By Alex Jones
It’s true, as an Aussie there is nothing better in sport than beating the poms in the Ashes. Nothing. Not Cathy Freeman’s gold in Sydney. Not even the Wallabies lifting the World Cup. There is simply nothing better than an Ashes victory and this winters ‘pomwash’ was a roaring success as the urn returned. So why did the series make me feel so melancholy?
Well it’s simple, the Ashes should be the pinnacle of cricket. Two old enemies slugging it out to take home that small, but priceless, urn. Yet this series was so one sided, so devoid of competition that it was embarrassing to watch. Where had this England team come from? Where was that fierce side that won in the summer?
As good as Australia were, England were a squad empty of confidence, mentally crumbling and lacking that fighting spirit needed not only to win the urn but to actually be competitive. As much as I want an Aussie win, I am a cricket fan who wants to see the Ashes played at the highest possible level.
With the conclusion of the Massacre Down Under the ECB now face difficult questions in their search to return England to the top of the world tree.
One of the most difficult decisions surrounds star batsman Kevin Pietersen and head coach Andy Flower. It seems the divides between the two run so deep that only one can be part of England’s rebuilding process.
Many think KP is being used as a scapegoat, hung out to dry by the media. But the issues with KP and the England management go deeper than a poor series. There have always been question marks over KP’s desire to play test cricket and his aptitude in many of his Ashes innings frustrated fans and management alike as he gave his wicket away cheaply as the Aussies played on his ego. There is a fear that KP’s ego and attitude is holding England back and that his wandering commitment sets a poor example to the younger players of the squad who will undoubtedly have to be brought into the team after the humbling demise of the old guard.
Despite all this, the fact remains that KP is a winner. A batsman of the highest standard. A player who can single handedly win a match and to drop him would be a bold and costly move by Flower & Co. Players like Pietersen do not come around too often and if Flower isn’t up to the task of managing the South African born player then it’s time for him to make way. Players win matches, not coaches.
Flower will argue that Pietersen has to be dropped for the sake of team harmony. That this new England era cannot contain the IPL star. This clash of coach and player is one that crops in many sports- just look at Fergie and his dealings with Beckham.
So what becomes of head coach Andy Flower? Surely his days at the helm of the test side are over? Well, this isn’t football so he has a fighting chance of staying on. No doubt he is a talented coach, taking England to new highs as a test nation but there are many questions that hang unanswered over his job. Has he lost the dressing room? Can he bring the next generation through? Can he discard those past their sell by date? Can he find a place for Pietersen in his team?
If Flower cannot find the solution to not only get the best out of KP but also the rest of the team then it is time for him to go. After all, how can you put the huge task of rebuilding the squad into the hands of a man who failed so cataclysmically in the Ashes?
Image used licensed under the Creative Commons and be found here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kevin_Pietersen_at_the_Gabba.jpg