By Benjamin Lee
Friday afternoon saw the departure of England technical director Andy Flower as he became the first casualty in the fallout from England’s disastrous Ashes tour Down Under.
The Zimbabwean, 45, stepped down stating that he felt he was no longer up to the challenge of leading England on all fronts, having already stepped down from his one-day duties last year.
England, under his stewardship and Alistair Cook’s leadership, suffered a 5-0 humiliation in the test series in Australia, a complete reversal after a 3-0 success in the summer in the home series.
However it was clear from the summer that Australia were re-emerging and England won the series largely down to winning key sessions, such as a match winning performance by Stuart Broad in Durham and a match winning century by Ian Bell at Trent Bridge in the first Test.
England have won just four of their last 21 matches in all formats and the ECB have decided they needed one man in charge of all three formats and Flower could not commit to the role. He leaves having guided England to three Ashes triumphs as well as the World T20 in the West Indies in 2010.
The role for all three formats is up for grabs, with current one-day coach Ashley Giles a leading candidate. However under his guidance England has won just fifteen out of 37 One Day and T20 matches, although managing to reach the final of the last ICC Champions Trophy on home soil last year.
Other potential replacements for Flower include South African Gary Kirsten, a high accomplished batsman in his day who coached India to World Cup glory in 2011 as well as number one in the Test Rankings, before returning home to coach South Africa to number one in the Test rankings as well.
The major sticking point for his appointment would be around his family commitments and his desire to spend at least 70 per cent of his time in South Africa, according to the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew, which would have to be negotiated upon if he were to become England head coach.
Another candidate is successful Nottinghamshire director of cricket, Mick Newell, who led his county to victory in the domestic 40-over competition at Lord’s last season, as well as two County Championships in his twelve year spell at Trent Bridge.
Whoever takes up the role will have to produce instant results, as England tour the West Indies in one day formats before heading to Bangladesh for the World T20.
It is the demise of the test team that has garnered the most public attention, however. There are two major issues running alongside the search for Flower’s replacement and they are the captaincy of Alastair Cook and the future of Kevin Pietersen.
In the case of Cook, he has to demonstrate his desire for the role of Test Captain and understanding of his mistakes and willingness to learn from his experiences and the methods used by the likes of Michael Clarke, whose aggressive captaincy outclassed Cook’s hesitancy in Australia, and Brendon McCullum, whose aggressive captaincy lead to a dogged New Zealand presenting England with a serious challenge this time a year ago.
Cook’s form has rapidly deteriorated and it may be wise to allow him to focus on his batting by relieving him on his duties, at least in the one-day format. England have regularly under achieved in 50 over cricket and it has shown little signs of changing under Cook’s leadership and under a new head coach and captain a new approach could be taken.
The issue of Kevin Pietersen needs sorting once and for all. The ECB need to take the advice of captain Alistair Cook as well as other members of the dressing room, however if they are to back Cook as captain then it is his decision to make.
The England team is the captain’s team and he needs to decide whether Pietersen has been a problem or not. While KP has caused dressing room issues in the past, such as the texting fiasco during the home series with South Africa in 2012, he has played many invaluable knocks and match saving innings. However his form has dropped in recent years and that could also be in part due to the continual speculation surrounding him.
England needs to decide through their captain whether he stays and put the issue to rest once and for all. It is the perfect time to resolve any issues, wipe the slate clean and go on with or without him.
If he stays then increasing his responsibility to the team is a good option, as former England captain Michael Vaughan has suggested making him vice-captain of the Test team. He could also take over from Cook as one-day captain, bringing a positive approach to a format where England needs inspiration.
England have three main issues to resolve which they should attend to before the one-day squad heads to West Indies. The team needs to know their coach, their captain and it needs to know where it stands regarding key players such as Pietersen.
This is a critical period for English cricket and in the rebuilding phase the ECB needs to tackle each issue head on and make positive strides into the new era.
Photographs: Stephen Caffull & Ferdous Amin