So here I was, watching the golf from Quail Hollow and reminding myself that I was in the States this time last year, when Innocent Bystander, a Tweeter you should follow if you don’t already, alerted me to the Andy Flower article in the Mail. Now we are semi-joking, well I am, when I talk about an Essex Mafia in the media, but coming on top of Derek Pringle singing the praises of Tom Westley, and Newman bringing Nick Browne into the debate too, an interview with Flower that would disgrace Hello! Magazine is too much.
Both on HDWLIA and here we’ve had our fill with our cricket journalists. There is a major story to be told, yet it isn’t being told in anything other than small pieces, and with key parts deliberately excluded. When Pietersen told his side of it, the ECB leaked a dossier, a not totally irrelevant point when reading yesterday’s puff piece, which actually painted their own management staff as being a bunch of paranoid oddballs. When the scapegoat was being lined up and measured for assassination, the dignity shown by the management team (and judging in hindsight and at the time, there were a few of them at it) was to leak. Remember the harrumphing of the media at KP breaching the sanctity of the dressing room, while all and sundry were “good journalisming” aided and abetted by people clearly with an axe to grind.
Just to refresh your memories…
Yeah! He kept silent all right.
It is a gamble by the hugely principled Flower, particularly as England are likely to be a weaker team in the short-term without Pietersen, but it is one he is fully prepared to take and he will walk away with his head held high if the ECB decide their loyal support for him cannot be extended now.
I wrote this on HDWLIA:
Someone all over that story, as an apparent vehicle for Leak City was the Daily Mail’s cricket correspondent Paul Newman. Just as he was the useful vehicle at that time, so, back in the immediate aftermath of the 5-0 whitewash did he become the main focal point for the public release of the official England anti-KP sentiment.
Jamuary 7 – 15:08 – Its-KP-England-coach-Flower-resign-Pietersen-isnt-dropped-team
January 7 – 22:06 – Flower Driven To The Edge
January 8 – 12:00 – Time For KP To Go
The case is set up. The quotes are leaked. Paul Newman makes the cry for the parting of the ways.
No, what. The ECB, Andy Flower or players had nothing to do with this co-ordinated attack? They wouldn’t desecrate the inner sanctum, would they:
Such has been the deterioration in the relationship between the two that Flower has suggested to England’s new managing director Paul Downton that Pietersen must go before the rebuilding programme can begin after the abject low of their 5-0 thrashing by Australia.
How did he know that?
but now the team director is adamant that there should be no place for their most talented batsman in this ‘new era.’
Who told him that?
Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that Pietersen’s international future was in jeopardy but now it has emerged that the situation has already reached breaking point, with Flower deciding that he cannot carry on if Pietersen is reprieved
Oh yes, it came out of the ether. It emerged like Excalibur….
Flower has been fully backed by the ECB in the aftermath of the Ashes horror show. And while the coach denied he had delivered a direct ultimatum, but for Flower to effectively say ‘it’s him or me’ makes it clear his relationship with Pietersen is at breaking point.
Shane Warne wasn’t the only spinner in attendance at the SCG that day.
Sportsmail understands Flower believes Pietersen to be a divisive influence in a dressing room that will need to be united behind captain Alastair Cook in what the coach admitted will be a ‘painful’ transitional period. So bad has it become that Flower is risking his own position to bring the matter to a head.
“Sportsmail UNDERSTANDS” = Someone told them. All that understanding, and how remarkable that the United Behind Cook meme was floated back in January! I understand when someone is being briefed…
There has been anger at Pietersen’s attitude to warm-up games, which neared contempt here in Sydney ahead of the first Test, the manner of many of his dismissals in the Test series and what Flower sees as the undermining of Cook.
Sounds like someone breaching the inner sanctum to me.
The problem has been so serious, in Flower’s mind, that disciplinary action has been considered by England but they held back until after the final Test so as to try to seek damage limitation in the series before fully assessing the situation
This is making Piers Morgan look like a mute. Who is telling Newman this stuff? Given what has happened, this clearly wasn’t a figment of his imagination.
If the relationship between Flower and Pietersen has never really recovered from that point there had been a truce between the pair for the good of the side until the text scandal of 2012, revealed by Sportsmail, when the South African-born player sent ‘provocative’ phone messages to South African players about England captain Andrew Strauss during the Test series between the two.
Someone leaked that out of the inner sanctum as well….
Pietersen, who is very publicity conscious, attempted to get his retaliation in first after Sportsmail reported that his international career was in jeopardy by tweeting that he remains committed to England and wants to help them win back the Ashes in 2015. Clearly, if Flower wants him out then he is going to make it as difficult as possible for him and England
The publicity conscious KP. That one again. Yes he is. He also knows a bloody stitch up when he sees it. What should he do? Keep letting Newman talk to the flower in his garden without responding? He hardly got his retaliation in first when the paper leaked he was on the way out. Newman having it the Daily Mail way, that is both ways.
England want all their players to earn their Test places again with performances in county cricket, and will want Pietersen to play for Surrey under his old mentor Ford rather than cash in on India. If a deal is already in place for Pietersen to play for Delhi, as he was due to last year before injury forced him out, then clearly the situation is untenable. It is that piece of ammunition which Flower, who this week called the IPL ‘a tricky situation’ will want to use most keenly in what has become a hostile battle with Pietersen.
Which is not acceptable when it is KP, but it is for Ian Bell and Stuart Broad (my apologies, Stuart Broad wasn’t put forward for the auction. Other potential international cricketers were, though, including, amazingly, Jade Dernbach)…. Again, Newman seems to know a lot about what Flower is thinking.
There will be outrage from his high profile supporters like Shane Warne and Piers Morgan and he will make sure he acts the victim but it would be both a huge surprise and mistake if the ECB did not fully back Flower now.
Newman rather underestimated the outrage, underestimated Flower being backed to stay on when he clearly intended to, and the game is/was given away by how much of this came from sources within the inner sanctum.
It’s just hilarious. Because in his own views, Newman just about gives the game away…
Yes, for the record, there were times during this Ashes when Flower considered disciplining Pietersen for poor behaviour and, yes, patience is wearing thin about his attitude towards practice matches and his general attitude in the dressing room, where he can set a bad example.
For the record. Then some pretty assertive statements for the record. Leaving you no doubt someone wanted it on the record. Someone who would never defile the sanctity of the inner sanctum.
I give Paul Newman his due. He never sat on the fence. He did some reporting. He may have an agenda, but he didn’t hide behind nonsense. It’s pretty clear he had sources in the dressing room telling him stuff. He did what a journalist is supposed to do. Fine. Just don’t throw that accusation back at Pietersen when he does it. That’s rank hypocrisy and everyone with a brain can see through it. Newman tries to re-write history regarding his role in the Moores nonsense – with friends like him, who needed enemies – but is putting a view out there and not hiding. The rest seem to just want to hide.
Yesterday’s article was just another of those pieces.
Andy Flower is taking his place among the sprinkling of supporters at an early season county match happy to remain anonymous as he sizes up one of the next generation of England cricketers.
‘We’re sitting here at the Oval watching Somerset and Tom Abell is batting with Marcus Trescothick,’ said England’s most successful coach. ‘The biggest compliment you can pay Tom is that both look like international batsmen.
‘There are some very good young batters around and Tom is one of them. We just have to keep pushing the boundaries and find out how good they can be.’
Just to remind you that when Flower left the England job he moved into one he was actively lobbying for. Remember how there were unattributed comments on his workload, the Radio 5 special on his modus operandi, the almost unanimous praise for his coaching. Still Flower got the job he wanted and in the eyes of the press and, if I recall, Swann, good on him. This is to remind you….
Two and a bit years on from the Ashes disaster that brought his distinguished reign at the head of the England team to a crashing halt and Flower is reveling in his role as coach to the England Performance Programme and the Lions.
A job he wanted. I thought I’d remind you. The point made to me last night was compare the last days of Fletcher with those of Flower. People were actually calling out Fletcher’s mental health after that dismissal. There was no love lost between the press and him. The way Flower managed his press relationships paid off. He walked out with no rancour from them, and into an important job, and gets to be called distinguished. Flower was a very good England coach. But he lost 5-0 to an Aussie side that doesn’t compare with the greats of the past. He can revel in a new role. Nice.
‘This is an excellent match to be at,’ says Flower as we watch one of the four county games he took in within four days last week assessing young talent.
‘Tom Curran and Mark Footitt opening the bowling for Surrey is great competition for Tom. He may not have scored many here but you can see his potential.
Hello! magazine stuff.
‘We’ve got some very exciting young players and I think English cricket should feel very optimistic about the resources we have.’
Players as resources. Teeth itch.
Flower is finally optimistic himself now after emerging with his dignity intact from the fall-out of the 5-0 Ashes thrashing that saw one of the best of all England teams unexpectedly disintegrate spectacularly and then bitterly.
Now this is where the Looking Glass stuff starts. Dignity? Issuing a him or me ultimatum? Saying he wanted to stay before resigning/being asked to leave? Presiding over a team imploding on itself, losing 5-0, putting up a shocking display at Sydney, players falling by the wayside, debutants having disasters? That’s dignity intact? Words can’t express what I feel about that nonsense. Newman himself can’t quite buy it. How can one of the “best of all England teams” lose 5-0 AND have their coach remain with dignity intact?
The man who coached England to three Ashes victories, the No 1 Test ranking and a World Twenty20 triumph disappeared into the background to lick his wounds while the mud-slinging and recriminations swirled around him.
As you can see with the post I reproduced above, he didn’t go silently, and threw a fair bit of mud. That it wasn’t reported as coming directly from him fooled nobody. Please don’t insult our intelligence.
Even now he will not respond to the assassination of his character by Kevin Pietersen in the saga’s aftermath and instead is content to still be playing his part in the betterment of English cricket away from the spotlight he never relished.
Kevin Pietersen’s character was assassinated by unattributed leaks, journalistic innuendo, and the maintenance of flat out lies (the texting how to dismiss Strauss is still regularly spotted). That went on from mid-December 2013 until KP released THAT book in October 2014. That doesn’t seem to matter. No. KP said what he thought and suddenly we need to be concerned about an ex-coach’s reputation. Flower doesn’t have to say anything in public. You lot, and especially Newman and Selvey, did it for him.
‘It fell apart very quickly and much quicker than I hoped,’ reflected Flower on those tumultuous times in Australia.
‘Regardless of whether I moved on I would like to have seen a healthier transition where some senior players stayed and there was a drip-feed of younger ones rather than a complete makeover.
Don’t worry Andy. Mission accomplished. The journos kept reminding us of the good times and laying all the blame on KP and the dastardly Mitchell Johnson. No-one could have done any more. SimonH in his comment buries the transition myth as well.
‘Sometimes life doesn’t work out perfectly and that’s an example of that but England have made a great recovery.
‘Peter Moores put some really good foundations in place and had some tough situations to deal with and I think Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace have reaped some rewards for the work he did during that transitional period for English cricket.
We live in a world where we praise Peter Moores contribution as coach over KP’s contribution to a world-beating XI. Peter Moores was done badly by the ECB, but lets not pretend that his reign was anything other than a failure. Let’s also not take away the credit from the current management team, who, of course, are not linked to Flower in any way. Moores brought Flower into the England set-up, lest we forget.
‘It’s such a shame it didn’t work out twice for Peter because he’s an outstanding coach, and man, and Trevor has acknowledged that which is good because he didn’t need to do that,’ says Flower in his first major interview since the Ashes meltdown that cost him his job.
Newman’s odd, quaint reminder, in case you’ve forgotten that Flower has been a mute in the last two years is out of place. As is an homage to Peter Moores.Likeable, dignified man, but not an international coach. All this praising of Moores comes across as some sort of defence mechanism for a decision made in Spring 2014 that was a mistake. They want to say it is an honest mistake. There was a large school of thought that the key man pumping Moores tyres was Flower.
‘Trevor is a very experienced coach and he’s bringing a lot of knowledge to English cricket. He may give the impression he’s a simple guy from the bush in New South Wales but he has a cricketing wisdom about him and about people and teams.
‘He’s making that count for English cricket. I still don’t know Trevor that well but I’m looking forward to knowing him better.’
Hang about! The England Lions coach and Trevor Bayliss don’t know each other that well. Do they talk at all? What’s going on here? Are there two fiefdoms in operation?
It is an enormous shame that it all ended so badly for Flower after he did so much, along with his captain Andrew Strauss, to lift England to unprecedented levels after taking over in the wake of another Pietersen fall-out in 2009.
He deserves the praise when we win and none of the blame when we lose. This is Essex Mafia in full effect. See also A.Cook. I don’t remember the enormous shame articles after Fletcher left. And he inherited a far greater mess than Andy Flower, who did a very good job for most of his tenure I must say, did. If you want me to feel sorry for Flower, you aren’t going about this the right way.
He deserves to be remembered for the highs of that rare away Ashes success in 2010-11, climaxing with innings victories in Melbourne and Sydney, and another win against Australia in the final of the 2010 World Twenty20, rather than when the world of English cricket came tumbling down around him.
And airbrush out the bad bits. Remember the great bits, forget the humiliation. Wow. Journalism in full cry. Should we remember how he jacked in the limited overs stuff?
‘There were hard times during that tour of Australia and some testing times for me and a few others afterwards,’ he reflects now. ‘So I don’t have good memories of it but having said that it was still fascinating to be part of.
‘It was interesting to try to find a way of halting the slide even though we weren’t able to do it. It was fascinating to watch how people were dealing with what we went through and how I dealt with it myself.
‘Coming out the other side and evaluating why things happened. Hopefully I’m stronger and wiser for it.
‘If we’d won that Ashes I would have wanted to carry on, no question. There was talk of me going even if we’d won but I would have wanted to stay because I was really enjoying the job and it’s one of the best you can have. Why wouldn’t you carry on when you’re winning?’
It was interesting to try to find a way of halting the slide. Hilarious. I had a ton of respect for Flower – read my blog properly if you don’t think I do – but what is he trying to do here? We know his attempts were laughable. It was team in a death spiral. You also didn’t want the whole job – you’d packed in the limited over stuff and had more than one journo telling us you hated the constant travelling as you had a young family. Now you want to change that. I’m confused
Alastair Cook did, of course, carry on while England moved on without the likes of highly successful players like Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior and, controversially, Pietersen.
And the way his second captain has emerged from the dark times himself gives Flower enormous satisfaction.
‘Cooky has done amazingly well,’ says Flower. ‘He’s got genuine resilience and strength. He was under a lot of pressure in that post-Ashes period. He took a lot of the brunt of the Pietersen fall-out and has always been a stubborn b****r which is one of his great qualities.
‘He was stubborn enough not to back down personally from the challenge in front of him as England captain and I’ll always respect him for that.
‘He came through it like a champion and hopefully he’s got a few years of heavy scoring in front of him. And not just heavy scoring but also contributing as a leader.
‘One of the things I’ve most enjoyed over the last 18 months or so is watching him change as a captain. I think he’s evolved as a leader.
Not going down the Saint Alastair of Bedford route. But “the brunt of the Pietersen fall-out” was a creation of his own device. He was reported to be in agreement with the sacking, he was reported to be opposed to any rapprochement. He went two years without a hundred. Stubbornness backed by a board who needed him.
As for the last point. A skilled observer might note that Cook developed as a leader once free of the shackles of the Flower/Moores management axis. But that wouldn’t fit the narrative, would it Paul?
‘He’s become stronger, more certain of his views and he’s learnt from watching. The example set by Brendon McCullum and New Zealand, I think, was very important to him.
‘Some of that stubbornness sometimes meant he didn’t learn as quickly as some but I think because he was going through such a hard time he watched and looked and listened during that period and he’s come out with much clearer views on his leadership and the tactics he’s going to employ in Test cricket.
‘It’s a really tough job at any stage and we tend to think as soon as we give someone the captaincy they become all knowing on tactics, leadership and selection and how people develop.
‘It’s a crazy thing to expect young guys to become great leaders straightaway but part of my job is to create environments in which we can give opportunities to these players to lead in different ways.
‘And through that they can make mistakes, learn about themselves and learn what leadership means in their context. That’s quite a chunky responsibility we’ve got at our level.’
Again, a studious avoidance of the influence of Bayliss and Farbrace and an exoneration of his own methods. The attribution to this of Cook’s youth is staggering and we can’t let them get away with it. He was 29 when Flower was sacked/resigned. He had brought up his 100th test on that tour hadn’t he (at Perth)? He’d been an international cricketer for 8 years. Good grief. He wasn’t a young guy. Is Joe Root going to get that? Michael Vaughan was 28 when he assumed the captaincy, with a lot less international experience. I don’t recall anyone ever calling him young.
All the indications I hear is that Bayliss is letting Cook be the leader. Maybe Flower should worry less about his chunky responsibilities and look and see how he has reacted once out of the control of Moores and Flower.
It is a responsibility Flower is relishing in a far more significant role than his initial job as director of elite coaching that the ECB gave him after he finally decided he could not possibly survive that 5-0 humiliation and resigned.
‘It’s very different to being England coach but I’ve really enjoyed doing it for the last two winters,’ says Flower.
We never will know what went on after that tour. The truth never will out. The thing is, when he was appointed technical director of elite coaching his role was described as..
His new role will be based at the national cricket performance centre in Loughborough.
“Not only will Andy work with both players and coaches but he will also look to enhance the relationship between the county coaches and the England set-up,” added Downton.
“He will also work with Level 3 and 4 coaches in the ECB coaching structures.
“Andy will also build on the highly-successful ECB coach and talent development programmes which have seen players such as Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, to name a few, graduate to England senior teams as well as work with a number of coaches from first-class counties who have been involved with the England Lions.”
Flower said: “I am particularly excited about the chance to build and mould a leadership course which is not simply about captaincy but much more.
“This role offers me a chance to make a real contribution to the ability and character of England players and coaches in the years to come.”
So now he just works in the winter, or am I reading this wrong – indeed the article seems to indicate he’s acting as some sort of talent mentor at home. His role has never quite been defined in public and I’m finding this reporting strange.
‘You’re still working with very talented players, ones who are hungry to play international cricket and have this dream of fulfilling their talent.
‘You are away from media scrutiny and it’s quite nice to take a break from that after seven years with England. It’s a lovely role to have, I’m still trying to make a positive influence for English cricket and that’s really nice.
‘I was very committed as England coach to the cause and I’m lucky to have this job, still be involved and still doing my best for the English game.’
He talks with real enthusiasm about his charges among the second string, for example a batsman who appears set for his Test debut against Sri Lanka in the first international of the summer at Headingley on May 19.
‘James Vince has captained the Lions the last two winters and he’s been outstanding,’ says Flower.
Great. I hope he does a brilliant job with them. He’s not had a huge hit rate thus far, but it is early days. James Vince is carrying a lot of hopes. Also, James Vince seems to be an assured pick as well, which is interesting. Has he links to Essex as Pringle has been bigging him up too.
I’ve skipped the bit on the Currans…so on to the finale…
Flower himself is thoroughly enjoying the way the new vibrant young England team are playing now, a team that have emerged from the ashes of those troubled times to reach the brink of greatness now themselves.
‘It’s a really exciting England team and they’ve selected exciting players,’ says Flower. ‘Players with plenty of power and it’s a young, developing group too.
‘One thing I like is that they obviously like playing with each other. It’s nice to watch players having fun together and in a fun environment you learn quickly.
‘You don’t quite have the emotional involvement and commitment as when you’re coach but I’ve loved what I’ve seen over the last year. We were huge underdogs in that Ashes last year and for the England side to come through as they did was magnificent.
‘Then to go to South Africa and win was a great achievement. We went there a few years ago and drew 1-1 so we know how tough it is.
No comparisons with the dour functionality of the 2013 Ashes win, something which, in my eyes, no-one has anything to apologise for. Plenty of hints that that team didn’t enjoy playing with each other. PLenty of tips to youth that Flower didn’t have a great record of developing while in the job. Also Flower is doing himself down over South Africa. That team we put out in 2009-10 faced a vastly superior opposition then. Three factors. Smith. Kallis. A fit Dale Steyn. We had Swann as well (so that’s four). IN blowing smoke up our teams arse this is almost too self-effacing.
The article tails off with things about future international jobs.
Flower is done little credit by this. Two years silence to talk about a current job and hinting about things that went on, while interviewed by a friendly face who is hardly going to pose the tough questions because he nailed his colours to Flower’s mast many years ago, and has been at times an out of control anti-Pietersen reporter. Flower was not a failure as a coach. I’m not saying that. I’m saying Flower got a man scapegoated for the tour, and in the process secured a job he was campaigning for at the time because he knew that team’s run might be coming to an end. There is still the unanswered questions on his role in the dodgy dossier, the leaking, the role in getting KP sacked. He chooses not to answer. I think that silence speaks volumes.
I still want answers, and I want him to answer them. He doesn’t have to, of course, but what we don’t need is for friendly journos to put his case for him. That’s why those of us who huddle under the “outside cricket” umbrella, rained upon at many turns, get so frustrated. There’s no attempt to be even-handed. They’ve decided that KP was the man doing the character assassinating and that anything said about him was fair game, even though it came through all sorts of leaks and sources. Until the likes of Newman actually get this, we’ll still be doing what we are doing.
The final question about this is timing. Why now? Flower has been, so the story goes, an example of a man keeping his counsel. The dignified coach who let the mess go on around him. We never bought it, but we understood the right to silence. Now, 28 months after the end of the series, he speaks, albeit tangentially about the thought processes and his new job. Why now? What does he want to get out of it? This looks like an ECB sanctioned piece – only Newman can tell us that – so there has to be some thought going into why you’d open up this can of worms now (I fully expected it to come out in either his or Cook’s autobiography)? Is he after another job? Is he worried that not enough credit his coming his way? Is this some sort of attempt to get him back in the public eye now KP has gone for good? I really don’t understand. These media managers manage for a reason.
It’s a long time since I fisked an article and this one deserved it. Andy Flower was a very good England coach. I have not gone to town on Flower ever. I think he had things he should have said, I think he had a role in what went down, and I think he leaked (has anyone ever asked him whether he leaked the discussion over Taylor with KP). I know some will sigh and say “it’s just Dmitri being Dmitri” and if that’s the way you feel, you’ve done well to reach the 5000th word of this piece to read that. But I don’t trust the ECB and their motives and I sure as hell don’t trust this journalist to tell it straight. So what is going on here and don’t you think the supporters of England should know?
Feel free to take me to task. This was bad.