Ashes 2013/14: 'England can stay at the top,' says departing managing director Hugh Morris
Both Morris and national selector Geoff Miller will leave the set up before the third Test
An era is ending here in the next five days. Two of the men who took England to the top of the world are walking into the sunset.
Geoff Miller, the national selector, has helped to choose his final team and will be gone from Adelaide before the match has begun. He has been in his present role, effectively chairman of selectors whatever the fancy name, for nearly six years and was on the selection panel for seven years before that.
Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket and the man who appointed Miller, will stay for the Test, then leave the job he started seven years ago. They have taken the team to places they have never been before. At various times England have been the top-ranked side in all three forms of the game, won the Ashes three times and triumphed in a global limited-overs tournament for the first time.
It is possible that they are getting out at the right time and their successors may not have such a rosy time of it. There is the feeling, which may be confirmed one way or the other in the next fortnight, that this England team have reached their peak and are going down the other side of the mountain.
Morris is leaving to be chief executive and director of cricket at Glamorgan, giving him a much more hands-on role than he has had lately. It is a serious challenge because the Welsh county are not in the rude health they enjoyed in 1997 when they won the Championship with Morris opening the batting.
Make a success of that and it is not beyond the imagination that he might one day pitch up back at the England and Wales Cricket Board as chief executive.
He rejected the idea that now was a good time to go because England might be in decline. “I don’t, because we have a core of players in this side who are going to be around for some time,” he said on Wednesday. “The holy grail in international sport is winning after winning. We have been successful for a period of time. We have the systems, the programmes and, most important, the people in place to make sure that continues.”
Morris’s role is most closely associated with England but he is responsible for all international cricket under the ECB banner. His proudest achievement is the establishment and success of the National Performance Centre at Loughborough, which hones players of all ages.
He said: “This is obviously the shop window and we get judged on performances in the senior team, but a lot of the work behind the scenes that has been done for a long time now is trying to ensure that we sustain success.
“Getting Loughborough on track 10 years ago was really important. That’s the headquarters of England cricket now. It’s the place where our best players go from the age of 16 upwards. We have our science and medicine programmes there and our coaching programmes are based out of there.”
Without Loughborough it is entirely possible that the Ashes wins would not have happened. The backroom staff who have made such a difference to the fine margins of high performance have been crucial and they would not have been there without Loughborough.
“The critical part of this job was to try and get the right systems in place to make sure we have got a conveyor belt of talent all the way through,” Morris said. “I worked hard with a lot of my staff in making sure that Loughborough is the best cricket centre in the world.”
Persuading Miller to move up from the shop floor to selection management was one of his first smarter moves. Miller has not always articulated his choices in the way that the media would like but he has been assiduous in his trawling of cricketers.
Four years ago, Morris made another vitally significant appointment. With the dressing room in turmoil because of a dispute between Peter Moores, the then coach, and Kevin Pietersen, the then captain, England found they needed two new men.
Andrew Strauss had the air of the inevitable as captain, Andy Flower as coach did not. Their success together was unprecedented and Morris suggested yesterday that Flower would continue for some time yet: “He’s really important. In the 33 years I have been involved in professional cricket he is up there as one of the most outstanding people I have met and I’ve worked with. He has been really important for me.
“We have got a very good relationship on a professional as well as a personal level. He’s someone I have trusted and everything I have asked him to do he has delivered. He is an outstanding man who is a very important part of the England cricket team.”
Morris starts at Glamorgan almost immediately. He has two huge tasks: to build a local team, ensuring they keep promising youngsters; and, more arduous still, make them financially viable.
Miller will still be around as the most diverting of after-dinner speakers. He may add stories to his canon from his time as chairman of selectors. But expect no secrets from the discussions on picking teams. That is not the way England have operated in the Morris-Miller age.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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