Ashley Giles admits to past mistakes with England and hints at changes after succeeding Andrew Strauss

The former limited-overs coach has opened up on working with Andy Flower again ahead of a massive summer of cricket for England

Jonathan Liew
Chief Sports Writer
Wednesday 09 January 2019 20:00
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Ashley Giles poses at Lord's after being unveiled as England new director of cricket
Ashley Giles poses at Lord's after being unveiled as England new director of cricket

For English cricket, a day of new futures. A pristine Lord’s in the chilly winter sunshine; a brand new year; and a new director of men’s cricket. But as Ashley Giles faced the cameras for the first time in his new position, ahead of the biggest summer in a generation, there was a past and a present to be reckoned with first.

The former England spinner, a veteran of 54 Tests, has replaced Andrew Strauss, who stepped down from the role last year following his wife’s cancer diagnosis. Ruth died in the last days of December, and Giles expressed his sadness over the inauspicious circumstances in which the job had become available. On the field, meanwhile, he insisted his role would be to continue the work of his predecessor, which has seen England rise to No1 in the one-day international world rankings and emerge as a growing threat in the Test game.

The honeymoon will be brief. England depart for their tour of the West Indies this weekend, and the challenges come thick and fast thereafter: a World Cup at the end of May followed by an Ashes series, both of which the home side will be expected to win. Following that, it will be Giles’s task to source a replacement - or possibly replacements - for outgoing coach Trevor Bayliss, and build towards this winter’s tours of New Zealand and South Africa, and next year’s World Twenty20. All while maintaining England’s age-group and Lions pathways on a diminishing budget, and coping with the seismic upheaval of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new 100-ball competition. Giles is a likeable figure and a hard worker, who has impressed in the last few years as coach of Lancashire and sporting director at Warwickshire. But this job will test his abilities to the hilt.

This is not, after all, his first chance with England. He served as limited-overs coach between late 2012 and early 2014, an age before it was almost universally known as “white-ball”. Serving under head coach Andy Flower, Giles’s England reached the final of the Champions Trophy on home soil in 2013, before disintegrating in the aftermath of the disastrous 2013-14 Ashes tour. A group-stage exit at the World T20 in Bangladesh, capped by a humiliating defeat to Holland, was the final straw.

The manner of the ending still rankled, but Giles insisted he was not driven by bitterness. “We all feel hard done by when you leave positions,” he said. “I perhaps didn’t manage that long-term vision and short-term vision well. I always had in mind that I would one day do Andy’s job, become Test coach and - if I hold my hands up - took my eye off the short-term. In coaching you can’t afford to do that.”

Ashley Giles has outlined his plan for England in 2019 

So Giles knows he has a thing or two to prove, albeit in a different role. Ironically, Flower now answers to Giles as the ECB’s technical director, and Giles said there was no problem between the two men. “Naturally with different leaders, you have different cultures,” he said. “That was certainly the case with me and Andy. It doesn’t make either culture wrong. We’re just different people. Does that mean split coaches can’t work? I don’t think so.”

Giles has not yet decided whether to split the head coach role when Bayliss steps down at the end of the summer. One head coach with separate red and white-ball coaches beneath is one option; as is two or even three separate coaches for the different formats. “Whatever we do,” he explained, “we need to make it normal and acceptable that coaches have time off, and are able to watch some other cricket or have a break.”

What are the values that Giles will instill? At Warwickshire, and later at Lancashire, he earned a reputation as a hard taskmaster, uncompromising at times, and particularly with players who he felt did not match his own high standards of dedication and desire. “The discipline side of things is really important to me,” he said. “I can have a reputation as being quite firm, but I think I am fair. I like to build fun and enjoyment, but there is also a big responsibility in what we do and how we look outwardly: to be respected as much off the field as on the field.”

One of his first casualties of the new regime may be the squad kickabout, which was responsible for Jonny Bairstow’s ankle injury during the recent tour of Sri Lanka. “Everyone knows my thoughts on football,” Giles admitted. “The benefits from a psychological and fun point of view are outstripped by the dangers. But we will discuss that. I am not coming in with an iron rod right now.”

He can’t afford to. For all the tragic circumstances of his arrival, it is Giles’s good fortune to accede to the position at a point when the trajectory of English cricket is going up rather than down: a world-beating one-day side under Eoin Morgan, a rapidly-improving Test side under Joe Root. The foundations for success this summer - or, indeed, failure - are already in place. Only in the subsequent months and years, you feel, which Giles really begin to earn his money.

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