Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

England in turmoil

Coach Andy Flower (left) and Alastair Cook are in search of change
Coach Andy Flower (left) and Alastair Cook are in search of change

England are in a mess. That much, naturally, could be gleaned from the way they capitulated to Australia in five Test matches, which required less than three quarters of their allocated span. Moustachioed marauders swarmed all over wilting wallflowers.

But it goes beyond defeats by 381 runs, 218 runs, 150 runs, eight wickets and 281 runs. Listing them together like that reveals the scale of the sporting slaughter.

There was not a close match in sight and that is what has concentrated minds in the past week.

Things, everyone agrees, must change. Nobody of sane disposition expected events to unfold as they did and most observers of sound mind predicted not only a closer contest but an entirely different outcome.

The confusion about what is to be done may therefore be understandable so soon after the bitter end to the campaign when England's final abject resistance lasted for all of 31.4 overs.

But Andy Flower's refusal of several invitations yesterday to discuss with detail and candour the nature of the reforms to come was perplexing.

England's head coach has support in high places and more backing from other areas, which are often quite as important, than he perhaps realises.

But he will have to be considerably more plain speaking and visionary if he and his team are to recover from this.

"Obviously after a loss of this proportion there has to be change of some description," he said.

"It would not be reasonable to go on doing the same things again, I absolutely agree with that. Exactly what that change looks like I can't describe right now.

"I've got my own ideas but it would be irresponsible to go into it without discussing them with some key personnel."

He politely declined to discuss what Alastair Cook might do to improve as a captain, whether Kevin Pietersen might be part of the team again or what his role might in it, the possible dispensation of senior players, the type of change he might have to effect, the amendments to his own style if there were to be any, the immediate lessons to be learned from the defeat and so on.

Flower confirmed that he would continue in the job and also nailed his colours firmly to captain Cook's mast. In the absence of any proper guidance on any issue it is obviously possible to speculate on all manner of occurrences: a future without Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jimmy Anderson, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior. He hinted at a coming revolution.

"This has been a bad loss," he said. "As part of our review we'll be looking at playing personnel and support staff and making sure we've got the right people on board for the future, but this will be a new start, and so it should be.

"It does feel like the end of some type of era and there will be some sort of new start.

"We might have to take a little more pain before we have sustained success again and we might have to ask for a little patience in that regard over the coming months."

How much more pain the England cricketing public are prepared to take before there is insurrection is extremely doubtful.

If Flower and Cook start the summer with a largely reupholstered team then they might be prepared to stomach a tight series against India late in the summer, if not Sri Lanka early in it.

But if it is merely simulated change – a backroom staff member here, a fringe player there – then defeat or draws against either would rightly lead to calls for immediate removal of the head honchos.

England's next Test match is against Sri Lanka at Lord's on 12 June, six long months away. There is an unalloyed diet of limited overs cricket until then including 13 one-day internationals (the World Cup is only a year away) and five Twenty20 internationals

Before that comes the World Twenty20, which is scheduled to start in Bangladesh in March. Flower will use the intervening time to ponder much more than the quality of his roses or gazing at his navel.

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