Tag Archives: Andy Flower

Moores … Flower … Moores … (Flower) – Joining the Dots

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The present succession and set up in Team England was always planned. Boof’s Australians merely brought forward the date of implementation.

Outsiders and disrupters should not underestimate the advantages held by an Establishment. Within any Establishment there are resources of talent, connections, favours to be called in, cash, time and the pervasive imperative of continuance, all of which can in the hurly-burly seem opaque to onlookers.

The Moores/Flower relationship is deep. It is built on affinity, especially of approach and thinking. Geography also helps. Moores lives close to the National Performance Centre at Loughborough University. His son plays for a nearby club. Flower still treads his well worn path between the nutritional dining centre in the EH Building and the drab Sixties block overlooking the Haslegrave pitch in which the computerised analysis goes on … day and night.  It’s the Bunker.

Theirs is so firm a friendship, their thinking so close, their planning so meticulous that they are in theory and practice interchangeable, as they were and are once again. Of course, when combined as they were briefly and are now once again, they are a mighty outfit.

The Lancashire squad were never in any doubt through February, March and April, that Moores had ‘gone back to the England job’. Bets were made and won at eye-watering odds. It was extraordinary that professional reporting failed to see through the ‘noise’.

Giles Clarke had needed little persuasion to see the value of Flower released from the day to day grind of travel and actual play to spend more time designing the ‘future’ and preparing the next generations of players. For one thing it helped retain Flower who is seen as a precious resource to be carefully husbanded. His retention was a prime driver throughout the last few years and remains so.

Ashley Giles was never a serious contender. He was always there to facilitate Flower’s requirements as the Director’s inclination and ambitions took him deeper into strategic and forward planning.

For Flower, it became more and more about the power of ‘leadership’ (in management speak) to maximize the exploitation of talent – both the talent of others and ones own talent; leadership as self-actualization.

Had Pietersen fallen under a bus last summer the return of Moores would quickly have followed. The Pietersen Problem was merely a delaying factor for The Plan.  But success from wherever, even from Pietersen,  underpins an Establishment and time is always on its side. While Pietersen’s position was strong, The Full Plan would remain on hold.

Cook could see that Pietersen was by now a short term time limited resource and, as a young capatain, he placed greater importance on the medium to long term. If Cook ever had doubts, they did not last the winter.

More Leicestershire influence arrived in the shape of James Whitaker, born in Skipton in 1962, but educated at Uppingham, from where he joined Leicestershire CCC.  For generations Uppingham has produced the colonial officers who kept the Empire going. Pleasant, intelligent, likeable and importantly ‘onside’.

Whitaker is also the perfect partner for the new Managing Director, Paul Downton, five years older than Whitaker, but produced from a similar mould.  Educated at Sevenoaks Prep School, Sevenoaks School and then on to the University of Exeter. A former employee of Cazenove & Co.

Plum Warner and Lord Hawke would have thoroughly approved of these two.  But, beside the charm, they have their own view of where England cricket should go. They look a good foil with their cavalier backgrounds between the young  Millennial ‘blades’ and the puritan fathers, Flower and Moores.

Whitaker and Downton’s admiration for Flower and Moores might be similar to May and Dexter’s respect for, say, Close and Illingworth. They do their job very, very well. They keep the Establishment’s share price buoyant. And as long as they do that, they’ll keep their jobs. It is the old relationship between the son’s of the Founder and the professional managers on the board of Lord and Sons Ltd.
Downton may have weathered a sticky ‘AGM’ with small shareholders questioning the KP decision, but they are marching on … all of them, for the time being in harmonious lock-step.  They believe the Firm has in the Flower/Moores/Farbrace line-up world beaters.

It is therefore an error to see the last six months as a series of contingencies brought about by Johnston’s form, Swann’s shoulder, Pietersen’s lack of personal skills, or Jonathan Trott’s sad difficulties . These are but ripples on an incoming tide.

Time will tell whether the Firm will regain their short era of market domination. But the strategy is irreversible.  Interestingly, it heralds an era of cricketing management closer to that of 1932, than of 2002.  Of course if the business as structured fails, it will be wide open to a take-over, perhaps by those upstarts who made their money from the East India Joint Stock Company.

 

 

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They’re Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

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Over on the Cricket Couch, an excellent piece gives prominence to the consideration of the C word – Conformity – in the saga of England’s cricketing organisation.

Conformity is the prized value for all hierarchical cultures with their top down, authoritarian philosophy and supportive ethics.  Conformity is pursued, and seeks acceptance, by castigating and disorganizing its alternatives; individuality, autonomy, equality and fatalism.

A key insight into organisational approaches and the ethical tool kits that support them is that each requires the existence of one or more of the others, so that it has something to organize against.

This is evident as the ECB and Andy Flower’s painstakingly configured hierarchy endeavours to re-impose itself – The King is Dead, Long Live the King – by organizing against Kevin Pietersen. What else is a maverick than a non-conformist? How else does the dynasty reassert its legitimacy when its continuance is called into question, if not by identifying the foe without?

You cannot build a totally hierarchical culture. The irony for Flower is that for his hierarchical culture to ‘gel’ you have to have a Pietersen.

The dynamics of cricket pose problems for all five cultural approaches. A good cricket team requires the qualities provided by people whose talents are best developed in different cultural environments. Different players respond well to different types and combinations of cultures.

So, not only is there an ‘I’ in team (where the individualists are free to express themselves) but there is an ‘i’ where the loner feels validated, a ‘who gives a damn’ where the fatalist sits and a ‘we’ were the egalitarians feel ‘togetherness’.

Here are five crude sketches: Boycott is a loner. Gooch a hierarchist, Gower a fatalist, Botham an individualist, Willis an egalitarian.  This is why the Squire and Third Man have always advocated a clumsy solution in which there is something for the hierarchists, the individualists, the egalitarians, the loners and the fatalists.

Mike Brearley’s success in the face of the vibrant diversity of cricketers was to realise who needed more of what they wanted and less of what they didn’t want – and how this can only be achieved when no-one gets all they wanted and no-one gets nothing from the way the team operates.

What went wrong for Flower over the last 18 months is that fewer and fewer team members were willing to accept the hierarchical culture. Irrepressible individualists threw off the yoke, one by one, the loners began to drift into their isolated corners of the dressing room, the egalitarians began to form an enclave. The regime lost control.

Why was the hierarchical option pursued?  Because sports psychology has built its edifice on business psychology, where for too long conformity and the ability to give and take well established instructions appeared to be successful.

A second irony for Flower, Downton and the ECB is that just as these hierarchical values were being thrown over by the forces unleashed in the new economy – English cricket was making them its own.

Many are talking and writing as if Flower has left the scene. But has he? He seems to have been given responsibility for developing leadership. This is no doubt something which he is obsessed with. And offers him the chance to both develop and introduce his ideas without the demands of touring and team management. But his influence on culture, on team ethics and philosophy will be if anything stronger. As the Jesuits were believed to have said, ““Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”.

The ECB and Team England therefore have more to learn from Google, Facebook and Twitter than just better PR. But if the new director does not insist on Flower’s absolute departure, it will be clear that nothing has been learned.

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Das Ding an Sich or Drawbridge Down – Why It’s Time Team England Management Went for a Clumsy Solution

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Those who have visited the National Cricket Performance Centre, Loughborough, will know that the glass doorway to this nerve centre of cricket in England and Wales is approached by way of a bridge, all rather reminiscent of, among other besieged entrances, the one taken by Charles 1st into his Carisbrooke confinement.

Phenomenally the span is fixed, but ‘the thing in itself’, the noumenal, is a draw bridge and the draw bridge has been up for many months.

Yesterday, inside the Centre’s print room, where copies of the infamous 84 page Nutritional Guidance for Hosts to the England and Wales Touring Party to the Antipodes 2013/14 were impressed from the divine (original) form, the machine was whirring again.

“’Ou’s this geezer Dildo anyway?”

“Chris Dillow? He’s a Marxists the Gaffer thinks a lot ov.”

“Waz this about then? Seys “Revenge Effects”. We planning fer 2015?”

“Sorta.”

“Revenge. I likes the sound of that.”

Chris Dillow, who Third Man once described as ‘that radical left arm around the wicket bowler whose front-on and off-the -wrong-foot action delivers very late away swing – a sort of Proctor through the looking glass’ has written an important piece and it is refreshing to see that the Central High Command Cricket England ™ has registered its importance and is already disseminating it’s intelligence to underlings.

The Dillow piece is an extended comment on this from Smudger Smith (RHB, RAMF), copies of which had already emerged warm from the copier and are being collated.

“Smudge ‘as cum up wif anotha one then?”

“Quality, mate, quality, that boy.”

“As soon as I sees him, I seys, ‘quality bat’.”

“A rare’ne.”

“An ‘ard worker wif the right stuff seys the Gaffer.”

Here’s the point that Smudge makes, ‘Some players need to be managed towards greater discipline, focus and restraint. Others require the opposite encouragement, to be set free from stifling executive control. Hence two questions – where each player stands on that spectrum, and how to move them in the appropriate direction – add up to a definitive set of judgements for all captains and managers.’

“Yer see, Smudge’s using an early two dimenshunal form of Cult’ral Theory: the ‘higherarchical’ an the ‘individulistic’.”

“Yer means he’s not yet factored in the ‘fatalist, the ‘egalitarian’ and the ‘autonomous’?

“Nah.”

“But the boy done gud?”

“O yeh.”

Thankfully, copies of Organising and Disorganising: A Dynamic and Non-linear Theory of Institutional Emergence and Its Implication by Michael Thompson are already a well thumbed essential in the kit bags of all support staff. (WISH)

As the blurb says, “There are five ways of organising: the hierarchical, the egalitarian, the individualistic, the fatalistic and the autonomous. Each approach is a way of disorganising the other four: without the other four, it would have nothing to organise itself against.

“In Organising and Disorganising, Michael Thompson gives a detailed explanation of the dynamics of these five fundamental arrangements that underlie ‘Cultural Theory’.

“We may believe that our perspective is the right one and that any interaction with opposing views is a messy and unwelcome contradiction. So why should egalitarians engage with individualists, or hierachists with egalitarians?

“Using a range of examples and analogies, the author shows how the best outcomes depend upon an essential argumentative process, which encourages subversions that are constructive whilst discouraging those that are not.

“In this way each approach gets more of what it wants and less of what it doesn’t want. Michael Thompson calls these best outcomes ‘Clumsy Solutions’.”

“Lower the drawbridge and let the others in!” yelled Andy (WISH).  

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Death in an Afternoon

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Although it was only the third morning of a five day Test match, Australia were in no mood to drag out the affair and decided that thecoup de grace should be delivered with due dispatch, batting as if it was Carnival, as well as Jane McGrath Day.

Perhaps Darren Lehmann had been reading Ernest Hemmingway: “The chances are that the first bullfight any spectator attends may not be a good one artistically; for that to happen there must be good bullfighters and good bulls; artistic bullfighters and poor bulls do not make interesting fights, for the bullfighter who has ability to do extraordinary things with the bull which are capable of producing the intensest degree of emotion in the spectator but will not attempt them with a bull which he cannot depend on to charge…”

Bullfighting is a foul activity, a dehumanising one in its selfish, barbaric cruelty, but who could argue that Hemingway’s words point to the root of the condition of the England cricket team on the final day of the 2013/14 Ashes series.

Not a single person at the ground or anywhere in the world watching or listening could disagree that the England bull was not to be depended upon to charge. Such was their total mental paralysis and capitulation.

Motivation and de-motivation are opaque concepts, but a theory favoured by Third Man is that they arise from the sub-conscious.  They are some direct expression of truth, or of a true state of mind.

What spectators and viewers have seen is a traumatic stress reaction to domination and powerlessness.  No means of fighting back. No succour in their own camp.

Michael Vaughan, almost alone within the paid world of cricketainment, has lifted the veil and has writing, “You can see the team are completely scared to death of Andy.”

This climate of fear has eventually produced a collective psychosis.  England communicated in the only way open to them: subconsciously they struck: bat down, ball tossed, catch dropped.

Players have been selected and pushed into the fray who were not fit and not adequately prepared, often technically, sometimes psychologically, for the task. In one case very great damage may have been done to a particularly vulnerable person.

This has coincided with the rise in video, Hawk Eye and statistical analysis that makes such difficulties even greater vulnerabilities.

Lehmann has praised his players for their ability to ‘read’ the game, respond, change, adapt and execute more appropriate strategies. Like Churchill hiding the existence of his code-breakers, and the Enigma machine, Lehmann may have been coy about the extent of the preparations that his team has been put through.

This has probably been one of the most evidence-based series in the history of the game. Yet it is only a beginning.

England will have tried to do something similar, so what has gone wrong? Why couldn’t they execute their plans? To borrow the wisdom of that great cricket coach, Miranda Hart , ‘England is all structure and no fun. Australia is fun within a structure’. The Australian side has license to get it wrong … once .. even twice … before Lehmann gets upset.  He wants cricketers who learn, not ones who never err.

From England’s camp the players and staff can be heard whispering to themselves, “My responsibility to get myself fit, my responsibility to sort out this techinical issue, my responsibility to see this physical problem, my responsibility to see the psychological frailty in that player. Best keep quiet.”

This is the culture that has to change.

+ In case it needs saying, the above ph0tograph of Graeme Swan, on his haunches, calls to mind an image of the tormented torro moments before the coup de grace.

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The Irresistibile Change

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There is only one thing more depressing than England’s performance on the second day of the final Test in Sidney – which was excruciating to watch.  It is the speed with which the Establishment has battened down the hatches, with the Chief Executive of the ECB, David Collier, giving Sky Sports News the astonishingly premature comment, “”We look forward to both Alastair and Andy leading us to success in the future.”

The difference between the on field teams has been their differing capacities to learn and adapt.  Lehmann has rightly applauded his side’s flexibility and competence in responding to game circumstances and conditions.

In Camp England and Wales, the top of the Board is proving its inability to consider change in the face of a calamitous performance by their selectors and the counter-productive culture which now surrounds the team, the development squads and their support staff.

Potential talent is being squandered, existing talent abused.

The ending of Andy Flower’s present contract allows the usual post tour review to benefit from having few no closed options. But Collier has said, again, with unthinking haste, “We are not going to do a review of that nature, but we will do a full debrief and learn the lessons that we need to learn from this tour.”

This, within hours of stepping off the plane and without allowing the new Managing Director, Paul Downton, (Effective 1st February) more than the briefest glimpse of what has been going on. Downton is a former England cricketer, a decent mind, a likeable fellow and, all had hoped, not a push over.

Here is what Collier said, under the BBC heading, ECB chief David Collier backs Andy Flower to continue.

“We look forward to both Alastair and Andy leading us to success in the future,”

“We need that experience,” he said. “When you go through a transitional period you need somebody with knowledge, somebody who knows our system, somebody who works with all of our key coaches.

“Andy has all of those attributes and more. I’m sure he’ll do a great job leading us into 2015.”

Of course, these are equally valid reasons for not having the person who oversaw a premature perhaps an unnecessary and unplanned period of transition.

The decisions to pick both Swann and Trott exposed the weakness of other selections.  The absence of a fully fit holding spinner and the selection of Tremlett, both for the tour and in the first Test, exposed one of England’s great assets, Jimmy Anderson and to a lesser extent Stuart Broad, to unnecessary fatigue and punishment.  Broad’s impact in the first innings of the series has not been repeated.

The ensuing pandemonium within the camp has given Stokes an opportunity to accelerate his development, but the damage it may have done to Carberry, Root, Bothwick and perhaps Ballance has jeopardised the managed development of these talents. And who knows how many more. Here in this series, England Lions have been sent like Kitchener’s New Army into their version of the Somme.   

Establishments are the enemies of adaption. They stand for closed minds, closed imaginations and closed options. This unplanned and frankly chaotic transition is being used to justify the retention, unexamined, of those who caused the chaos. Seldom do such efforts delay for long the irresistibility of change. But a lot of damage can be done in the meantime.

* young people now use the word chief in a very different sense to their eleders 😉

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“They Didn’t Ought to Have Coloured Flowers at Buryings”

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The funeral was over. The carriages had rolled away through the soft mud, and only the poor remained.

It was New Year’s Eve. Across the other side of the world the fireworks were beginning, issuing in some era, new or continuing, good or ill, changed or unchanged.

They thrilled with the excitement of a death, and of a rapid death.

Few would sleep.

Ah yes – she had been a good women – she had been steady.

The dead cannot own property; title must pass.

How she had disliked improvements, yet how loyally she had accepted them when made!

But the unproductive vine.

The vine – she had got her way about the vine. It still encumbered the south wall with its unproductive branches.

They would go about their business, confident she would have done her duty in death as in life.

There were no legacies, no annuities, none of the posthumous bustle with which some of the dead prolong their activities.

The entirety would be left without reserve.

the house had been all her dowry,

the house would come to him in time.

they could not know that to her it had been a spirit, for which she sought a spiritual heir.

They had laid white flowers at her graveside.

Is it credible that the possessions of the spirit can be bequeathed at all?

She had sent chrysanthemums.

A wych-elm tree, a vine, a wisp of hay with dew on it – can passion for such things be transmitted where there is no bond of blood?

***********************

An explanation followed …

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

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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.

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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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