Ashes 2013-14: End of an era but to what lengths should the England evolution run?

Coach Andy Flower has acknowledged it’s time for change but it will require some tough decisions on several long-serving players

in sydney

All teams evolve, as all empires crumble. Sometimes the two go hand in hand. The trick in sport is to promote the first to prevent the second.

England’s ascendancy in world cricket, brief though skilfully devised, hardly constituted hegemony. Less than a year at the apex of the world cricket pyramid does not an empire make.

But since 2009 England, with Alastair Cook as captain and Andy Flower as coach, have become accustomed to success that had previously eluded them. There had been sublime moments in the preceding half-dozen years – of which the 2005 Ashes win was the zenith – but nothing quite so sustained or assured.

This has now come to a shuddering halt. There was a hint of incipient decline during the summer of 2012 when South Africa were so dominant but that was overcome: South Africa, after all, were something really special, teams were entitled to lose occasionally and the results since then provided an appropriate response.

Now it is accepted that a team that have achieved much need urgent reconfiguring. This is a delicate task. The team that lost at Melbourne on Sunday to go 4-0 behind in the Ashes series showed three changes from the one that last won a Test match for England, against Australia at Chester-le-Street last August – in reality four, as one of the players was performing an entirely different function.

That is quite a lot of evolution in itself, though it has smacked of the piecemeal rather than the structured, almost like a mad scientist interfering with nature and assuring us that Frankenstein’s monster will work. What England must do after Sydney is take a deep breath and a step back and decide if they can take big decisions about big players.

There is always the necessity to win in the present as Flower has regularly made plain, but there are two long-term objectives after Sydney, while paying due regard to the home series against India this summer. These are the 2015 Ashes at home (yes, that soon) and the inaugural World Test Championship scheduled for 2017 and for which England as intended hosts are now in danger of not qualifying as one of the top four ranked teams.

Suddenly, the whole team are under scrutiny and while Flower named no names when he conceded the end of an era the other day, he must know what it entails. The continued presence of five key players, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jimmy Anderson, Matt Prior (already dropped) and Cook himself, has to be considered along with that of others less integral to England’s great run of results.

It has taken time to unravel. Under the refreshing guidance of Andrew Strauss as captain and Flower as coach, England found a method for survival which helped to ensure that they usually prevailed. Strauss cajoled and entrusted his players to take personal responsibility for their preparation and the manner in which they behaved as players off and on the field in the same way that one of his recent and also successful predecessors, Michael Vaughan, had regularly urged his men to express themselves.

Perhaps these were no more than nods in the direction of fashioning a personal leadership style but they were effective. Cook was groomed to follow Strauss almost as if he were the blood heir in a line of succession.

What a start he had: a historic series win in India and the defence of the Ashes at home, neither of which can be undersold. But he and his team have foundered grievously against a rejuvenated Australia in the second of the two Ashes series this year. Consequently the reputations of both captain and coach have suffered, in some eyes beyond repair.

The siren calls for Flower and Cook to be removed from the building without clearing their desks, as though they were guilty of some form of industrial espionage, may yet reach an irresistible peak. The result here in Sydney, albeit important in proving that they are not on the floor, is almost an irrelevance.

Flower, probably recognising that he is fighting for his job as well as his esteem, has recognised that this team have reached the end. It will not be long before Cook has to sing from that particular hymnsheet as well.

They have both repeatedly backed each other in the past few weeks as the gap between the sides has grown, and Flower has consistently made the point that they are all in it together. Maybe so, but they know that they will have to make the toughest calls of their professional lives next spring. It will be an examination not only of their fitness to continue but of the much-vaunted systems put in place in the past five years. The future starts now.

 

 

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on