Andy Flower confirms intention to carry on as England team manager

Significant but as yet unspecified changes in methodology and personnel promised

England’s Andy Flower talks to the media in Sydney yesterday.

England’s Andy Flower talks to the media in Sydney yesterday.

 

Andy FlowerEngland

Speaking at the Sydney Cricket Ground the morning after England’s final defeat of the Australian summer, Flower confirmed that his role will not change, that he believes Alastair Cook can develop his captaincy skills significantly, and that he has at no stage considered seriously his own position. “I’ve been very proud to be part of English cricket,” he said. “I was not proud of the way we performed in this Test.”

None of which is necessarily news. Indeed the manner and tone of what was, in the extraordinary circumstances of a post-whitewash debrief, a masterfully opaque public appearance, are perhaps the wider story. If only England’s batsmen had been able to summon even a fraction of the coiled and sure-footed defensiveness Flower mustered the series might have been a different affair. Not that Flower played any shots.

Chillingly brilliant
This was instead a fine and almost chillingly brilliant example of a man with a great deal to talk about – a horror story to tell, in fact – managing to articulate not just words but entire sentences while continuing to say pretty much nothing at all.

Has he ever thought his time might be up? “I’m focused on making the right decisions for English cricket.” Is Alastair Cook a good captain? “There are different levels of what good is.”

Would Kevin Pietersen benefit from a leadership role? “I don’t really want to discuss our thoughts on leadership.”

Has the split coaching role worked over the last year? “It’s too early to say.” What would he have changed with hindsight post-whitewash? “I wouldn’t like to sit here the day after the Test finishes and trot out a little list of lessons that we have learned.”

Which is a shame because this is what everyone else is doing right now – and Flower’s list is the only one that actually counts. There is, of course, an important distinction to be made here. For all the stagnation into catastrophe of the England Test team over the past year, Flower is still surely the best man to rebuild it. He has shown himself to be a brilliant coach and an honest, fiercely committed operator. He knows the players and the system. If anybody can adapt and rebuild from such trauma it is probably the man in charge. Plus, at the same time, this is not a moment for loose talk.

On the line
Flower is unable, out of professional duty, to name names, to give vent to his genuine frustrations. His own job is still notionally on the line as are those of others. There has been no formal debrief. Team omerta must, for a man this rigorously professional, be observed. But it is still a mistake to play dumb.

To those not privy to Flower’s more passionate professional self, this kind of posturing makes it look as though he is not hurting right now. He does, of course, care, but other people who also care need to be able to see this. Not all of the time. We don’t want a cry baby or a kind of quavering Ancient Mariner.

But Flower will perhaps not speak in public again until the next England Test series in June. This was the moment to let it out. Just the once. Then on we go. Flower has no doubt been instructed by his ECB aides to prevaricate and dodge.

Some might suggest a refusal to show emotion or doubt in defeat is of a piece with England’s desiccated unresponsiveness in the series, the sense of methods didactically applied, the lack of broader emotional palette: fair enough in victory, but in defeat something that starts to look like a weakness.
Guardian Service