The England cricket team’s backroom staff deserves as much credit, if not more, for England’s recent Ashes success in Australia, writes Ryan Bachoo, a 21-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago.
The best partnership however, hasn’t been on the pitch featuring Alastair Cook or Jonathan Trott, it has been the stand between Captain Andrew Strauss and England’s head coach, Andy Flower.
In cricket, when a bowler and a captain plans the tactics of a dismissal for an opposing batsman, and the plan works, it makes the wicket all that much sweeter, knowing that thought and effort reaped success. It is much the same for Strauss and Flower.
It was thanks to Flower’s practical approach to his job that England was last month able to celebrate a first series success Down Under for twenty-four years. It is much like approaching a very pretty girl: the execution is always important, but it is not the hardest part. The bigger task is to plan how you approach her, and which crummy pick-up line you are going to use. Okay, I might not be making any sense there, but you get the point.
The wind beneath England’s wings has been the backroom staff, working alongside the players over the past two years, with the sole goal of keeping the Ashes when they toured Australia. They have achieved that goal, with many hiccups along the way, an average series here in the West Indies and a few poor performances against Pakistan, but the squad, it could have easily been seen, were well prepared for the big occasion.
It was 23 days of fascinating cricket by England and Australia. And like for the whole of Britain, it was equally 23 sleepless nights for my dad and me, who sat behind the television set at home in Trinidad and Tobago, engrossed in every session. We exchanged shifts every day of a Test match at lunch, where one of us had to stay awake throughout lunch time and awake the other when the second session started, we both failed miserably at that, but here’s what I have summed up about a couple of the England squad players over the last six weeks.
Alastair Cook was supposed to be the weak link in the English batting line-up. I would go as far as saying that I believe the middle order were prepared for Alastair Cook to fail. He showed all the signs in the build-up to the Ashes, but it just shows what hard work can do. He had problems with the ball around off-stump and struggled with the cut-shot and the off-drive, went away, worked on it and came out of the Ashes with a mammoth 766 runs. At one point, I thought he would have broken Sir Don Bradman’s record of 974 runs in an Ashes series. (10/10)
Andrew Strauss was a busy man throughout this tour. As captain he needed to lead from the front, and it didn’t start well for him in Brisbane. He is a man of steel though, he has to be! Who looks Ricky Ponting in the eye and smile while the Punter is busy trying to intimidate your every move? Strauss has come back well. Like many others, I have questioned his captaincy many times, but Michael Holding summed up his captaincy after England sealed the Ashes at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. His response was simple: Strauss is paid to win Test matches. He may not win the way we want him to win, but the most important thing is that he’s winning. It’s been a mentally tough series for him but he’s done exceptionally well to win two consecutive Ashes series, one at home and the other away. (10/10)
As much credit as the England players have received for their top performances Down Under, the England backroom staff equally deserve praise, if not more credit for their handling of the players and off-field matters. They have done everything possible to ensure that the players’ main and only troubles were what happened on the field of play. They were terrific, and deserve all the credit they get. Easy one! (10/10)
And Andy Flower? Well, to put it simply, he’s been the mastermind behind England’s whole Ashes campaign. Every time something as special comes around for the England team, a big series win the Ashes or the World Twenty20 last year, memories of Andy Flower introduction as head coach flash before me. I was absolutely critical of Flower’s appointment upon Peter Moores being sacked. Then, I thought in order for England to move forward swiftly, the team needed another Duncan Fletcher. Flower’s made me eat my words ever since. He’s been absolutely brilliant for this England team, and will need to take his strategies into the shorter formats. (10/10)
It’s been a summer that will live long in the minds of English players, fans and those former England men like Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton, who failed to win an Ashes Down Under in their playing days.
It was a gem to see, unusually, the Melbourne Cricket Ground dominated by English spectators. But it is evidence how low Australian cricket has fallen. For England, the vision is now simple: they must now go on to become the best Test team in the world. The next time this team comes together will be months from now, and they will have to start again, without Paul Collingwood, who has been brilliant throughout the years, on and off the field.
However, I won’t lose any sleep over how well they’ll do against giants Sri Lanka and India, because I know, while I’m off to bed now, Andy Flower is up pondering his next onslaught. (10/10).
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