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Unexpected news in the world of cricket broke on Friday, detailing the immediate departure of Andy Flower from his position as England Technical Director. Whilst being out of the blue, it is perhaps not unsurprising that Flower is being relieved of his duties after the most dismal of tours to Australia. That, coupled with the underlying sense of discontent within the England team meant that something had to change. It must be questioned, though, as to what this move signifies for English cricket as a whole.
As Andy Flower so aptly put it after the conclusion of the winter Ashes, the 5-0 defeat marked the ‘end of an era’ for this England team. After inheriting the remains of a team decimated by the deadly duo of Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores back in 2009, Flower created a cricketing juggernaut, capable of powering past teams with a combination of relentlessly accurate bowling and one of the finest batting line-ups England had seen in many years. After winning the Ashes in 2009, Flower and England set their sights on world domination, winning the ICC World 20/20 in 2010 and beating India, home and away. His defining moment is widely considered to be the memorable 2010/2011 Ashes victory down under, the first time in 24 years that England had won in Australia. Never had an England team been so meticulously prepared; Australia were quite simply blown away. Flower was widely lauded as England’s best coach ever; his team as the finest England had ever produced. As the saying goes, however, all good things must come to an end.
The loss of Andrew Strauss after the home series defeat to South Africa in 2012 demonstrated the first crack appearing in Flower’s empire. So much of England’s success had been based upon the relationship between these two men – although Strauss’ replacement Cook more than ably stepped into the role, it could be argued that the understanding between the two was never quite the same. Towards the end of 2012, Flower cut his role as technical director down substantially – from that point onward, he focused solely on test match cricket. Whether this had a direct role in his eventual stepping down is difficult to assess, however, it is clear that by reducing his role he lost a large proportion of his former influence over English cricket.
The death blow for Flower was of course the 5-0 defeat over the winter of 2013-2014. After a successful summer against Australia, the magnitude of the rout against England in the winter suddenly threw the focus upon Flower’s previously enshrined training and preparation methods. 82 page diet plans were widely ridiculed; the already swelled team of support staff had reached absurd proportions and, with the departure of Jonathan Trott and the controversy surrounding Kevin Pietersen, Flower suddenly faced allegations of running a disharmonious ship.
With the dust settling on a very disappointing endeavour, and many of England’s former greats looking past their best, Team England had a decision to make: dispense with Flower, and begin a new era without him, or persevere and allow him to rebuild his team. As today’s decision demonstrates, England went with the former. With the lack of credible alternatives to replace Alastair Cook as captain, it is clear that Flower had to be the fall-guy for the poor performances over the winter. However, it must be accepted that to move on from this winter England need a fresh approach to cricket – Flower, with his intensive and at times stifling approach to cricket, simply could not have provided this.
The impact of such a change could have a fundamental shift in the way that England play cricket. As previously highlighted, Flower’s teams worked on the premise of grinding down teams, or, as less affectionate fans put it, ‘boring out batsmen’. A new coach, with fresh ideas and young players not used to such a system could create a new brand of exciting cricket.
The move to get rid of Flower also signifies the desire of the English management to have one coach in charge of all forms of cricket once again – this is not a bad idea and will allow the coach placed in charge to hold complete authority over all aspects of English cricket. England should also take this opportunity to remove a large proportion of the support staff that has been suffocating the team for far too long. The timing of this move also allows whoever replaces Flower 18 months before the return of the Ashes in 2015.
Although it was time for him to move on, we should not forget the fantastic work that Andy Flower has done for this England cricket team. He took England to number 1 in the world and won them their first ever ICC competition, as well as winning 3 Ashes contests. Although he did not end his reign on the terms that he would have liked, Flower should be remembered for masterminding some of modern English cricket’s greatest ever triumphs – for that reason, fans should always remember with great affection the time that he spent in charge of England.