Who would want to be a coach? Peter Moores must have privately asked himself just that question on numerous occasions during the past five days sat in a stand helplessly watching his England cricket team implode in their opening two one-day internationals against New Zealand.
In the days leading up to each match Moores will have prepared diligently with all of his players, working on aspects of their game that needed improving and discussing with them what they should and should not do when they are in the heat of battle. On the eve of every match he would have organised a team meeting, where individual and team plans would have been reiterated one final time, just to make sure that the entire team know their responsibilities.
A gentle warm-up, a few fielding drills and the selection of the side – if it was not done the night before – are all that need to be coordinated on match day. Having completed his work he then hands the team over to the captain who directs and dictates the style of cricket his side plays.
There is now very little the coach can do. Cricket is not like rugby or football, where someone on the sidelines can remove a player who is having a shocker half way through the match or change the balance and organisation of the side. In cricket the captain, coach and chief selector are stuck with the eleven they pick.
How galling must it be to then watch the athletes you have prepared do exactly the opposite of what you have told them. Heaven knows what Moores must have been thinking when Paul Collingwood, his captain, ran himself out in ludicrous style from the first ball he faced. Even now, 24 hours after the piece of play, it still defies belief.
It came as no surprise then to hear that the England team had been given the cricketing equivalent of the Alex Ferguson hairdryer following Tuesday's 10-wicket defeat. Modern coaches are advised on man-management courses not to yell at their players because it might cause an adverse reaction. Moores described his oration as a "reality check" – in other words a good old-fashioned bollocking. And rightly so. What took place in Wellington and Hamilton was unacceptable.
"I had some honest words with the players after last night's [Tuesday's] game, and they can come across as harsh," said Moores. "But you've got to be fair. There is a time to say those things and this was one of them; it was the time for a reality check for everyone about what is required. We've done that and talked openly, saying things that needed to be said and we must now use those two tough days as a watershed and move on, learning the lesson from it, however tough those lessons are.
"It's hard to explain why we have suddenly started playing like this. Before these two games we had played with confidence. But there are no excuses about the way we have played, it was just not good enough and we have to face up to that. I do think we can still win the series. I still think we can beat them but it shouldn't hide these performances.
"It's hard watching them at times but you take the good days and the bad days. For me the key is that everyone fronts up whether you do well or badly."
Under previous regimes – not Duncan Fletcher's - Tuesday's performance would have resulted in compulsory "naughty boy" nets. But the attitude of coaches has, thankfully, changed and England had an optional practice session yesterday, which 11 of the squad attended. Those who chose to rest were Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Owais Shah, Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom.
Captains and coaches, the men who tend to hand out team rollockings, vary in their approaches and the way they react is not always predictable. It is hard to imagine Fletcher, the former England coach, standing up in front of his side and ranting but Mike Brearley, underneath that calm exterior, had a temper on him and was not averse to the odd harsh word.
Micky Stewart, my first England coach, was always in control. He preferred a quiet talk to public humiliation. But David Lloyd, Fletcher's predecessor, was like a time bomb. On one occasion, after a dreadful session of bowling on a helpful pitch in the first session of a Test at Auckland, Lloyd went and sat in the middle of the practice area during the lunch break. When asked why he did not remain in the dressing room to work with his bowlers, he said: "They are a bloody disgrace, I don't want anything to do with them."
England must make changes to the side for tomorrow's third one-dayer in Auckland. But how many? Ravi Bopara's confidence has gone and Dimitri Mascarenhas will surely play. But will that really strengthen the batting? Bopara may be having a shocker of a series so far but he is a better batsman than Mascarenhas.
Graeme Swann is under pressure too. England's off-spinner has offered very little so far. A like-for-like replacement would see James Tredwell make his international debut but the peculiar traits and small boundaries at the venue – Eden Park is primarily a rugby ground – make Luke Wright's medium pace, all-round potential attractive.
Even if this change in personnel fails to get England back in the series, though, Moores is unlikely to follow Lloyd's example of a mid-pitch sit-in. But many more weeks like this and who knows?
Fraser's England XI
Angus Fraser's England XI to face New Zealand in the third of the five-match one-day series at Eden Park, Auckland tomorrow:
P D Collingwood (capt), A N Cook, P Mustard, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, O A Shah, A D Mascarenhas, L J Wright, S C J Broad, R J Sidebottom, J M Anderson.Reuse content