Flower gives rose-tinted assessment of infighting
England assistant coach arrives in West Indies set on forgetting recent turmoil
Thursday 22 January 2009
As England flew to the Caribbean yesterday they continued their well-planned assault on the world supply of airbrushes. These might not be as useful as bats for playing cricket but they have a well-recorded role in amending history.
If the squad are not quite in denial about the sensational events of only a fortnight ago, which saw the removal in a fell swoop of both their captain and coach, they are not exactly of a mind to paint the whole picture either. Hence the airbrushing.
The latest member of the squad who was not quite telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, was the assistant coach, Andy Flower, who will in effect be head coach on the three-month tour. Flower was known to be one of the targets of Pietersen's campaign to alter England's coaching methods.
Asked whether he knew that Pietersen had wanted him sacked, Flower said: "I think that is the case. I have had a chat with Kevin. I think Kevin did want a regime change but I haven't gone into specifics with him on that front. Kevin and I have always had a good relationship. I don't know whether the southern Africa thing helps but we have always had a very good, honest relationship and I don't see that changing."
There was general dismay when it emerged that Pietersen wanted Flower, a great batsman for Zimbabwe in his day, to be sacked. It seemed to be confirmation that Pietersen wanted everything his own way. Flower said: "We all have our differences and you aren't going to always to be buddy-buddy with people, that goes for Kevin and I and a lot of other people when you're trying to prod people to improve. You don't necessarily have to get on perfectly."
England are clearly embarked on a damage limitation exercise on a grand scale and for this they can probably not be blamed. For once, it really is time to move on and the new captain, Andrew Strauss, has already put neatly in place his own building blocks. Flower, as rounded and respected a figure as any in the game, turned down the opportunity to be the acting head coach.
While there is precious little difference in the practicalities – he will be assuming the organisational and selectorial duties of his predecessor, Peter Moores – Flower was still anxious for his title not to change. Nor does he know yet whether he will apply for the job.
"I'm not sure. I will play it by ear a little, see how the next month goes," he said. "I'm not sure they're going to advertise or when they want applications in but I want to see how things go first. I had a good think about it doing this now and I decided I wanted to do this role on tour."
Flower might be in a prime position to stake a claim for the top job but, considering his first coaching role after retiring as a player was as Moores' assistant, the England and Wales Cricket Board may feel it is essential to spread its net wider. He suggested that he was taken unawares by the imbroglio between Pietersen and Moores which led to the exit of both.
"It took me by surprise, the severity and speed with which it happened. I think it was sad for everyone, the whole thing. I'm pretty sure in most situations you can avoid what we saw happen in the last couple of months. I think there were a whole lot of contributing factors to what happened and I don't think it's really my place to discuss the ins and outs of that right now."
Flower will be under the microscope in the next three months almost as much as Strauss, maybe more. Whatever their public pronouncements they know that it will not be sufficient to say that everything is hunky-dory inside the camp. They now have to prove it by deed as well as word, a process which will begin at the first net session in St Kitts today.
"I think there's always a balance as coaches between finding what a player wants and what he needs," he said. "That balance shifts a little between the more senior players and players that haven't been around and don't know their games as much as some of the older guys, so as coach you're always trying to make that judgement. Certainly, Straussy does want the coaches to play a more supportive role and I am happy to support him in that. I've enjoyed our discussions in the last week."
But something had gone wrong before, something pretty fundamental, and however England play it they can not airbrush it from history.
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