The ECB may well have got the right man but their methods, not for the first time, leave something to be desired.
A global search for the best man for the job, led by hotshot headhunters Odgers Ray and Berndtson, has brought them back to their own doorstep. Hugh Morris, the England team managing director, won’t say how many were on the shortlist or which other men were actually interviewed for “reasons of confidentiality”. That old one. The ECB still haven’t satisfactorily explained why Peter Moores was sacked in January and Kevin Pietersen forced to resign as captain at the same time.
It is believed that John Wright was interviewed on the phone and that’s it. On the phone? For a job that pays the thick of a quarter of a million quid? The whole headhunters and shortlist business looks like smoke and mirrors. They wanted to give Flower the job from day one and this whole process simply bought the ECB time to see how Flower coped in the West Indies.
It also bought Flower time, we learned today, to see if he even wanted to apply for the job which is understandable given that, along with Moores, he had been on Kevin Pietersen’s blacklist.
Flower’s press conference at Lord’s today revealed precious little other than thoughtfulness and honesty. He declined to answer a number of questions about things like selection, central contracts and specific strategies but he did so politely and apologetically. What he didn’t do was bulls**t nor did he waffle on in rehearsed-speak.
He is an impressive individual and it is perfectly plausible to imagine him being excellent at his new job. But there are two things we don’t know. One is whether he really is the best man for the job because it seems the ECB haven’t properly examined all the other options and the other is whether Flower’s appointment will actually make any difference. The coach’s role in cricket is still so vague and intangible compared to that of a football manager.
One final thought: Flower talked about wanting “players to be challenging themselves” and fitness being “non-negotiable”. Common-sense thoughts but haven’t we heard them somewhere before? Maybe it is all about presentation. Maybe Flower isn’t that different to Moores he just communicates in a different way. Same message, different method.
John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer
You can read what the TWC summit make of Flower’s appointment here