The dawning of spring may bring winter to a close, but for English cricket the repercussions of the most tumultuous winter in decades linger as strongly as ever, and no amount of blossoming trees and clear blue skies seem capable of banishing them.
A decade of nigh on unprecedented success vanished from our memories as England stumbled from one inexplicable humiliation to another, and by the time the Netherlands dealt one final blow to England’s almost entirely depleted pride in Chittagong this week, any remaining expectation or optimism had been completely eroded.
While the powers-that-be in the ECB may wish for nothing more than to eradicate their haunting memories of this winter, they must first carry out a vast clean-up operation.
The first challenge they must undertake – which is, in fact, one of the most crucial – is to decide who shall succeed Andy Flower as England’s head coach, and who shall thus be given the enormous responsibility of smoothly guiding England through its present state of anarchy into, hopefully, a new era of prosperity.
In an ideal world, the ECB would have liked to have been able to promote Ashes-winning spinner Ashley Giles from his role as limited overs head-coach to head coach for all formats, but England’s disappointing results in One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals since he took over in November 2012 mean that this would be a difficult move to justify.
Under his stewardship, England have won just three of the fifteen ODI or T20I series or competitions they have competed in, and last summer they failed to win any of their four limited overs series, against New Zealand and Australia.
When this is viewed in conjunction with the hammering they suffered at the hands of Australia in both short forms of the game and their defeat to the Netherlands that brought to an end their mediocre World T20 campaign in Bangladesh last month; Giles’ CV makes rather unimpressive reading.
The fact that other names are being considered for the role – which the ECB seemed to have effectively reserved for Giles when they gave him responsibility for limited overs cricket eighteen months ago – suggests that Giles has failed to take his chance. It seems inevitable, given Giles’ poor coaching record at international level, that the ECB would almost certainly look elsewhere for Flower’s replacement were it not for the sheer absence of credible alternatives.
But a lack of suitable alternatives is hardly the correct criteria for the appointment of someone tasked with the responsibility of making England the best in the world once again.
Giles did well in county cricket with Warwickshire, winning the County Championship in 2012, and he has faced many obstacles as England’s limited-overs coach, most obviously a lack of consistent availability from England’s top players, but his record is distinctly average and he has failed to grasp his golden opportunity.
With Giles the safe but erroneous choice for the top job, attention thus turns to who should lead England, and it appears that of the remaining viable candidates, unexciting as they are, Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire’s current Director of Cricket, stands out.
While lacking a strong pedigree as a player, Newell has more than proved himself at county level with Nottinghamshire, winning two County Championship titles, the second Division title and last years’ YB40 competition.
On top of that, he has overseen the progression of numerous talents from aspiring young county stars into genuine international players, including, among others, Stuart Broad, James Taylor, Alex Hales and Samit Patel.
Given that England need, at this time more than any other in recent memory, an injection of hungry young talent – which will inevitably require substantial nurturing – Newell seems the perfect choice to lead them forward, given his record of developing young prospects at Nottinghamshire.
The candidates fighting to succeed Andy Flower are hardly likely to get pulses racing, but Newell has earned his chance and seems the most sensible and logical choice, even if his name has so far been mentioned only in passing in the wider media.
He, more than any of the other available options, has the potential to guide England out of this cold and miserable winter and back into the warm sunshine of summer.
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