Saker admits jobs are on the line
David Saker, the England bowling coach, has admitted his job could be in jeopardy as a result of England's wretched performance in Australia.
Saker, who signed a new three-year contract in October, accepted he had to take some responsibility for the disappointing form of fast bowler Steven Finn and for the failure of the bowlers to close out the ODI in Brisbane where James Faulkner thrashed Australia to a miraculous victory.
"I'll be the first to say that anyone on this tour should be worried about their job," Saker said. "We haven't performed well enough unfortunately and we're in the business of winning games of cricket. This has been a poor performance from everyone involved.
"I've had pretty much a fairy tale run until this tour and it has been a reality check for me. It is something that everyone in our group has to think about. I'm sure they will review everyone's position and if they see fit to change me, well that is their position, but I'm very much committed to trying to change things around."
The performance of Finn has caused particular debate. 18-months or so ago, it appeared England had unearthed a bowler of impressive pace and hostility who would serve them well for several years. But, under the guidance of the England coaching set-up, Finn has lost pace, control and confidence to such a degree that he was recently deemed "not selectable" by England's limited-overs coach, Ashley Giles, and sent home early from the tour for a complete break from the game. It meant Finn had not played a single international game on the tour.
"It's disappointing," Saker said. "And I take quite a bit of responsibility because my job is to get him playing well for England and that hasn't worked the way we would have liked.
"We've tried different things; he has worked extremely hard in the nets, as he always does. Some weeks we moved a long way forward and some weeks we moved a long way backwards. That was pretty much the story of the whole trip.
"We always want bowlers to be accurate and dry up runs but more than anything we just want him to run in and bowl the way he did when he first broke into the side.
"We've tried to tinker with certain things but we don't do any major overhauls of actions. We did shorten his run up in New Zealand and it did work quite well but he didn't feel comfortable with it and he went back to his long run. That was his decision.
"We keep working on different things but at the end of the day he has to decide what he wants. He has to sift through advice and see what is best for him. I'm sure he will bounce back and I'm sure it will be quickly. We want him to get better and are all trying to help him. You've got to trust your action and I don't think he trusts it. Our job is to make sure he gets an action he trusts."
But Finn's experience was not unique. England selected two other giant fast bowlers for the Ashes but both Boyd Rankin and Chris Tremlett played peripheral parts in the series. In the first Test of the series, Tremlett bowled exactly as he had done in the 2013 county season for Surrey - with skill and accuracy but without any of the menace that rendered him such a dangerous proposition in 2010-11 - before being dropped, while Rankin failed to do himself justice in the final Test of the series with a timid performance. Clearly the England set-up was unable to coax the best out of any of them.
"After the results we've had, you could say the selection was wrong," Saker said. "It's disappointing that one of the tall bowlers didn't have a big impact. They didn't put it together.
"People are looking for runs and wickets and looking for wrong things instead of just looking for how you played in the back yard with your mum and dad. That's the way you want to play.
"Sometimes it's not easy to say just run up and bowl; they do read things into it. The game is played a lot of time between the ears and you have to think really strongly about what is going into your mind."
Saker also expressed his disappointment over the "death" bowling in Brisbane, confessing that it was the lowest point in a career as England's bowling coach that began in April 2010.
"It was a hell of an innings from Faulkner, but we handed a lot of those shots to him," Saker said. "We could have bowled a lot better and I'll put my hand up straight away. It was a poor finish to an ODI game and in a sense it has to be brought onto me because we should be able to finish an innings off like that and we should be able to close off the last two overs for less than 30, but we didn't.
"That was as devastated as I've been since I've worked in this job because it was a game we should have won. We've been away for a long time and we haven't won a game and that was a game no doubt we should have won and that really hurt. Not just the bowling group but the whole team. When you're in the position I'm in you feel a lot of responsibility for that."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo