England’s coach journey to number 1?

A very thought-provoking article by Simon Hughes in today’s Daily Telegraph. He argues that England’s forensic coaching techniques and vigorous attention to detail are propelling our side to the top of the world rankings.

As he points out, our test record since February 2009 is P20 W10 D8 L2. But six of those wins were against weak Bangladeshi and West Indian opposition. The mere two defeats is perhaps a more telling statistic.

Hughes flags up two interesting talking points. First, are we en route to the test world championship? Our side feels potent, professional and energetic – but still somehow lacking substance. Compare the fragility of our batting with the solidity of India and South Africa’s. We can make a stronger case for the bowling. In home conditions our attack are as least as good as any other nation’s.

Secondly, does the best coached side become the best performing side? The romantic in us hopes not. More fun, surely, to see a match decided by flair and genius, rather than Excel spreadsheets and beep tests. This tension within cricket is best exemplified by the tortuous relationship between ex-Australian coach John Buchanan, and Shane Warne, who once called the former “a goose with verbal diarrhoea”.

At the risk of stating the bleeding, you need great players to form a great side. But right now you probably don’t need to be all that great a team to top the world rankings. There are currently five ‘good’ test sides, all within range of each other: England, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and India.  In such close contests, minor technical superiorities achieved through meticulous preparation could actually make the difference between winning and losing.


  • Interesting stuff Maxie. Flower is doing a good job. We certainly seem to be well prepared. However, I would like to know what Flower is doing differently to Duncan Fletcher (who was also very analytical). I’d like to be a fly on the wall.

  • Yep, interesting post – agree Flower seems like a good coach with excellent attention to detail. Not sure why it’s taken him till this summer to recall what Duncan Fletcher worked out 10 years ago – ie that conventional swing bowling rarely wins you Tests outside England. Will he have the bottle to drop Anderson and play Finn and Shahzad come the winter?

  • Apparently, Flower is a convert to the principals behind the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moneyball). Its a great book about how Oakland Athletic baseball team significantly over achieved based on their budget and well worth reading. The concept involves looking at stats in a different way and to a level of detail not thought useful before. For example, if Bresnan bowls more yorkers to left handers in the last three overs of a one day game than any other county player and if that type of bowler fits your game plan, you would pick him. Oakland picked unknown players or perceived failures to undertake a particular role. England employ two full time statisticians to assist Flower – they must have found some vital statistic to keep Cook in the team, irrespective how terrible his form is.

  • Apparently Cook scores well in ‘speaking with a relatively posh voice’ and ‘playing for Essex’. That’s enough to keep anybody in the England team.

    If James Taylor played for Essex, he would probably be in the England team already (of course, my theory falls flat on its face when it comes to James Foster)

  • James Foster is indeed a problem for my Essex mafia theory – unless you see him as the exception which proves the rule.

    After today’s dismissal, Cook must surely be in real trouble. It’s just not sustainable to have a senior player who so rarely contributes.


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