Friday, January 02, 2009

No More Mr Nice Guy

It's only when you read books like Duncan Fletcher's Ashes retrospective that you realise quite the impact a good coach can have on a test team.

He encouraged, probably ordered, the England team to think and act aggressively throughout the 2005 series - get in the Aussies faces and stay there. Starting with the 'Jones v Hayden' spat, which turned into an 'Entire England XI v Hayden' spat they managed to follow that to the letter. He looked for every possible angle to take the Australians out of their comfort zone, even down to making sure they had to take the field through a guard of honour consisting of England flags.

I suspect that there's a lot of things that went on that even Fletcher isn't owning up to - no hot water in the Australian changing room? Sorry, the plumber's got caught in traffic. Fire alarm at 2 o'clock in the morning at the team hotel? Damn those hotel wiring systems

If anyone wants to whinge about gamesmanship - well, that's exactly what happens on Ashes tours down under. Only when England tour Australia the whole of the cricketing system is at it - not just the coach. That's why the last tour started with minimal warm up games, that's why the Barmy Army trumpeter was banned from the Gabba, and that's why most series start in Brisbane, the most uncomfortable ground for unacclimatised English tourists.

Compare that with previous Australia tours here when they were given a warm up game at Canterbury before the Lords test. Why Canterbury? Because they asked for it specifically because it has a similar slope to the one at the home of cricket.

If there was a test match ground in Australia where the Aussies hadn't beaten England since 1934, like Lords over here, then they wouldn't play Ashes tests there anymore.

So what's the point of all this? Well, with the best will in the world, can you imagine Peter Moores doing any of that? No - me neither. And I don't think Kevin Pietersen can either.

But I think Michael Vaughan would...

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