Duncan’s departure

We knew it was coming, so it came as no surprise that Duncan Fletcher today resigned as England coach. As Andrew Miller notes in his piece, all coaching careers (like politicians’) have to end in failure. Fletcher, for all his faults in the past 18 months, has been the single most important figure in the English game over the last eight years. England needs someone new, less jaded and cynical – a bright-eyed replacement with fresh ideas. But let’s not forget what he has given to his adopted country.

Your thoughts? Are you sad, surprised or sullen about his resignation? Who should replace him?

England’s Commonwealth Bank Series win completes my misery

I have a toothache from hell. It set in on Friday night, and my dentist can’t fit me in until Wednesday morning. So between that, and England totally outplaying Australia in the one day finals, I have not been a happy little camper. At the moment, I’m taking refuge in alcohol for pain relief. Meanwhile I wonder if Andrew Flintoff is taking pain relief from alcohol. The last time Flintoff was involved in winning a trophy off Australia, his alcohol intake was spectacular. I’m partial to a drop myself, but I have to admit I don’t think I could keep up with Freddy when he’s up for a drink.

Anyway, enough of vices. I asked in my previous post if Duncan Fletcher would have anything to do with the resurrection of English fortunes, and it turns out he did have a bit to say.

Whereas a matter of weeks ago England’s planning for the World Cup almost revolved around picking random names out of a hat, Fletcher now says there is a clear plan heading into the tournament.

“We’ve got a side that have won here and done very, very well and yet we are still missing people of the calibre of [Michael] Vaughan and [Kevin] Pietersen who are two very important players for us, so it’s still going to be very difficult for us [to narrow down the squad].”

“But we’re a lot clearer than we were at the start of this series. We really believe in the side now, four in a row is a great achievement and we’ve just got to continue with that momentum.”

Fletcher, himself, received a special mention as Andrew Flintoff relished his first success as captain. “The one person I really want to thank is Duncan Fletcher,” said Flintoff, “throughout the trip he has kept taking the knocks for us but he has kept backing us.”

While most of the plaudits will go to Paul Collingwood, and rightly so, I think that the emergence of Liam Plunkett also has a lot to do with the turnaround in England’s fortunes. And Monty Panesar has had a role to play too. He hasn’t taken a hatful of wickets, but he’s always kept things tight, and a good spinner is worth a fortune in any form of cricket.

Australia have got some thinking to do. They are in danger of losing their ranking as the best ODI side in the world to South Africa. To me the two issues are that Michael Hussey has lost his magic touch, as well as Symonds’ injury. Michael Clarke could do with some more runs as well. My own view was that White should have replaced Symonds as the batting allrounder. Instead, they’ve chosen Watson as a bowling allrounder, which is fine except that he’s barely had any cricket since the Champions trophy. Bringing him back for the finals smacked of hubris, and hubris gets punished.

My understanding is that Will will be returning from Kenya in the next few days, with plenty of photographs and hopefully some insider gossip about his adventures. For an Englishman’s perspective, be sure to read the Reverse Swing Manifesto (and speaking of which, why hasn’t Troy Cooley done us any good in the ODI’s?) In the meantime, I leave you with one final question before I drown my sorrows. What exactly is the Duckworth/Lewis algorithim? I once heard it described as being so complex as to make Einstein look like a bit of fun with an abacas, but even still!

England can smash and grab a trophy today

Barely three weeks ago, England had plunged to awful depths with consecutive humiliating losses in Adelaide; now they are on the cusp of winning the Commonwealth Bank Series. If they do it, it will be a massive form reversal. And even if they don’t win today, they still have a chance in Adelaide on Tuesday.

But England’s best chance is in Sydney. England’s record in ODI’s vs Australia is much better at Sydney then it is at any other ground in Australia.

England’s much maligned coach, Duncan Fletcher, has stayed in the background, and I wonder how much of the form uptick is his doing?

What’s the definition of an optimist?

An England coach talking up England’s World Cup chances.

But on a slightly more serious note, what is the guy supposed to say? “We are crap, the players have lost it, and we don’t know where our next win is coming from?” A coach really can not say that, even if it is true.

Should Geraint Jones retire?

Well someone had to ask. Should Geraint Jones retire? Even by his own disappointing standards, his performance in this Test verged on the comical, culminating in a ridiculous, careless dismissal today when he was run out by Ponting at silly mid-off (I think that’s where he was, anyway).

Time to go? He’s on the selection panel for this series and, seeing as Duncan Fletcher won’t sack/drop anyone who helped win the Ashes in 2005, perhaps it’s time Jones did it for him. Desperate times call for outlandish remarks…

Monty’s two-finger salute

It’s been as emphatic a two-finger salute to Duncan Fletcher as he could have produced; a five-wicket haul, enthusiastic fielding and a classy cameo at No.11. Monty Panesar hasn’t put a foot wrong and has made Fletcher look even more stubborn, righteous and pig-headed than we already suspected.

And his time is nigh. This is it for Fletcher. Only he will reason why he chose to alter a winning attack for the first Test at Brisbane, trying blindly to resurrect the dream of Ashes 2005. But come January the call for his head will ring louder than the Barmy Army’s bugler, and so it should. For all his outstanding work during his tenure, his copybook has been spectacularly blotted. Sadly, for he really did help engineer a change in attitude in English cricket (for the better), he is now a millstone around England’s neck.

Before this series, any decision he made was justified by the media. Nasser Hussain, in particular, has always been quick to defend Fletcher’s selections while describing him as a coach who rarely, if ever, makes the wrong choice. When Monty on-drove Stuart Clark for four, straight back past the bowler, during a vital last-wicket hurrah with Steve Harmison, there were quizzical looks from the Australian fielders. Who is this bearded wonder? It was as classy an on-drive as any left-hander could have dreamed for. And another nail in Fletcher’s coffin.

You know what really gets me…

…about the whole Ashley Giles selection is he has been vilified for being him. By everyone. Me included, and it’s pretty unfair. Those selected can’t help being selected. Therefore, just to reiterate, it is the selectors’ fault – not helped by Giles’s inadequacies of course, but he can only do what Ashley Giles can do…as he memorably said in 2005. Will hates people who talk in the third person. He finds it stupid and embarrassing.

If you went to a fish restaurant and ordered the chicken, you can’t expect it to be the best piece of poultry you’d ever tasted. And that’s not the chicken’s fault…it’s Fletcher’s for not choosing the cod.

Anyway, just a small point there. I’m fully aware I’ve just compared Giles to a chicken and Monty to a piece of cod. Apologies to both.

My other gripe is about Monty. He’s clearly buzzing and (unless Fletcher has a death wish) ought to play at Perth. But the pressure he is now under is approaching boiling point. He is England’s saviour apparent. 10 wickets beckon, even a knighthood. But Australia will come at him, hard, right from the off. So let’s hope he can hold his nerve, adjust his pace and loop accordingly, and see what he’s made of.

Also…Mahmood should play. In fact, go on then, what’s your XI for Perth?

Warne’s little jab

The whole debate about the English team selection and who is responsible for it is music to Australian ears, and Shane Warne must be finding the possible conflict between captain and coach to be an especially sweet tune.

In his Times column, Warne has obviously backed Flintoff against his old foe Fletcher.

A few of the England players stayed with us until the early hours. I think the spirit of 2005 lives on. I feel for Andrew Flintoff at the moment as he’s copping some unnecessary flak. It was the right choice to make him captain and I’m not sure if he’s getting the side he wants.

As a captain, you should get the players you want in the XI. If you’re looking around the field at 5pm and you’re not going to bowl a guy, then he shouldn’t be in your side. Having said that, England’s selection issues don’t really interest me, to be honest. To go 2-0 up in Adelaide was our aim at the start of the second Test, but a win for either side looked highly unlikely on the fourth day.

That sort of support is like when the Chairman of a football club issues a press release expressing full support of the manager. Warne might be pals with the likes of Flintoff off the field but that won’t stop him playing any head games necessary to win back the Ashes.

A rift through the English team?

This can not be a positive for England:

A MAJOR internal rift is brewing in the England camp following the revelation that coach Duncan Fletcher has been wrongly blamed for snubbing spin bowling cult hero Monty Panesar.

Fletcher is privately fuming at being held accountable for omitting Panesar from the Adelaide Test, a match where England’s No.1 spinner Ashley Giles took just 2-149 to leave his career hanging by a thread.

The Courier-Mail has learned that at team selection meetings in Adelaide, Fletcher leaned toward Panesar to play in the Test but captain Andrew Flintoff went for his Lancashire teammate, swing bowler Jimmy Anderson, who went on to perform poorly and may not play another Test on tour.

Flintoff won out after the issue was discussed by a committee of senior players including Geraint Jones and Andrew Strauss.

The fallout over the omission of Panesar has become so great in England that it is threatening to undermine Fletcher’s future as England coach and also drive a wedge between Fletcher and Flintoff.

It is remarkable England performed as well as they did in the Second Test given this dispute, and it is hard to imagine what the mood is like in the English camp now. These relevations make things work; the British media will be on to them like a pack of dogs on a three legged cat.

Should Duncan Fletcher resign?

Batten down the hatches, we’re in the eye of a storm here! It’s all going very wrong for England so, in the spirit of scapegoattery, let’s start picking them off. And what better way to start than with a poll? Leave a comment on whether you think Duncan Fletcher should stay or go, and cast your vote below

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