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England Cricket Betting: It's Wright v Flower for the top job in the national game

England Cricket RSS / / 09 April 2009 /

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The search is on for England's next coach and Andrew Hughes has views on the main runners.

Shane Warne does not believe in head coaches. His opinions on the tenure of former Australian coach John Buchanan are well-known. And by adding the role of coach to his official position as captain of Rajasthan Royals, Warne underlined his view that coaching is a part-time position, an optional extra, an easily dispensed-with luxury.

But whilst it is tempting to side with Warne's view, he is probably wrong. In the absence of a strong head coach, responsibility falls entirely on the captain. This is how it used to be. As late as the eighties, captains were in charge of every aspect of the well being of a team, from travel arrangements to organising net sessions. These days, the demands of the international game are so extensive, it is vital to have someone to take the pressure off the captain. And for that to mean anything, it has to be someone with authority.

Great teams might be able to struggle by for short periods without a coach. But England are not a great team. They are not even a particularly good team. They are not, perhaps, at quite such a low ebb as they were in 1999 when Duncan Fletcher was hired to sort out the mess. But they are in need of direction. The ECB have at least been looking in the right places. From what we can tell, Graham Ford, Tom Moody, Gary Kirsten, John Buchanan and Micky Arthur have all been approached. Unfortunately, they have all said no.

To be fair, both Arthur and Kirsten are under contract and Moody is reluctant to uproot his family, having only recently settled in Perth. But those who have turned it down would also have sound cricketing reasons to do so. They would be inheriting a dressing room of some of the world's most highly paid yet most underperforming cricketers. There are a host of personal issues to deal with, dating back as far as the Fletcher regime. Then there is the unrealistic pressure of the English media for instant success. And finally, a domestic game that is not exactly a vast reservoir of talent.

To take all that on and make a success of it will require a certain set of skills. The successful candidate will need to be strong-minded enough to deal with a fractious dressing room and to lay down the law if required. Beyond that, they must know what it takes to succeed in international cricket and take an objective view of the kind of cricketers that they are looking for. A nostalgic affection for county cricket is likely to be a hindrance. Fletcher looked beyond the obvious names to build a successful England team and that may be required again.

The shortlist appears to contain just two names: John Wright and Andy Flower. Wright has impressive credentials. It was he, in partnership with Sourav Ganguly, who built a strong and successful Indian team, capable of winning outside the subcontinent. He is a highly experienced coach at international level and though he is a relatively low profile personality, has a strong dressing room presence. He would command respect.

The alternative is the incumbent, Andy Flower. He deserves credit for taking on the job in the interim, knowing that he didn't have the authority a permanent appointment would have. But England have played poorly in the Caribbean and their scrappy one day series win didn't fool anyone. Flower is an inexperienced coach and represents an extension of the Moores regime, rather than a fresh start. The only thing in his favour is that he has apparently formed a good working relationship with Andrew Strauss.

Whatever the choice the ECB makes, the new coach will have little time to ease into the job. A home series with the West Indies in May is followed by the Twenty20 World Cup and then the Ashes.

England expects their team to put up a good show in the battle with the old enemy and the pressure will be on the new coach to build a successful team in a very short space of time. The size of that particular task is starkly illustrated by the current Ashes odds. Australia are [1.77] for Ashes victory, with England drifting at [3.5].

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