Wednesday, April 15

Andy is the Coach

You don't average 50 in Tests playing for a team such as Zimbabwe without a core of steel and you don't make a public stand against a murderous dictator ... without a bit of ticker, a broader view of the world - and a one-way plane ticket out. -- Mike Atherton

English cricket is finally in good hands. Andy Flower has just been announced as Team Director. Another Ashes win might be a little far-fetched, since England has been in bit of a shambles; but if Flower stays put, I wouldn't discount an Ashes in Australia itself in two years' time. What even Fletcher couldn't do, Andy will do.

First of firsts, Andy must do what he wants. He's a shy man, a man committed to perfection and expecting silently the same of others, but here he has to be assertive; he has to look widely, not even Ireland but even as far as South Africa and Namibia to recruit talent for England. Since the country cricket is only throwing up fat under-performing players, at the best only capable of playing T20, and Flintoff is aging, Strauss the captain is aging, and even the bowling doesn't have anybody real good and young. England basically need right now three things: (1) KP learns self-discipline and importance of putting team first without losing his arrogant flamboyance; (2) a good wicketkeeper-batsman (which I believe Foster can be) and a good wrist spinner; (3) Cook matures and learns patience and stamina, even after the half-centuries. It's Cook England will have to build around in the coming years; after seven years, he will be the veteran and star. Andy must recognise that and Cook, already once his Essex team-mate, should now blossom.

What Andy brings to the table needs no mention: what the players should not forget that here is the opportunity to really learn. KP might be a good adventurous player of spin, but he still is not a good player; he has the chance of going further up as a batsman with his coach now being the best ever player of spin. It's a supercharged time for England, a busy 11 weeks looming: recriminations are already ready to pop out, but most are waiting with bated breath for mistakes to creep out, for failures to slink in; for most people, expending their precious breath is more important than really thinking what's been ailing with English cricket since almost a quarter of a century. I like this England set-up: the quiet and mentally strong and perfectionist Andy Flower with a methodical and sweet captain Andy Strauss with one of the best batsmen the mercurial KP and the finest allrounder England ever produced Andrew Flintoff; throw in bravehearts Paul Collingwood and James Anderson, and you've got a good, promising stew!



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