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December 30, 2013
Switch Hit: The changing of the guard?
Andy Flower admitted it feels like the end of an era for his England Test team but does not believe the changing of the guard among the players has to be replicated in the captaincy or coaching staff and has stated his desire to lead the rebuilding.
England are 4-0 down in the series and facing a whitewash in Sydney after a chastening defeat in Melbourne from a position of great strength.
Flower accepted that lessons could be learned from the tour but maintained the right management team were in place to lead England into the future and pointed to the side's success in recent years as proof of their effectiveness.
"Some things have to change because I do think this is the ending of a certain era for this team," Flower said. "After Sydney it will be the start of some fresh cycle in some way.
"This group of players have had some really good times. But we have seen Jonathan Trott disappear at the start of the tour and we have seen Graeme Swann disappear after three Tests. Those have been two absolute stalwarts for us. Trott has been as solid as anyone can be at number three and Swann has provided an outstanding career over six years.
"Hopefully Trott comes back at some stage, but with the passing of those two stalwarts and some of the results we have got on this tour I think it is fair to say that post-Sydney the England management should view this as starting afresh."
Whatever changes occur, Flower remains keen to be at the heart of it. While he will meet Paul Downton, the new managing director of England cricket, in Sydney in the next few days to discuss the future and accepts his style may have to evolve, he insists he retains the appetite to do so.
"I'd like to carry on," he said. "It would be a really exciting challenge for me. I would have the appetite to do that. I still have confidence in my ability to lead this group in the right direction.
"We ask our players to constantly look to improve and evolve and certainly I ask our coaching team to do so and when asking those questions of others I should absolutely be doing that myself."
Flower has always studied other leading coaches within sport and is now delving into their knowledge more than ever as he considers whether he can rebuild England's Test fortunes after such a dramatic slump.
"I've had some very interesting discussions with other international or successful franchise or club coaches. They're fascinating people to listen to and they all go through similar experiences. Should I be changing some of our coaching methods?
"Well, we're always looking to do things at an optimum level for the good of the individual players and the side. I'll continue to do that. I've given a lot of thought to what's happened on this tour but perhaps some time away at the end of this series would be the best time to evaluate that kind of thing."
Flower was particularly supportive of Alastair Cook and his coaching staff. As well as providing a reminder of Cook's excellent record up until this tour - he was unbeaten in his first five series at the helm - he also suggested he was still learning his trade as captain.
"Cook is an excellent young man and he's also a young captain," Flower said. "He is still learning about captaincy and he's done a good job so far. This is his sixth series and this is his first loss as captain. We've all got a lot to learn from it."
From the backroom team, the roles of Graham Gooch and David Saker and now under scrutiny although since Flower was made full-time director in early 2009, following the series loss to West Indies, England have only lost three Test series.
"I'm very confident in our support staff. I am sure they are just as motivated as I am. I think they are all keen to carry on. They've done an excellent job over the years and I think it would be careless in a way to have a knee-jerk reaction to this Test series loss.
"Over the last four-and-a-half years that this is our third Test series loss, so I think people should remember that."
Flower dismissed the suggestion that his intense leadership style had contributed to England's lacklustre display. Indeed, he insisted that, if anything, he should bring more intensity to the role.
"I think it is 180 degrees inaccurate," he said. "If anything I have relaxed a little in certain ways. If anything, I could bring more intensity and a closer control on certain things."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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