Andy Flower is right. Everyone needs rest
By Steve James | The Daily Telegraph
18th June 2012 12:51 PM
There he was in a Sky TV interview patiently and cogently explaining his reasons for ‘rotation’, when suddenly he had just had enough. “Look, it’s not as if we’re pulling some plonker out of league cricket, and saying ‘have a go’,” he said. “That would devalue the game.”
Flower, the England team director, had left James Anderson out of the squad for the third and final Test against West Indies, and then omitted Stuart Broad just before the game eventually started on Saturday. In evident anger and disgust a few of the old boys had come in off their long runs to carp at Flower’s plan.
“This is complete madness,” said Sir Ian Botham, “If I were Jimmy [Anderson] I’d go up to those pen pushers in the ECB, toss them the ball and tell them to run in and bowl the West Indies out. Let’s see how they get on with that.”
Ah, pen pushers, plonkers. What a debate this was turning out to be.
And on Sunday morning when Tino Best and Denesh Ramdin were mocking England’s bowlers with some outrageous batting, some other words doubtlessly sprang to mind.
But the truth is that was a flat pitch and Best played the sort of innings that the Gods grant only very rarely.
It was right to rest Anderson and Broad. Just as it was right to rest Andrew Strauss for the Bangladesh tour in 2010. The Ashes later that year was the long-term vision then. We won them if you remember.
English cricket just does not understand rest and rotation. It never has. In some quarters it never will. There are still antediluvians out there who despair at the system of central contracts. They bemoan the loss of England players from the county circuit.
They might even have been the type who sent Darren Gough a poison-pen letter when he was first withdrawn from Yorkshire duty because of his central contract.
They delight in the England players’ sometime presence in early season and pine for more days like them. “I wish they could play more often,” they mumble as they drift into their daytime reverie.
Have they seen England’s international schedule? It is more crammed than a sporting student’s exam revision. England are the 19th and by far the busiest county.
They are too busy. They have to play Scotland in a one-day international on Aug 12 when two full teams might be unavailable in between Tests against South Africa and A Tests against Australia A.
Flower probably wants to criticise the schedule, but he cannot. That would upset his employers.
They create the schedule and they make the money. They do not mind rotation, though.
This is what England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke said back in 2007: “I don’t have a problem with rotating our best players. I don’t think we are short-changing the public or the television companies if we do that.
"Every other sport does that. Do television companies or supporters complain when Chelsea leave out Didier Drogba?’’
Flower name-checked Wayne Rooney last week in making the same argument. The rugby player Brian O’Driscoll too.
Flower drew comparisons with a prize racehorse that would not be entered for every race. He mentioned baseball pitchers; a good example. They are rotated more than an iPhone screen.
You cannot see the best players all the time. Recently I covered the Wales v Barbarians rugby match. Wales’s best 16 players were already in Australia, but still 57,022 attended. In years to come many might say that it was the first time they saw a young winger called Harry Robinson.
The best managers have vision. Players like Anderson, who was miffed to be left out, only see the today, and maybe the tomorrow.
Flower is looking months, maybe years, ahead. Duncan Fletcher used to do the same. Once a player is burnt out, it is too late. That is what must be avoided.
On Sky Nasser Hussain produced a list of very good English fast bowlers whose international careers were cut too short: “Matthew Hoggard, aged 31; Darren Gough, 32, Andrew Flintoff, 31; Dean Headley, 29, Angus Fraser, 33; Steve Harmison, 30,” he said.
Flower is now looking after his most valued properties.
And that includes the batsmen. Kevin Pietersen was due to miss the forthcoming West Indies one-day series before he decided to pack in that format altogether. Pietersen was told that.
Everyone must be rested these days. That, quite simply, is modern sport.
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