August 1999, the Oval London. English cricket reaches it’s nadir as a very ordinary New Zealand outfit put the tin lid on a dreadful Summer, beating the hosts who capitulated for 162 in their second knock to hand the Tourists a 2-1 Series win.
This came hot on the heels of a disastrous World Cup campaign, where England fell in the Group Stages resulting in the sacking of David “we flippin’ murdered ‘em” Lloyd as Coach.
Rookie Skipper Nasser Hussain is forced to stand on the balcony and take the shame, the masses boo and the Red Tops savage the structure, and even the purpose of our Summer Game.
The tape rolls on…. March 2001. Graham Thorpe steers England home in Colombo to a fourth successive Test Series victory, including back to back Sub Continental triumphs to herald a massive turnaround in English Test fortunes.
England followed all this up by winning in the West Indies and South Africa, completing a seven match clean sweep at home in 2004 and of course the culmination was the regaining of the Ashes, and the mass hysteria (now it seems all so misplaced) of 2005.
Duncan Fletcher is a master facilitator, a man who knows the individual needs of his players and how to bring out the best of them in a team situation.
In the dark days of the late Nineties England continued to produce gifted individuals, but collective underachievement borne of slip shod organisation became the order of the day.
Fletcher demanded, and was given a change in the way the England team was run, central contracts and the like, and in tandem with the steely Hussain ensured that the England Test side achieved it’s full potential.
When Hussain decided enough was enough and quit as Skipper during the 2003 home series with South Africa, an equally formidable character in Michael Vaughan stepped up to the plate.
Things began to unravel when the Yorkshireman was forced to take a year off through injury, as Strauss and Flintoff proved far too laid back and left the Coach seemingly in sole charge.
During the Ashes Tour Fletcher became the only selector and this fatally changed the relationship between the Coach and the team as the Zimbabwean became almost like the England Manager, soccer style.
These changed dynamics are the reason why English fortunes have plummeted. The Captain MUST be the guy in charge and the Coach the man who gets the best, performance wise from the team.
If the Coach is a selector then a player will never admit to doubts about his technique or state of mind, less it be held against him in then future. The Coach/player relationship should be based on absolute honesty and trust.
The One Day situation was never mastered by Fletcher, but as long as the Test team is winning in the Public mind at least, it is a side issue…. Until it comes to the World Cup.
The criticism of Fletcher has been over board, and when the Schofield Report into recent debacles is published, I hope the finger points higher up, to David Graveney and David Morgan who are responsible for the bonkers lack of preparation for the Ashes and then this Tournament.
In Other Cricket News….
Yorkshire look promising this season with Moxon as a proven Coach, the ellubient Gough as Captain and the shrewd signings of Jacques Rudolph and Younis Khan to complement the emergence of leg spinning all rounder Adil Rashid and the experience of the likes of Whit, McGrath and Gillespie.
This side blew Surrey away at the Oval to win by 346 runs.
Star turns were Rashid with a knock of 86 in the first innings and seven wickets in the match, a record ninth wicket stand for Yorkshire of 270 from Tim Bresnan and Jason Gillespie, plus a 6 wicket match haul for Hoggard, Rudolph and Craig White also recording vital tons.
Momentum is all in sport, so here we go!