ICL: Indian Cricket League

Flower urges for calm


Like the world’s financial system that has been overloaded with toxic debt, England’s dismal demise for 51 at Sabina Park was a crash waiting to happen. After a month of internal ructions so bad that a new captain and coach had to be appointed, amid weeks of wrangling over IPL deals, the problems finally presented themselves in the shape of England’s third lowest total in Test cricket.

Now it is down to the new combination at the top, Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, to try and build the team back up in time for the second Test. They don’t have long - it starts in Antigua on Friday.

“It is all our jobs to do something about it and if we don’t we will be out of jobs,” Flower said bluntly at the team hotel. Plenty of ECB officials were milling around the lobby and pool. None of them looked happy.

England’s collapse has come at a doubly bad time given all the off-field issues that have been floating around. It is impossible to escape the fact that they played a part and Flower admitted it could have been the drip-drip effect of all the distractions.

“There might be an element of truth in that, but sportsmen have to deal with the challenges they are given,” he said. “We have three Tests left to do something about it. It’s going to be difficult, but we have the players to do it.

“Playing for England is a proud moment, they are not only playing for their team or themselves, but also their country and the people that came out here to watch them,” he added. “People are not proud of what happened.

Before this trip started Strauss preached the virtues of personal responsibility that he wanted each player to follow, but he couldn’t have foreseen such a dire situation. Flower, though, treads the same path as the captain and said the players have to examine for themselves what happened.

“I don’t think we handled pressure very well. It was a great spell of bowling [from Jerome Taylor] on a wearing pitch. They exploited that very well and probably better than we did at any time. The bottom line is [that the] players have to take responsibility for not handling the pressure.

“It’s a very individual thing, how you handle pressure. They have all responded under pressure before but yesterday none of them did. I could go through a list of when they have done it at different times.”

Flower has to defend his charges, but in the next few days some difficult decisions will have to be made. A team can’t collapse for 51 and there not be repercussions, although in 1994 the same England side that was bowled out for 46 in Trinidad played the next game in Barbados and won. That, however, was in a day when England teams changed as frequently as people change underwear and the fact these current players seem so safe will make the clamour for new blood stronger.

The man whose neck is most on the line is Ian Bell, with two limp innings of 28 and 2 at Kingston, and if Owais Shah isn’t given his chance, he may as well pack his bags and head home (or to the IPL).

“I think there’s a time where we need to reflect on what has happened,” Flower said. “There has to be a period of learning for the players and the coaching staff. Today is not the time for me to discuss selection, it’s best to stay calm and reflect. This is not a time for knee jerk reactions.”

There is a sense that the England set-up has plenty of lieutenants but no clear leader. Flower still operates under his title of assistant coach and Hugh Morris is on tour as an overarching figure head.

“The buck stops with me, but there’s also collective responsibility,” Flower said. “However on the playing front I take responsibility. I don’t think we are rudderless, in fact I know we aren’t. Strauss and I work together, but whereas he is captain I’m running the management team and taking that off his shoulders.”

And he remained adamant that he and Strauss have a united team behind them. “I can honestly say that this group of 25 people, or whatever we’ve got, work together very well,” he said. “If you get 25 people in an office there will be the odd ruction and the same goes for sport, but as far as disunity is concerned it’s simply not true.”

The public line is that this team will stick together and pull in the same direction. However, the same was said in India before it all blew up in Kevin Pietersen’s face and now the warning signs are flashing again. England came from 1-0 down to beat New Zealand last winter, but that pales in comparison with the challenge that now confronts them.

Source:Cricket News

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