I’ve been absent for a bit, what with it being Christmas and all that, so I think I owe it to you to produce a couple more Dmitris for the end of year round-up. This one takes us back to the first half of the year and his role in a couple of the major talking points in the opening round for Being Outside Cricket. As Paul Downton was on the list last year, he can’t make it in for this, so instead it will be the man he called, with many remarking at the time how impressive he was in so doing, “the greatest coach of his generation”. Dmitri number four is Peter Moores.
History, it is said, is written by the winners. And in the case of Peter Moores re-appointment, several key people who, shall we say, were glad to see the back of KP, set about rehabilitating the past reputation of the best coach in county cricket over the last decade or so. His triumphs at Lancashire were lauded as if this were Sir Alex Ferguson (who was a crap international coach too) at the helm, while the relegation the year after they won it all was consigned to the “forgotten” pile. His time in England colours was to be remembered for the great talents he brought on, not for the losing series or the problems motivating players for which one man carried the can (and the strength of that contempt from others was evident in the manner of Moores’ dismissal). By the time the likes of Selvey had had their say, with plenty of evidence of “good journalism” to help him along the way, it would have been mad not to appoint him. To be fair to John Etheridge, he pointed out at the time that the reappointment lacked credibility. Still, we were trusting a World Cup to him. We were trusting an Ashes series to him.
The appointment was greeted reasonably favourably. It was seen as a chance for redemption, to give Moores the proper go at the big competitions that he’d been denied previously. And that was the tone, he’d been denied, as if there were no choice but to sack him the first time around because of HIM. It was all nonsense of course, and Moores was back because (a) he was a decent coach and (b) he would have no trouble not picking HIM.
This isn’t a piece to berate Peter Moores. Everything about the bloke in his public utterances and the way he conducted himself, especially during the shameful events of his humiliating sacking, indicates he is a class act as a person. But he wasn’t an England cricket coach to take us forward. He was a useful interim while the ECB sorted out the post-HIM wastelands. Seen as a nurturer of talent, he was given a number of new players, in the fresh and exciting era, to bring on. The fact that none have really gone on to greater things has to be a worry, but while we were beating India 3-1, objectivity in both the media and the blogosphere was in short supply. Ballance was Whitaker’s poster-child, there was an almost unhealthy obsession with Chris Jordan, who looks like a slightly less good Phil DeFreitas to me, and Moeen Ali may always be the nearly man. Jos Buttler started well and faded. The ODI cricket was going nowhere as Alastair Cook stuck out like a sore thumb as opener. There was muddled thinking, horrendous days (Day 4 at Headingley…) and some baffling press stuff.
But why Moores for a Dmitri? Well, the World Cup comes around every four years, and this was his go at it. We went out before the quarter-finals, losing to every test nation we met. The scale of these defeats were monstrous. Australia annihilated us in the first match of the Australian section of the competition. James Taylor, who’d looked solid at 3, was demoted to 6 and made runs, while Ballance, who’d busted his hand in the lead up, looked out of his depth at 3. The loss to New Zealand was awful. A total rout, losing with what, 35 or so overs to spare (226 balls to be precise)? Then came Sri Lanka where England patted themselves on the backs for making over 300, and then watched the islanders cruise to total victory. Finally, the loss to Bangladesh, chasing a total we probably should have got, but collapsing under fear and pressure. A punchers chance, they said at the start of the tournament? We knocked ourselves out.
At this point I think we knew that Moores was not going to last.The ECB were in a period of flux as Clarke was being shunted upstairs, Collier had a replacement in professional Tim Westwood body-double Tom Harrison, and reviews threatened. Graves said what he said (yes, a throwaway line according to Alec Swann), and there was a febrile atmosphere. Harrison had Downton on his way, but Moores was left to win a test series in the West Indies with the medicore tag ringing in his ears.
A drawn test series against the mediocre West Indies sealed his fate it seemed, but I have a feeling Strauss’s antipathy to his coaching techniques would have done it anyway. When the ECB were cleaning house, and brushing out the Downton from the cupboard below the stairs, it was easy to claim a clean break and relieve the coach of his duties. Except the new man couldn’t keep his trap shut, the information got out there (was it Moores’ agent, was it Nick Knight – I was in the US at the time) and Peter Moores had to endure a day I’d wish on no-one. Saying sorry never really felt like it was enough, because he’d had to run an England team while others were almost laughing at him. The ECB probably reached its nadir that weekend, because HIM made a big score soon after and leaked that out too.
When Downton got his marching orders (after a frankly bizarre reaction to the World Cup exit which actually sounded like a “please sack me because I’m out of my depth” plea) and Strauss replaced him (albeit with a comma) Moores was out. Strauss had made no secret in his autobiography, carefully worded as it was, that he didn’t think much of Moores as a coach (the only time he was dropped as a player was under Moores – any coincidence?) and sure enough he pulled the trigger. I am accused, constantly, of being obsessed by HIM, but it spoke volumes that Strauss did to Moores exactly what HIM did, yet…..
Moores went back to county cricket, assisted Nottinghamshire and got hugely favourable reviews, and he will probably go on to do what he does best. Raise young county cricketers and gel them as a team with technical skills. When you get to international level coaching, that doesn’t appear to be enough these days.
I’m convinced that an English coach will never succeed in major international sport, because, by their nature, they’ve not gone overseas, and they don’t have that charisma or gravitas. Peter Moores was the victim of the HIM putsch, not the beneficiary. His record first time around replicated. His reputation the same as before – good county coach, found wanting at the top level. The collective brains of the outfit thought they could reinvent the wheel. Sell us the same goods, but with experience. Peter Moores was chewed up and spat out. He was Downton’s folly. Bayliss has proved how lacking he was, especially at limited overs cricket. It wasn’t all his fault, as the selectors for the World Cup ballsed it up, but he didn’t exactly provide the data to keep him on.
More Dmitris to follow…..