Andy Flower: 'The truth is we all weren't good enough'
England coach admits selection was wrong but promises lessons will be learnt
There was no attempt to hide by Andy Flower yesterday, no skirting of the issue, no clumsy excuses. So little deviation, repetition or hesitation was there, and not a bit of obfuscation, that he might have been collecting laughs on Just A Minute instead of reflecting painfully on England's embarrassing and often ill-tempered 5-0 hammering in a one-day series by India.
"In looking for reasons for a defeat such as this, my own personal philosophy is that you've got to look at yourself first," he said. "I am the head coach so, of course, I have to look at the way I have prepared the players for this series. It obviously hasn't been successful so I do have to look at the decisions I have made.
"I think we've got to look back at our selection, some of our training methods, and then take the lessons from that. We haven't had a chance to do that yet in any organised fashion. But very obviously we all weren't good enough."
Flower's mea culpa was agonisingly sincere, though he can never have expected to be issuing it. Few managers or coaches in other sports can quite manage to concede the extent of their cock-up. England came here expecting to win after a successful home summer and more than two years in which they have become a palpably superior side. If nothing else, they would certainly not lose 5-0 as they had three years ago. Yes, they would.
England's humiliation grew as the series wore on and was complete by the end of the final match. First, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, continued to taunt them by turning his side's fortunes on their head with his sixth consecutive undefeated innings against England. This was then catastrophically compounded when the tourists, having fought back, proceeded to collapse in a heap losing 10 wickets for 47 runs and the match by 95.
If it continued an abysmal sequence for England in India, where they have now won only one of their last 18 one-day matches, it was a dubious relief that it was watched by so few spectators. None of the five matches, all in major centres, attracted capacity audiences, and the series has severely damaged India's reputation as the cricketing centre of the world.
Ten years ago, when England last appeared at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, they were watched by more than 100,000 people in losing a thrilling match to India. On Tuesday, there were barely 5,000 in at the start, growing slightly to perhaps 20,000. Eden Gardens remains cavernous, so were the empty spaces.
This is a worrying sign for Indian cricket – indeed, all cricket – since this series amounted to a victory parade for the World Cup winners against the old colonial foe. In early April, this country had stopped in jubilation when the World Cup was won after 28 years. It is as if the mission has been accomplished and nothing else matters. The absent thousands, presumably saving their cash for Twenty20 down the line, missed the extraordinary Dhoni leading a fresh young team with true dynamism.
England's old failings against spin and their rudimentary insistence on playing it from the crease, manifested themselves grotesquely. But they were also frequently poor at running between the wickets and outfielded by keener opponents. Some of them might have been tired (but then what of Dhoni?), others much too inexperienced and others simply not good enough.
"Playing spin here is more difficult, I personally don't think it's that much more difficult," said Flower. "I think in the combination of delivering a slightly different skill of placing spin out here and knowing how to attack it, but then also delivering those skills under pressure, we have come up way short. I honestly believe that everyone has to take personal responsibility.
"We ask the players to do that and we have to do the same. One of the players' jobs is to learn as quickly as possible and certainly our job is to facilitate that," said Flower. "That is where I question myself."
Flower speaks from a position of some strength. He has guided England to No 1 in the world Test and Twenty20 rankings and to two epic Ashes triumphs. In a way, the scale of the loss here is of little importance because the World Cup is four years away and it is being played in Australia.
"We have to change the traditional limitations against spin and, certainly by the time we come out here in 14 months' time to play another limited-overs series, we have to look at it very differently," said Flower.
"I was unfortunately reflecting after the match on a similar feeling after being 51 all out in Jamaica two years ago, and if we can use it to start something better in our subcontinent limited-overs batting, some good can come of this."
Tell it straight: Who is a match for Andy?
Fabio Capello Attempts to gloss over England's horror show against Germany at 2010 World Cup by blaming the referee for disallowing Frank Lampard's "goal". "We played well. We made some mistakes when they played the counter-attack. The referee made bigger mistakes."
Martin Johnson Often defends players, citing inexperience or fantastic effort despite defeat. Tries to draw on positives: "This team's best days are ahead. A lot are at their first World Cup and are better for the experience."
Hope Powell Criticised her England players for lacking the bottle to take penalties as they exited last summer's World Cup. "Three times I had to ask for volunteers before anyone stepped forward. 'Where are you?' I was thinking, then a young kid is first to put her hand up."
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