moores in 2007. The only positive thing about appointing Ashley Giles, is that he might be the last person left in English cricket who's still talking to KP.

  • cloudmess on February 1, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    This is an intelligent and fair-minded piece. It seems churlish and ungrateful to criticise Andy Flower at all, when he has done so much for English cricket. 3 Ashes series against one loss, a 20-over World Cup, periods of no 1 in the game. Rewind the clock to early 2009, we'd take him every time. He has had a touch of genius about him. If he really did become too intense and overbearing to get the best out of the players, then he was still young enough to learn from that. I hope that he did resign out of his own volition, because there is nothing to say he couldn't have turned the current situation around. I worry about what lies ahead when England go back to promoting their next coach from within, a good bloke with all the right badges etc and no real vision of his own, like they did with Peter Moores in 2007. The only positive thing about appointing Ashley Giles, is that he might be the last person left in English cricket who's still talking to KP.

  • amclean on February 1, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    I agree with the sentiments @cloudmess. The difficulty for English Cricket it seems is the split-coach experiment which they appear to have concluded had not worked in the year it has been in operation. It was put in place to extend Andy Flower's tenure as coach and he probably concluded it was not optimal for the team. The problem though is that optimal is not always possible: Gary Kirsten will not take the job for the same reasons as Flower wanting a part-time position. Ashley Giles is not optimal either as England have regressed in one-day cricket under him. It would be interesting to know if adding Giles as Flower's assistant in Tests was considered. That would have been the best outcome, or at least better than a newcomer to over all formats.

  • timbojimbo23 on February 1, 2014, 20:48 GMT

    You often hear great coaches talk about how sometimes winning papers over the cracks. I think this was very true for England when they won 3-0 in England. There was so much not right for them but since they won they didn't address them and kept going the same way. And you can see what happened.

  • CoverDrive88 on February 1, 2014, 21:31 GMT

    I wouldn't have any trouble criticising Flower. It looks a lot like short-termism to me - wear the best players out with constant demands and leave English cricket in a sad state, but I'm alright mate, look at my track record. Certainly not intentional but short-termism just the same. I suspect the damage has been significant and the poor results might follow for at least as long as the few good ones. If he is put in charge of developing young leaders, the struggle could be very long.

    And add Mickey Arthur to that Southern African thing. Homework!! Test suspensions for not doing homework!! How was Khawaja supposed to answer a question about how to improve performances? Drop him and put me in?

  • DingDong420 on February 1, 2014, 21:51 GMT

    Please don't let Ashley Giles anywhere near the job, third rate bowler and look completely devoid of any answers on the odi's /c T20's in Oz at the moment

  • on February 2, 2014, 2:22 GMT

    In any role, it is the leaders ability to connect and inspire, and come time, take position to defend his players/ people. Professional coaches do have some basic tools to apply - essentially to put the tools together, and for the leader's fundemental ability to direct it towards result. Today, far too much has been placed on result, inducting an element for motivation, but a flawed concept in consequence. Ever changing rules complement that, but also a fact of life, if you will. As to opporunity, who gets the most, the concept of first amongst the equals does prevail. Draft......

  • SagirParkar on February 2, 2014, 5:44 GMT

    very measured and well written article from Mr Hopps once again.. i am very quickly becoming a fan of this guy's writing!

  • dynamco on February 2, 2014, 7:57 GMT

    Ian Chappell 'a coach is what the team travel to the ground in' England played as 11 individuals whereas Lehman had 12 on the field in all games; the 12th player, Team Spirit, made the difference. Oz took wickets which England could never do, because Cook had no attacking fielders in the right position with the bowlers following a captain's plan to attack weaknesses. The first to go should be Gooch. Cook is a good hitter of bad bowling but his instinct moves him backwards first to any length, by the time he has come forward his front foot is not to the pitch of the ball, rather it is just over the popping crease leaving him caught behind or LBW candidate. The flower wilted & a personable replacement could do wonders - the skills are with the players, esp the new guys but they need that 12th team player on the field with them.

  • wickdwitch on February 2, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    It seemed to me that Cook was cast adrift by those who were supposed to be the 'support staff' - he often looked lost and bereft of ideas or working off a checklist - 'after x overs bring on y bowler' and seemed to have an inability to think on his feet or take a chance. Clarke on the other hand seemed to have the freedom to take a chance - and yes, bowlers who bowled to the plan, and fielders who took catches. Lyon took 2 in the leg-slip/leg-gully area - who PUTS a fielder there, let along gets someone CAUGHT there? Clarke was willing to take off a bowler who has taken a wicket, if the next batsman in was thought to be vulnerable to another bowler. There was no pouting, no 'why me?' just an understanding of the plan .... and wanting to back up your fellow bowler (player). As said earlier "Team Spirit" was the 12th man on the field for Australia - and he never flagged, and was always there, reminding everyone that they were a team - & a as a team was how they were going to win.

  • on February 2, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    "The biggest support staff in cricket", well, it hasn't worked has it? Cricket is chess in whites and as such, needs to be instinctive as the first ball is bowled.