ANDY FLOWER has promised there will be no “witch-hunt” for players who under-performed in England’s Ashes whitewash.
Flower has committed himself to staying on as Test coach and team director to try to reinvigorate England after their shambolic descent to a 5- 0 defeat, and he insists captain Alastair Cook can emerge from the debacle to put his own stamp on a team for the future.
He acknowledges there must be some change after five wide-margin Test defeats, but does not advocate singling out anyone at this early stage of the necessary review process.
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Which senior players remain in Cook and Flower’s new era is a source of much conjecture.
Kevin Pietersen, for example, was variously touted on the final day of the series – depending which pundit you follow on Twitter – as ready for retirement or about to be given the vice-captaincy.
Flower, unsurprisingly, gave no clues as to which might be nearer the truth.
“I don’t want to go into talking about individuals right now,” he said.
“This isn’t a witch hunt, certainly not on my part anyway.
We need to make wise decisions about who are the players that need to join Alastair Cook in the rebuilding of the England cricket side.”
Those decisions will continue to take place in a series of meetings with new England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton.
Flower said: “We met prior to the Sydney Test and are meeting again (on Monday) – with a little more information.
“He was very supportive.
I’m not looking for the ECB to have the same ideas I’ve got.
“We’re looking to have a proper, robust discussion about what the best ideas are for English cricket.
“We’ve got to get our heads together.
“What I’ve always tried to do in my role is make the best decisions in the interests of English cricket – and that is what I’ll do, with Paul.”
Suddenly, England must find solutions to many problems they did not even know they had, until Mithchell Johnson, Brad Haddin et al began exposing their weaknesses this winter.
Flower concedes his own resignation would be one feasible reaction to a malaise which seemed a world away when England were beating Australia 3-0 at home last summer.
That is not going to happen, however.
“Of course, that is one of the options – but I’m very committed to English cricket,”
“Obviously, after a loss of this proportion, there has to be change of some description ... and I imagine there will be.
“It would not be reasonable to go on doing the same things again. I think our methods, our environment and our personnel all need to be looked at.
“I obviously have to look at the way I’ve led this group, and I’m continually looking to improve myself.”
Flower is convinced, though, that Cook has all the attributes to restate his case both as a record-breaking batsman and leader.
The first series defeat of his tenure as Test captain, little more than a year into the job, could not have come in higher- profile circumstances – after Cook’s England embarked for Australia in search of a fourth successive Ashes series victory.
They will return in dribs and drabs as only the third team in Ashes history, but second in three tours, to have lost 5-0.
Nonetheless, Flower retains faith in 29-year-old Cook’s ability to put things right.
“I think Alastair Cook can lead the renewal of the England cricket side,” he said.
“A description of him creating his own team, I think, is a good one. He will grow into that type of leader where he can call a team absolutely his own.”
Cook, like almost all his teammates, has fallen unaccountably short of standards he has long established as England’s most prolific alltime Test centurion.
Johnson and Ryan Harris both got him out at least once with wonderful deliveries – but by the end of his miserable campaign, in which he averaged barely half his usual output, he was floundering.
Flower can vouch from personal experience – he was the world’s number one Test batsman at the start of this century – that even the best suffer dips in form.
“Life can move in certain cycles,” he added. “Alastair is an outstanding cricketer and a very fine man, but his career was never going to go upwards continually.
“No one’s career does. This is a down time for him as a batter. “It is a tough time for him, but he’ll be learning a lot about himself and he’ll be learning a lot about the game.”
The twin responsibilities of batsman and captain are wellknown to Flower, who for good measure was also often Zimbabwe’s wicketkeeper. He is adamant Cook can make a lasting success of both.
“He’ll be learning a lot about leadership ... and I’m sure his batting will come good again,” he said.
“In the long term I don’t think it will mess with his batting.
“He is a strong bloke, and one of his skills is keeping things in perspective.”