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Ashley Giles has been sacked as England men's director of cricket amid the fallout from the team's dismal Ashes campaign in Australia.
Andrew Strauss has agreed to step into the role on an interim basis and will put in place arrangements for England's three-Test tour of West Indies, which gets underway on February 24 with the first Test in Antigua on March 8, while the search begins for a full-time replacement.
The changes follow an ECB board meeting on Tuesday to discuss an end-of-tour report penned by Giles and head coach Chris Silverwood into England's 4-0 Ashes defeat and presented to Strauss. England's campaign was beset by questions over players' fitness levels and reports of a drinking culture within the touring group.
As the changes were announced on Wednesday evening, Tom Harrison, the ECB Chief Executive Officer, said: "I'm extremely grateful to Ashley for his commitment and contribution to England men's cricket over the last three years... He's highly respected throughout the game and has made a huge contribution to the ECB and England Men's cricket. Off the back of a disappointing men's Ashes this winter we must ensure we put in place the conditions across our game to enable our Test team to succeed."
Strauss has experience of the role, having been Giles' predecessor as England director of cricket for three years from 2015-18 before leaving to care for his two children in the wake of the tragic death of his wife, Ruth. He takes over from his current position overseeing the ECB's cricket committee.
Giles said that the past couple of years, which have included the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting bio-secure touring bubbles, had been "incredibly challenging".
"Despite these challenges, over the past three years, we have become 50-over World Champions, the top ranked T20I side in the world, we remain the fourth-ranked Test team and our Under-19s have just reached the World Cup final for the first time in 24 years," Giles said. "I wish all our players and staff great success for the future. I'm now looking forward to spending some time with my family before looking at the next challenge."
Silverwood's job is also under scrutiny in the wake of England's Ashes failure, although no mention was made of his position as the ECB announced Giles' departure. Giles appointed Silverwood as head coach in 2019 before giving him control of selection last summer following the removal of Ed Smith as national selector.
Alec Stewart has emerged as a potential caretaker-coach for the Caribbean tour, should Silverwood follow Giles out the door.
Stewart retired in 2003 with a then-England record of 133 Test caps after a career epitomised by his no-nonsense professional standards which, given the disciplinary issues raised at the end of the Ashes series, could prove a vital factor if he joins the England set-up - even on a short-term basis - ahead of the ECB's proposed "reset" this year.
While no direct approach has yet been made, the Daily Mail reports that Stewart, currently director of cricket at Surrey, has shown an interest in stepping into the breach when the Test squad departs later this month.
The alternative may be to promote one of England's current assistant coaches in the short term. Paul Collingwood is the likelier candidate, given that Graham Thorpe is also expected to lose his job following the Ashes debacle. Thorpe's fate may have been sealed by a bizarre incident at the end of the fifth Test in Hobart, when police had to be called to break up an early-morning drinking session, reportedly after Thorpe had lit a cigar indoors.
Stewart was in the running to succeed Trevor Bayliss as England's head coach in 2019, but withdrew from the process for family reasons. Other names in the frame for the long-term role include Gary Kirsten, who threw his hat into the ring in December, and maybe even Australia's current head coach, Justin Langer, whose own future in that role may be decided this week.
The circumstances for the ECB could hardly be less conducive to long-term decision-making, however, given that the board is currently without a chairman following the resignation of Ian Watmore last year. Harrison, the CEO, is also under intense pressure, given the mounting anger about the Ashes performance, and following an unconvincing appearance in Parliament last month, when the sport's response to the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal came under renewed scrutiny.