The last ten years of English cricket has seen some highs and lows, turbulence and dramas and some truly historic moments. But nothing has compared to the recent run of form that has seen England beat Australia home and away and now beat India 4-0 this summer to become the number 1 side in Test Cricket.
Much of it can be credited to Andy Flower (left) and here are the key things, which I believe, he and the England set up have done to reach this remarkable milestone.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the England team you see on the field today. Whilst the number one spot has always been a long term goal (what competitive side isn’t thinking about it), England have been careful to stay grounded after victories, seemingly learning from their mistakes in 2005. This new England has moved from series to series with far greater reflection allowing them to progress.
After the dramas of the Pietersen/Moores relationship, the fact that the “Andys” get along so well is crucial for the team’s development. A new solid foundation has been laid that flows down into the whole England team and Lions set up creating an exceptionally strong development structure. Whilst some criticize Strauss as a captain I cannot see the issue; he may not be an out and out risk taker but he is methodical and consistent, most importantly he has the respect of the players.
Form is temporary but class is permanent – as Bell, Cook, Pietersen, Broad and others have proved. England have stayed loyal to players they’ve selected and whilst sometimes it is called into question, ultimately the players have come good; and come very good. The confidence Andy Flower has given these players; that one bad performance is not going to send them back to their county indefinitely, has been a huge factor in the no fear cricket that England now play and led them to many of their victories.
Closely linked to the idea of loyalty this England team has belief. In English sport we are taught to be pessimistic and expect nothing from our teams but cricket is changing that. A new mentality exists in which every member of the team will now be expecting to win every game, against any opposition, that they play. Not only does this help the manner in which England play but it also sends a threatening message to any opposition that this England team is moving forwards.
Why have a first 11 when you could make it 12, or 13 or how about 20 odd? One of the prime reasons for England’s recent domination is the fact that they now have too manyplayers available for selection. It has allowed Flower to rest certain players, including captain Strauss, during certain series’ in order to prepare them best for future tests whilst lowering the risk of injury. Then, if and when an injury does occur, there is far less risk in having to take an uncapped replacement as Flower is in a position of having extra bowlers, batters and ‘keepers all with international experience.
With Bresnan, Finn and now Onions all capable of filling a bowling spot; James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow waiting with the bat; and Kieswetter more than capable with the gloves, Englands strength in depth is enormous. It is what will keep England at the forefront of cricket for years to come and avoid the issues that Australia, and surely India too, have been forced to face, a whole generation of players leaving at once without adequate replacements.
Both on and off the field the England set up is looking more professional than ever before and it is no surprise that the team has achieved number one status this summer.