Gang Culture: It’s Wrong and Not Just on the West Side


Team England has a strong sense of identity.  It has been built that way by Andy Flower and by Duncan Fletcher before him.

The expience of the last year and especially of the last 38 excruciating days begs the question as to whether this identity is not just the wrong one, but whether the construction of any such strong group identity can itself be the worst kind of organisation for nurturing the best kind of cricket.

Each year a thousand flowers bloom on the cricket grounds of England. Too few survive the long season of their potential. And too often the best are ground into the dust.

The Gang operating in Cricket England for at least twenty years has been free (and even encouraged) to act this way by weak and ill-judged leadership at the very top of the game.

The booty that the Gang delivered for its community, even though this retrospectively for a fairly short period, further reduced the oversight and intervention of that leadership and gave the gang masters further scope to strengthen their grip.

The continuing power of gangs and cliques rests upon an artificial definition of the group’s culture (Right Stuff) and makes the culture inflexible in the face of change and impenetrable to new or non-compliant talent.

The pretensions of Gang England, like the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story (and therefore the weakness of those charged with oversight and leadership) has been cruelly exposed in the last five weeks since the second day at Brisbane.


The England Cricket Team and Wags Christmas Party 2013

Here are some details of the consequences.  Readers may wish to add to these:

Ÿ         A leadership that has given unprecedented power to the manager/coach.

Ÿ         A coach whose management style is hierarchical who, unchallenged and unquestioned, has produced a compliant clique or gang culture.

Ÿ         A comfortable, secure, unchallenged ‘in crowd’ and a reduced view of the ‘outside’ talent pool resulting from this clique affirming perspective.

Ÿ         An off-field support team/system that indoctrinates and cossets the ‘chosen’ insiders while excluding, rejecting and distancing outsiders.

Ÿ         An inexperienced and compliant captain who has aided by omission rather than challenged this culture.

Ÿ         Ineffective deputies in virtually all roles on and off the field, preserving the power structure.

Ÿ         Inflexible tactics unable to respond to change.

Ÿ         A string of specific selection issues stemming from this cultural malaise:

Ÿ         Only one spinner that the captain/management trusted but who the regime failed to see was unfit, following surgery.

Ÿ         One talented young spinner recklessly exposed to psychologically damage last summer.

Ÿ         One batsman with psychological issues (known) that the regime believed could be ‘managed’.

Ÿ         One young batsman with technical issues limiting ability to play up the order, exposed to this pressure by the return home of the player above.

Ÿ         One new and untried opening batsman with the Gang’s interpretation of  ‘right stuff’ but with technical issues whose flare has been extinguished.

Ÿ         One tried and tested opening batsman with the ‘wrong stuff’ left at home.

Ÿ         Only one full-time wicket keeper (insider) with serious and evident issues over batting form.

Ÿ         Second (deputy) non-Test standard ‘keeper with serious issues batting against pace and bounce.

Ÿ         One fast bowler with serious form/technical issues (copying with law change).

Ÿ         Two untried, untested fast bowlers.

Ÿ         A major batting asset who consciously and unconsciously is a challenge to the regime’s style and whose true potential is being wasted.

What to do?  It has taken 20 years to produce the present culture of Team England. Reform and renewal is a slow process, but as in West Side Story, the prime problem is not Riff, but Lieutenant Schrank.  It’s City Hall.  It’s the Mayor.


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4 responses to “Gang Culture: It’s Wrong and Not Just on the West Side

  1. I cannot see anything you have left out! In essence it goes back to selection – going on a tour with one keeper and no “old reliable” batsman (eg Hendren and Mead in 1928/9, or Paynter in 1938/9) in case someone fell by the wayside or lost form. Selecting 3 tall bowlers, one of whom was nowhere near the form of 2010-11, one of whom was untested, and the other who is being broken by the coaches (and was surely damaged by Cook’s captaincy back at Trent Bridge). What were they thinking?

    Cook has a way with bowlers: first Finn, then Kerrigan and now, probably, Panesar. Sadly, I doubt that any of them will play for England again, at least with this gang in place. It must be said that Monty did not bowl well on the 4th day at Melbourne but, if the management did not trust him, why did they pick him? And then, having picked him, why break his confidence by giving Root 2 spells before turning to him?

    Isn’t it interesting that Rogers followed the Cook/Pietersen paradigm for batting on this particular surface? He placed singles rather than go for expansive boundary shots, unlike the youngsters, and moved his feet well to the pitch of the ball.

    It is also intriguing that Cook has an average of 29 in this series, which is strikingly close to his average against Australia, if you take out his series mirabilis of 2010/11, of 26.7. A reversion to the mean, indeed!

    The field-placings on the 4th day were a conundrum. Did Cook seriously think he could defend a total of 230 over 2 days? Starting off with one slip and a gully (no short-leg)? Not bowling Broad until the batsmen were well settled.

  2. this is a team of plans and preparation…and yet they have not planned for the tour, they did not plan for this match and they did not plan for this final day. or if they did, then please let us see those plans. Nothing that Cook did made any sense. It was wholly reactive…a ball pops to short-leg…so I’ll place a short-leg. a ball went through 3rd slip, so I’ll post another slip…and then drop a sitter.

    Deeply depressed – the planners have failed. Why does that surprise? Does Hayek apply even to cricket?

  3. I agree with all the above. Before the tour they apparently ‘knew’ there were problems with Trott but didn’t think to take a ‘like-for-like’ replacement (Compton’s the obvious one but he’s been excluded from the ‘gang’ and will thus never be seen again under Flower, Gooch and Cook). They also knew that Prior’s form with the bat during the summer was poor but complacently assumed that everything would be alright, so they took Bairstow as reserve keeper with no thought that he might have to play in the Tests. Indeed, his treatment in the early tour games showed that they’d lost faith (rightly, in my view) in his batting as well. Tremlett was picked on sentiment alone.

    Cook’s actions on the last day seemed designed to ruin Panesar’s flagging confidence. I’m hesitant to predict the end of Monty’s Test career as I’ve done so many times before and been wrong, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising now. Borthwick is bound to play in Sydney.

  4. Reblogged this on Down At Third Man and commented:

    Nothing to add since 29th December posting of this blog – in case you missed it …

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