The aftermath of the tour continues and eyes turn towards the futures of the top table. Those eyes are cast more in the direction of the coach, Peter Moores, and when you read some of the stuff coming out, it’s no surprise.
Moores has to carry a number of burdens, partly of his own making, and partly a little unfair. I have not been inside a dressing room at professional level, but even at club level, you know when people don’t think you are credible, don’t listen to what you do, don’t care about your future. It’s not fair that Moores never played international cricket, and that will always count against him when it comes to motivating and coaching great international players. However, he has been on the county treadmill and knows it inside out, and will be a great county coach again when this ends. He commands respect of the county pros, but maybe lacks a little at the top level with the senior pros. Maybe. It’s guess work, but I’ve seen enough football managers lose that respect, and I can recognise some of the problems. At this stage, with a young core of players, Moores can bring them along, as long as he retains the support of the key senior pros. These being Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson, and to a lesser degree, the next in line, Joe Root. All have played every game under Moores, and there is no hint of this changing any time soon.
The second cross he has to bear is that he lacks credibility among much of the watching public. James Morgan on TFT makes the analogy perfectly – would the England national team go back to Steve McClaren, or would the rugby team go back to Andy Robinson. Both were assistants under more successful coaches who never bridged the credibility gap with the public, probably unfairly. Moores, like it or not, comes across as a nice guy out of his depth at this level. I’m not, like some, going to assign some malevolent motive to his tenure on his behalf. He’s been thrown a hell of a challenge after the Ashes 2013-14, made even harder by the idiotic jettisoning of Kevin Pietersen (not for his absence from the team, but because of the messages it sent) and he has developed some of the younger players (although not greatly, not really). The sense remains though, as the World Cup campaign showed, that Moores is not up to key elements of the job. He will present a case, but the evidence is not backing it up. Combine an abject disaster in the World Cup with a home loss to Sri Lanka in all formats, and coughing up a 1-0 lead in the Caribbean, and there is not a lot to say “keep me on” other than some sort of hope for a change of fortune. My football team did that this season, and by the time we sacked our manager it was too late to save them, despite the best efforts of a new manager who did really well.
Which brings us to the third problem, and this one was partly of his own making, but more of that champion of champions Paul Downton. Peter Moores applied for a job and got it and accepted terms no manager/coach should ever do. That is, be told who he could not have in his team under any circumstances. You anti-KP fans keep making it about him if you want, but the message this sends to any player is profound. Be independently minded, have a strong opinion about your game, and how you want your career to pan out, and that could happen to you. It wasn’t a good start. Then, to have your appointment accompanied by the “greatest coach of his generation” comment by Downton was just amazing. Moores would have been completely at liberty to tell the MD to shut his hole, because that was going to stick. If he could not put before the public a set of results to live up to that billing, he was going to be ridiculed. So it has proved.
The final problem for Moores is his inability to speak, or appear to speak, in anything other than management tones. He sounds like a first year MBA student more than a cricket coach. Sport is about maximising the analytical tools to hand (I’m reading a fascinating book on baseball analysis at the moment) but it is also about unquantifiable exploits. You don’t find Jimmy Anderson’s fifth day morning session in any text book. You have that seize the day approach, the raising of the game to higher planes which can’t be factored in. If they were, sport would be bloody dull and we’d all not bother to watch it. But it’s too much process this, learning lessons that.
I’ll tell you another thing that doesn’t help, and it’s a warm welcome to a Paul Newman quote on here after at least a couple of weeks absence, is nonsense like this:
To watch England here has been to see a highly promising group who respect their coach and want to succeed for him and I believe Moores should be given that crack at the Ashes denied him in 2009 by another Kevin Pietersen-inspired controversy.
Just read that and weep. No player is going to come out in the open and say Moores shouldn’t be coach. KP did that and got fired as captain. KP said that about Flower and was booted out for it. There’s not a lot of longevity in showing you aren’t playing for the coach. I’d say we need to win more games to show how well we are playing for Moores, instead of going overboard over one win in Grenada. But Newman doesn’t let it go with his bete noire, who he is now getting all tin foil hat over. KP has the square root of eff all to do with Moores staying on as coach. Pietersen has not scored the runs required of him by Graves et al for starters. Second, KP is not responsible for Moores performance in the job thus far, so is a total utter irrelevance about whether Moores should stay in the job. Third, we’ve been down this long service award drivel before (he deserves a crack at the Ashes – if he deserved it in 2009, he’d have made an unanswerable case instead of losing home series in 2007 and 2008) and that worked in the World Cup. Also, Newman’s changed his tune. He was really down on Moores after the World Cup. Maybe Cook’s told him to lay off or something.
I feel a bit for Moores, to be honest. I actually think he’s a really decent man giving it his all, but he doesn’t really stand a chance. It may be, like before, he’s laying down the foundations for someone else, but also there’s the suspicion that this is as far as he can go. While it is hard to ignore the fact he took the job on compromised terms, he has not been the hate figure some portray him to be. He’s more a figure of sympathy, and in international sport, that is often much, much worse. If this best case you can make to keep him on is he deserves his go at the Ashes because he got sacked before, then you are not making a convincing case.
I thought I’d concentrate more on Moores in this piece, but do a brief bit on Cook and Strauss before longer thought pieces.
Cook has been the subject of a vicious attack by Boycott in the Telegraph. I wonder how Cook will approach Jonathan Agnew about that. Cook doesn’t take kindly to being spoken about like that and the consequences could be interesting. Boycott is a loudmouth, paid to express loud opinions, and you take them as they come. But I’ve never seen him this aggravated by a captain / player ever. This was going for the throat. I would say that it’s not as easy to dismiss Boycott’s views that align with a lot of us outside cricket, than it is for them to slate me, but they try (he’s a wife beater, he quit on England, blah blah – he also faced top quicks at 90 mph without a helmet on). A lot of us believe Cook isn’t the nice guy that his image is portrayed as, but I want to get away from that part. I want to look at the evidence – it’s all I try to do, and try to interpret. He’s protected, for now, and could jettison Moores to keep his career in check. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
As for Strauss…. appointing him the new Director of Cricket would be Downtonian in its brilliance. He talks the language of all charlatans – promising to build for a non-specific future, while using this to move on from something else that he doesn’t like (in this case a player who might return to form and demand selection). He also has the cult of Cook in his playbook, and would be an establishment, company candidate when root and branch change to a more exciting, attractive style of play is going to be needed. This current England team still has dedicated fans and lovers of the game actively wanting them, or key members of them, to fail to get the changes needed in structure, attitude and approach. Bringing back Mr Bowling Dry, with his foster son as captain and his foster dad wheeling away behind the scenes, is spitting in the face of those who actively want to love this side again. Strauss is typical ECB. Unexciting, not credible and the wrong man. More of this later.