Tag Archives: ECB

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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ECB join ICC in Trashing Their Brands

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Today, Twitter had some difficult news to manage: slowing growth. Everything was published openly and on Twitter – Twitter know how to use Twitter (small shock). Financial pundits are saying it will set the standard for openness and transparency in the business world for years to come.

Hey ECB – you think of yourself as a business, so …

The ECB tweeted a link to their Pietersen statement and then turned their powers of communication onto the Lions in Sri Lanka. They have over a quarter of a million followers most of whom ‘demand to know’ … well almost everything, but certainly the reasons why an exciting ingredient in their ‘offer’ is being shelved.

Here is Third Man’s message to the ECB (and to ICC for that matter).  “Everything is now social.” Well, it always was, but now there are platforms and connectivity that transform every event into a CONSUMER EVENT.

It is no longer enough to see cricket news as something to be managed through the good offices of sports news editors and writers. Bloggers and Tweeters and new websites have as much if not in some cases more influence, and a greater impact on the behaviour of the game’s following.

It has been, with a couple of honourable exceptions, the alternative voices that have challenged the ECB and endeavoured to hold its leadership to account, with very little help from the paid media which are generally too dependent on the scraps from the table to challenge the Establishment.

Last week it was the ICC, this week it is the ECB that has done more to destroy its brand value than Perrier did during its flirtation with benzene.

The appointment of a new selector next week & following that the new director of cricket are chances to try a new, open, transparent and accountable process that respects and honours the ‘consumer’.

If you insist on being ‘all business’, then, start being business like.

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End Game: Cricket’s Dance with Death

It started very like any other season, but this has become without doubt cricket’s annus horribilis.  Last night, a pitifully meagre crowd watched a pitifully meagre cricket match at Cardiff in what should be a warning to ‘the authorities’, to the players and to their agents.

Those who bothered to go to Cardiff watched a game of 196 balls and paid between £35 and £55 pounds for the pleasure, which Third Man calculates was 23p a ball for the average £45 ticket holder, and 25p a run.  But it was the one-sidedness of the affair that was such a ‘turn-off’.  

Those who love cricket are distraught, bewildered and struggling with the effects of this season; its disrupted, inconsequential fixtures, confused competitions, over supply of T20 matches, weak Test cricket, tainted faire and arrogant pricing.

At what stage will someone paying close to £40 a month for a Sky package, including cricket, phone to cancel their subscription and tell the operator to get back to them when England reach Brisbane?

How many people are likely to ‘walk-up’ to watch the remaining ODI’s and how many with tickets will resent their gullibility in having forked out in advance, trusting the ECB to be staging a skilful, aboveboard and entertaining match?

When will a county with a great history and loyal supporters go bust having over bid for an international match and lost a fortune?

It is now more and more obvious that the so called contest with Pakistan should have been cancelled on the Saturday night of the Lord’s Test when officials would have been aware of the material that the News of the World had or even much earlier (as much as a month before the Lord’s Test) when those in authority and positions of trust were made aware of the concerns over match fixing and improper activity and when the ACSU apparently served notices seeking information from certain players.

In this emergency, players from across the globe could have shown their love of the game and their gratitude to cricket supporters by volunteering to form a World XI to honour the outstanding fixtures.  

They might even have done it for the benefit of the millions in Pakistan who are still copying with the calamity of the great floods and for whom international cricket has been a hindrance and not a help.

As it is, in more ways than one, the game is dancing with death.

UPDATE: See also Clive Rice here.

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If you go down to the club today …

If you go down to your club today you’ll be sure of a big surprise.  Bats have been swapped for brooms, balls for paint pots and flannels* for overalls … well you get the idea.

Third Man will be there as his local organiser has done a deal with the nearby chippy, who has bravely agreed to provide a fish supper** for anyone volunteering to join the NatWest Cricket Force action weekend.

Over 130 under 11s attend cricket practice there on Thursday evenings. Sang Lee (for it is he and his wife) may need some biblical techniques if he is to keep up supplies.

Nat West is now almost (80%) entirely owned by ‘us’.  It’s OUR bank and its doing its bit for OUR clubs and over 1,5o0 clubs have already signed up to take part in the event.

As ECB Club Programmes Manager, David Leighton, said: “We want every sports-lover nationwide to show support for their local cricket club this year by getting involved in NatWest CricketForce. Whether it’s by painting a bench, repairing the score-box or mending nets, there are many ways in which volunteers can make a difference and bring a real sense of community spirit to the event.”

If any one else higher up at the ECB had asked Third Man to get down to the ground he might just have shrugged, but Dave is a special person.  He typifies everything that’s good about Lancastrian cricket.  He expects the highest standards but leads by example.  He sells his wicket dear but knows the value of the game. ‘Nough said.

*Flannels are to creams, whites, trackies as wireless sets are to radios, walkmen and MP3 players.  As you see from the above banner, in the ‘70s – that’s the 1770s – we favoured a more relaxed dress code on the field.

**Diet is an increasingly important part of the modern game, in recognition of which,  ECB has appointed blogger Mike Gatting as Managing Director Cricket Partnerships.

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