Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2013

Flower's time is up, England need a fresh approach

All the qualities that once rendered Andy Flower the perfect man for the job - his intensity, his attention to detail and his demanding personality - have now become the reasons he needs to go

#Politeenquiries: Are both teams just hometown bullies?

It is a simply a question of 'when' not 'if' now. England's defeat in Melbourne - and the manner of it - has rendered Andy Flower's position as coach all-but untenable.

Flower has done a magnificent job. Appointed with the team in disarray - he inherited a side who had just sacked their captain and coach and, in his first game in charge saw the side bowled out for 51 in Jamaica - he instilled a discipline and unity of purpose that saw the team rise to No. 1 in the rankings in all three formats. He was exactly the man required when appointed and has exceeded expectations. Despite recent events, he should still go with his head held high and great pride in what he has achieved.

But all things must pass. All the qualities that once rendered Flower the perfect man for the job - his intensity, his attention to detail and his demanding personality - have now become the reasons he needs to go. England need refreshing. They need to rediscover their joy in playing the game. They need a change.

For that reason, it is highly likely that, sometime over the next few days or weeks - probably in the aftermath of the Sydney Test - Flower will take the decision to resign. He will reflect on what he has seen and come to an honest decision over whether he is the man to inspire a resurgence in this England team. Anyone who has seen them disintegrate over recent weeks can come to only one conclusion.

He will not be sacked. An odd situation has arisen where there is arguably no-one with the authority to do so. Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, has just stepped down and it is asking a great deal of his successor, Paul Downton, to make such a decision on his first week in the job. David Collier, the chief executive, is more suited to overseeing financial matters and long-term planning, while the idea that a non-paid chairman like Giles Clarke could take such a decision is ludicrous.

Despite the current debacle, the ECB will not be without a succession plan. Ashley Giles remains the frontrunner to take control of the England teams in all formats and with a new head coach invariably comes a new back-room team which means the roles of Graham Gooch, the batting coach, and David Saker, the bowling coach, are extremely vulnerable especially after the batting collapses during this tour and the lack of a role for any of England's tall quicks.

To have picked a side with an inadequate reserve wicketkeeper, a lack of reserve opening batsmen, three tall drinks waiters and a reserve spinner who came into the tour with serious doubts over his readiness to return to this level, has been proven to be folly

Graeme Welch, Giles' right-hand man when he oversaw Warwickshire County Championship success in 2012, will be a strong contender for the bowling role and Paul Collingwood would be a viable candidate for the batting role. Graham Thorpe would, in normal circumstances, be a favourite for the batting position due to his links with England Lions but there is some doubt over his willingness to tour.

There may be questions about Alastair Cook's captaincy, too. Again, it is highly unlikely that Cook will be sacked. Rightly so, too: it is only a year since he led England to victory in India, and a few months since the previous Ashes and a home season that included taking the side to the brink of their first global ODI trophy. However, though he said what he had to after the Melbourne defeat, whether Cook has the appetite for the challenge after this dispiriting reverse remains to be seen.

As his senior spinner wilted and his wicketkeeper flapped like a drowning seal, Cook looked a broken man on the fourth day. Stuart Broad, the captain of the Twenty20 side, and Ian Bell, the Test vice-captain and a particularly impressive leader at domestic level, would be the only viable candidates to replace him.

The selectors need to reflect on their contribution to the current state of disarray, too. To have picked a side with an inadequate reserve wicketkeeper, a lack of reserve opening batsmen, three tall drinks waiters and a reserve spinner who came into the tour with serious doubts over his readiness to return to this level, has been proven to be folly. Several of those errors could have been averted had they simply taken more notice of results in county cricket.

While there will be the inevitable calls for a complete cull from the side, that would prove a mistake. Kevin Pietersen remains, whatever his army of critics say, the prize wicket for every opposition side, while James Anderson showed in Melbourne that he remains a skilful operator. England's early bowling on the fourth morning by Anderson, Broad and Ben Stokes was impressive. They created four chances before lunch but, partly due to Jonny Bairstow's obvious deficiencies with the gloves, two of them went begging. Suffice it to say, Matt Prior had a good game in Melbourne.

However, it's hard to see how changes won't be made for Sydney. Tim Bresnan and Michael Carberry are vulnerable but Monty Panesar, slinging down his left-arm medium pace with a horribly ragged action, was wretched and will almost certainly be replaced by the young legspinner Scott Borthwick. Borthwick is not the finished article but as a fine fielder, a decent batsman and a fresh face, he offers hope for the future. And, in a grim chapter for England cricket, hope is about the best that can be offered.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on December 31, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    Jeez - people have short memories. And some funny ideas about management. This is NOT Flowers first series defeat. Flower presided over the whitewash V Pakistan in the UAE, and the pathetic 2-0 home defeat V South Africa. This is actually Flowers THIRD failure. There are people saying that it is not Flowers fault - that he is not responsible for morale or performance. WHAT?!?! Sports management, like any other management - is about results. Get results, meet targets = all is well. Fail to get results, miss targets = sacked. Simples

  • teja on December 31, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    Cook won in India, Ashes at home and almost won the ODI trophy, so he has a reason to continue as captain? Flower was part of all of this as well. Flower has converted an above average performing England team into a winning unit. England could be back to winning against New Zealand and The West Indies and drawing or losing against the others if Flower's methods are gone.

    Asking Flower to leave after losing one series against vengeful Australia at their home is a mistake.

  • Harold on December 31, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    The "Team Director" or "Coach" or whatever is NOT responsible for team morale or for performance or all this stuff, except in a minor way. His job is, and should be, to PREPARE the team. There is room for only one leader in the team, and that is the captain. If anything, the order should be that the captain is giving directions to the coach, this is what I need from my team. The coach is there to support the captain. That's why that entire battalion is called a support staff. Border, Taylor, Waugh, Ponting, Clarke - it is clear who was the boss. If they succeed, good, and if not, they get replaced. Dhoni is not looking over his shoulder for instructions from the side. Graeme Smith isn't. I didn't mind the Cook experiment - you should try. But he is a poor captain. Let him just bat, and find the person to lead. Would remind the poms here - you won in India not through leadership but through brilliant individual performance. Those happen regardless of the captain.

  • ranganathan on December 31, 2013, 0:18 GMT

    Both Cook and Flower should not be given any further time and must quit gracefully before further damages can happen.Cook is a very good opener and there it stops. Last 3 years England always looked rusty in the first few games before they really performed anywhere. The blame goes to Flower for such poor preparation plus the team selection has been poor based more on sentiments and past glory than right men for right games and for future.!!! Cook cannot be an aggressive captain, which is the need of the hour to build a team. The current series defeats have pushed England to the bottom league. They could not defend the position they attained due to poor planning,application and attitude.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    One bad tour and the knives are out.

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    All of a sudden the coach has to go? This man led the England revival and may victories. Surely they did not expect to keep handing the Aussies defeat after defeat. I guess you are only as good as your last win.

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 21:29 GMT

    England's management of the younger players (whilst protecting the seniors) is awful. Look at Joe Root. Did well at 6 and moved to opener early. He returned to 6 before going to 3, whilst playing all 3 formats. Now he looks like cannon fodder.

    Bairstow has been a drink waiter for a year, before he was thrown in at the deep end to much criticism. Finn and Kerrigan have been destroyed and James Taylor bounced in and out the team without a decent run.

    England also 'broke' Bresnan and Tremlett, with both suffering serious injury and losing pace. After initially 'breaking' Onions, he cannot get in the team, despite doing well in County Cricket.

    The failure to manage less established players and settle them into the side has brought about the current woes, with no new talent to come through fresh. Management and backroom staff should pay the price.

  • Martin on December 30, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    @Chris_P Hello mate. Sorry I couldn't be with you at the Gabba. I would have liked that (if not the scoreline...). Since Gooch became involved with England batting it has gone slowly but surely down the tubes. He was around the side in the UAE, look what happened there. Then he was made batting coach. Since then England lost dismally at home to South Africa, failed to win in NZ and then did not fire in the Ashes in England. The batting has got progressively worse. He dissects their game and the damage has built up to what we see today - England batsmen walk to the crease with their heads in a total stressed out mess. Bowling is similar, not as bad. Who's dull idea was it to have Tremlett/Finn/Rankin carrying the drinks? Words fail me. And what of Flower? His methods, his obsessions, psychoanalysis, micro-management, etc, worked for a while. But not any more. Trott's departure says everything, then Swann. The players have had it. Times' up. Gooch has to go. Flower? Probably.

  • Brian on December 30, 2013, 20:06 GMT

    I found the latter part of this article extraordinarily misguided. Why focus on Panesar as a selection blunder? England have lost this series because a vaunted and overpraised 6 of their top 7 batters (Cook, Trott, Bell, Root, Pietersen and Prior) have failed to record a single century between them, combined with the underperformance of the equally overpraised Swann or Anderson. Dobell goes on praising Pietersen and endorsing Cook, yet it is such senior players who have let England down, not the likes of Carberry or Bresnan. Why focus to such extent on the very few overs Panesar has been allowed to bowl? Dobell likes to depict himself as a close student of the domestic game, but if he'd been watching closely he'd have noticed that potential alternative second spinners such as Kerrigan and Tredwell had at least as miserable a summer. Also, Panesar was picked to play the same role on the triumphant 2010-1 tour; whatever he's done this time only matters because Swann's wimped out.

  • Geoff on December 30, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    The senior players have had enough and the rest are either not good enough or not experienced enough to step up. Oh, by the way, that applies to Ian Bell as well. They need a break. Send them all home ... NOW ... and look at reconsidering them after the next English season. The rest of this tour? Use it to give the younger guys experience. Look after England cricket not Australian cricket.

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