A chance conversation with Andy Flower five years ago reached its conclusion yesterday. It was in St Kitt’s, where England arrived at the start of a tour of the Caribbean.
Flower was in temporary charge of the team after Peter Moores had been sacked. He was still to decide whether he wanted the job permanently, the team were in turmoil, and Flower made perfectly plain his high regard for the man who was no longer there.
“Peter’s a wonderful coach,” he said when we bumped into each other outside the hotel lobby. “He will definitely come back to international coaching one day.”
Whether Flower had it mind that Moores would reclaim the England job is doubtful, but the pertinence of his opinion has become starkly clear with Moores’ appointment.
Flower resigned as team director in January to become director of elite coaching when he decided that the experiment of splitting the job between Test and limited-overs coaches was not viable, and that he could no longer do justice to the combined role. There is no doubt that Flower will have promoted Moores’ cause in the corridors of ECB power these past few weeks.
This is a bold, deceptively imaginative and slightly dangerous move, in effect going back to the future. Moores has impeccable credentials as a county coach, having taken both Sussex, before his first stint with England, and Lancashire, after it, to the County Championship title.
But it was not only Pietersen who doubted his style during his tenure from 2007-09. Other senior players found it difficult to relate to him. Moores’ insistence yesterday that he had evolved as a coach in the past five years will soon be seriously scrutinised. He will be expected to lead the team to victory in Test series at home this summer to Sri Lanka and India, then to mount a genuine challenge for the World Cup next year.
If not, the whole appointment will unravel all too rapidly, before the home Ashes series in 2015. But this is a test not only of Moores as a coach at the highest level but also of Alastair Cook as captain. The pair, coach and captain, flanked an impressive Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, at the Lord’s press conference yesterday.
It was perhaps Moores’ day, but the overwhelming impression during and after the announcement is that it is now Cook’s team.