Interim England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster wants to put the pride back into the national shirt by copying cricket’s respect for lineage.
Lancaster has proposed the sewing of players’ individual cap numbers onto jerseys, below the red rose, in the same way that England’s Test cricketers display theirs on playing apparel.
The 42-year-old – a cricket aficionado, like one of his predecessors Brian Ashton, who played at county level for Cumbria Under-19 – is instilling new values post 2011 World Cup and recently invited England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Hugh Morris, who has overseen a rebuild of his own, to address his Six Nations squad.
But the introduction of numbers on shirts was Lancaster’s baby. “It’s about identity, so that the players know that they are part of a very exclusive club,” he explained.
“I’m a big cricket fan. I still watch the game when I can. I was an opening batsmen in the Chris Tavare mould; I would hit one and block two or three.”
The selection of Andy Hurry as Andy Flower’s number two for the limited-overs series against Pakistan – while Richard Halsall is on paternity leave – extends the trend of coaches without decorated playing CVs rising to the top of the English game.
Like the ECB’s performance director David Parsons, Hurry did not play first-class cricket, but has been influential in Somerset’s resurgence. Although Halsall did have a fleeting career – which included the scalps of Andrew Strauss, Marcus Trescothick and Graeme Swann – he did not progress beyond seven matches for Cambridge University.
Hurry, a chain-smoking former Royal Marine, is the latest proof that a show-us-your-medals culture is a thing of the past and undoubtedly one of the county circuit’s more interesting characters. His military background will be respected by disciplinarian Flower, whose cousin Ross Daines is a former British Army major who is now instructing at the United States Army’s Centre of Excellence.
It appears that Kevin Pietersen will have to clamber out of his latest batting trough without external help – after his long-term mentor Graham Ford was appointed as Sri Lanka coach.
The 31-year-old credits South African Ford for helping him re-discover form during a fortnight’s intensive practice in Durban, ahead of the 2010-11 Ashes.
Earlier that year, Pietersen had turned to ex-England coach Duncan Fletcher after a torrid time in the one-day series in Bangladesh. “If he does have a flaw in his technique he can still rely on his decision-making, his judgment of how or whether to play a delivery, to see him through,” said Fletcher, after revealing KP’s phone contact.
But with the Fletcher avenue also now a cul-de-sac due to his commitments with India, Pietersen will have to find another neutral ear or rely on the old adage about form being temporary and class longer-lasting if he is to overcome the biggest malaise of his Test career – his 67-run return against Pakistan was comfortably his lowest tally in any series of three or more matches.
The only other occurrence of him failing to hit at least one half-century in such a series also came in Asia. Yep, four years ago in Sri Lanka, where England head for two Tests next month.
England plan to dispatch Test specialists Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell to Sri Lanka early to prepare for the next trial by spin. There is even talk of them participating in domestic cricket as part of the acclimatisation.
However, if that happens they will not be the first English duo to do so this winter – batsmen Varun Chopra and Moeen Ali stayed on after the Performance Programme tour to the island and have thrived in first-class matches.
Warwickshire’s Chopra struck a career-best unbeaten 233, carrying his bat on debut for Muttiah Muralitharan’s former club Tamil Union, while Moeen amassed 335 runs at an average of 67 in his first three appearances for Moors Sports.
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