‘This is his time,’ said Paul Downton as Peter Moores was unveiled as England’s head coach at Lord’s yesterday.
If the managing director, England cricket, is right it will be second time lucky as Moores returns to a role he first occupied in 2007. Then he lasted less than two years before his relationship with England’s senior players declined to such an extent then-captain Kevin Pietersen forced a him-or-me showdown that led to both men losing their jobs.
While Pietersen continued to play for England Moores rebuilt his reputation at Lancashire. Now, just as Pietersen is cast into the wildnerness, Moores is re-appointed.
He is the first man in England’s big three traditional sports to hold the top coaching job twice and given the way his first stint ended it might seem surprising the honour has come his way again. But in 2007 Moores was the coming man, youngish in age (44), perhaps brimming with too many new ideas, and certainly too keen to impose them. Now the blond locks are silver and he is older (51), wiser, and perhaps better able to distinguish between what works, and what is merely fashionable.
There is still a tendency to lapse into jargon with much talk yesterday of ‘connecting people’, but Moores seems more aware that players are individuals and should be treated accordingly.
The role of the coach, he said, was to ‘try to help players in a world in which is difficult for a player to be himself and still have his own uniqueness. They can still be real people, have their own view and be part of a very strong team. [Understanding] that is something I have got better at over time.
“Since being England coach I have had five years at Lancashire which I have loved. It has been a great chance to reflect and develop. You ask players to develop, I've done that as well.
“I loved my time first time with England. I would do some things differently but I still loved it. You do learn from mistakes, but I am proud of some of the things that happened last time. I had no doubts [about returning]. It's great to be back. I feel very excited, very proud. I think I have a lot to offer.”
Moores still comes across as a coach who likes to work with young, impressionable players (he spoke enthusiastically of Lancashire having “an emerging group”) but it will help that, this time, the senior players – Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and especially his protégé Matt Prior, who can expect a recall, are ones he brought through in his first spell with England.
Downton said England had “interviewed pretty well every leading coach in the world and got down to five outstanding candidates” of whom Moores ‘stood out’.
Ashley Giles, who had been favourite when Andy Flower quit to become technical director of elite cricket after the Ashes debacle, was, said Downton, ‘extremely disappointed’. Giles’ candidacy was damaged by the winter defeats suffered by the one-day and T20 sides under his command though Downton insisted the embarrassing World Cup loss to the Netherlands ‘did not cost him the job’. It was, said Downton – who saw Giles personally to tell him - simply ‘too early’ for someone who has only been coaching seven years.
While Giles departs Paul Farbrace is expected to join as assistant coach. As negotiations continue with a Sri Lankan board unlikely to be thrilled at losing their World Cup-winning coach Downton would not discuss him, but it was intimated that the assistant would, in time, be expected to take charge of occasional tours to relieve Moores’ workload.
A Moores-Farbrace partnership would be an all-English leadership team, the first since David Lloyd departed in 1999. Downton said nationality “was quite important, but not the deciding factor.” He added: “We are very keen on creating an identity, an English side the fans are proud of and are connected to.”
Moores said much the same. Recent England sides, even when winning, have been admired rather than loved with a sense of insularity about them. “I would like to be involved in a team that is connected to the public, is connected to the media, is open and commits totally,” he said. He also wanted them to play in a more attractive style and with a sense of pride.
“I don't see it as my responsibility to lift them [after the Ashes]. It is their responsibility to be lifted. To play for England is very special, if it ever becomes a normal day we've picked the wrong person.”
This sounds like Stuart Lancaster’s approach with the England rugby team. If Moores revives English cricket as successfully as Lancaster, so far, has done the 15-man game it may indeed be a timely appointment.
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