Everybody panic! Paul Farbrace, the coach who was so integral in national triumphs such as the 2015 World Cup and the 2016/17 Ashes, has decided to leave England and join Warwickshire ahead of the seminal / life defining white ball tournament being held in England this summer.
How will we cope?! Apparently Eoin Morgan fainted when he heard the news, Jos Buttler threw up, and Jason Roy fell to his knees and screamed “Noooooooooooooo”!
Apologies for being facetious. Farbrace is a good coach and I think, if I recall correctly, I questioned why he wasn’t on the shortlist to become England’s head coach before he was named No.2 back in 2014. After all, he’d done pretty well with Sri Lanka.
However, it’s all moot now. Farbrace is off. England have lost an important cog in their coaching team at a very inconvenient time. And now supporters and media will have something obvious to blame if Eoin Morgan’s men have an absolute shocker in the World Cup semi-final (having been the best team in the tournament up to that point).
Personally, however, I’m not too worried about Farbrace leaving. It’s a small blow I guess but only a minor inconvenience. England’s ODI team is no longer a work in progress. It’s settled and confident. Our players shouldn’t need a motivator like Farbrace whispering sweet nothings in their ears to perform well. Indeed, I expect them to take this news in their stride.
Do I blame Farbrace for leaving? Not at all. I don’t think he would’ve been in the running to replace Bayliss when his contract runs out in September this year, so I can completely understand his decision to move on. Top county jobs don’t come along often so Farbrace has done the best thing for him and his family.
Would I have wanted Farbrace to replace Bayliss? Again the answer is no. I’m not in favour of promoting No.2s in any sport unless continuity is desired. And the truth is that England just haven’t been good enough in test cricket over the last 5 years to justify the appointment of a ‘continuity’ candidate.
In my opinion fresh eyes will be needed next winter. And a fresh voice too. After all, if Farbrace was to replace Bayliss what can he possibly say to the players that he hasn’t already said to them a million times over the last five years?
I think the appointment of Ashley Giles as Director also would’ve made it difficult for Farbrace to become England’s No.1. Giles will naturally want to appoint his own man. C’est la vie. And I think Farbrace would’ve recognised this.
I’ve heard some suggest rather mischievously that this Giles and Farbrace job swap looks like a stitch up. Was there some kind of deal behind closed doors? Personally I think not. For starters there’s no way England would’ve wanted Farbrace to leave at this point. It looks bad and it might affect our chances in the World Cup (although I doubt it will).
Instead I see this coincidence as symptomatic of the fact that the top jobs in English cricket seem to rotate amongst a select group of ‘trusted suppliers’. Indeed it seems like a closed shop at times.
I admit this analogy is stretching things somewhat but I once read a book by the American sociologist C. Wright Mills. It was required reading for my PhD thesis on critiques of US imperialism. Mills argued that US domestic and foreign policy was essentially controlled by a Power Elite. This elite was best defined as a group of wealthy and influential men from politics, big business, and the military.
I’m not suggesting for a second that Paul Farbrace is the new Dwight Eisenhower, or that Colin Graves or Ashley Giles are akin to Donald Trump (!) but there are some parallels in the way the two elites seem to operate. Basically Mills described a group of people who were well connected, mostly knew each other (either vaguely or quite well), and therefore rotated in and out of the same political roles.
This elite wasn’t self-conscious – they weren’t part of a recognised club, didn’t wear badges, and weren’t even aware that they belonged to an ‘elite’ – but it was instructive how this same group came to shape government policy regardless.
It worked thus: a man from Standard Oil (for example) would work his way up to the boardroom, get to know politicians in the process, get offered a top political job because of his expertise in his chosen area, do a stint in government, and then return to Standard Oil (or another huge company) afterwards. His replacement in government would be someone cut from the same cloth but from a different company.
This was how and why, according to Mills, policy was either shaped by or was biased towards big business. The lines between government and big business became blurred because the personnel became interwoven. New philosophies and new faces were therefore restricted as essentially the same group of people swapped jobs and scratched each others’ backs.
Sometimes I think English cricket works a bit like this. It seems to be dominated by the same guys who are influential in either county cricket, the media, or perhaps at a sponsor or a related business. They all do a stint in an ECB role (or perhaps a couple of stints) as a selector, coach, or even a pundit, and then disappear back to their previous vocation – only to reappear again.
This is possibly why we always seem to get the same recycled list of candidates every time there’s an opening: Angus Fraser, Mick Newell, Mike Selvey, and now Ed Smith. And it’s why I suspected that Ashley Giles was a dead cert for the Director job as soon as I heard that Andrew Strauss was stepping down.
Basically if you play the game and mix in the right circles etc opportunities will inevitably arise. It’s also why, in my opinion, Fraser and Newell were allowed to keep their county jobs when they became selectors even though there was a clear conflict of interest. Basically, it’s all rather cushy.
Anyway, that’s my theory. I’m probably completely wrong. But it doesn’t half feel that way sometimes. So was there some kind of stitch up whereby England got Giles and Warwickshire got Farbrace as compensation? I doubt it. But the way English cricket seems to work makes coincidences like this entirely predictable.
PS Kusal Perera! Wow.