Peter Moores’ appointment may have brought a modicum of cautious optimism to the England camp, but while the new coach is widely tipped to fare better in his second stint in the role, on the field little is set to change this summer.
Some jobs are impossible – just ask David Moyes. The new England coach has been given a headache without a single ball being bowled as he tries to put back together some of the wreckage left by Andy Flower since the plane left for Australia in November. Kevin Pietersen’s removal has at least taken away some of the acrimony and in-fighting that has plagued England since Moores’ last reign between 2007 and 2009.
For all KP’s talents, it was universally acknowledged that he acted shamefully in his manoeuvring that saw Moores eventually removed, and the ECB may well have had one eye on the former Lancashire coach when they made their decision to end Pietersen’s international career. What that exile has also taken away, however, is their best performing batsman of the Ashes.
Not for a long, long time has the door to the England side been flung quite so widely open. There are not just places to be filled, but entire voids. Amidst Pietersen’s undignified and hostile exit from the main stage, Graeme Swann has quietly disappeared, and with it, England’s main hopes of forming a decent spin attack for the summer. Monty Panesar took two wickets for Essex on day three of their County Championship match against Surrey to stake his claim for a Test spot. Simon Kerrigan and Adil Rashid have both struggled for their country in the past, and selecting either of them can only be seen as a wild shot in the dark at a time of a spinning crisis.
Matt Prior may also need replacing, having under-performed throughout 2013. Nonetheless, there are few, including most likely candidate Craig Kieswetter, who have really done enough to warrant ousting the 32-year-old, and so Moores may favour continuity in this area.
Surrounding him though, in the middle order, is further disarray. Jonathan Trott has gone again, perhaps forever, and even if he returns for Warwickshire, an international return may be too much for him. At present, Eoin Morgan is the favourite to take his place on a regular basis, but crucial is the term ‘favourite’, because nobody – probably including Moores – can have much idea of how England will set up in the coming months.
Michael Carberry has done a lot to alienate himself, casting doubt on Ashley Giles’ man-management, but Moores is a man who can see past this, and will be impressed by his consistency for Hampshire.
If such a torrid task of selection was not enough, Moores must also face being incessantly harangued about his captain. For the ECB, Cook remains the ideal man – a ‘yes man’, as it were. His cautious approach has done little to endear him at Lord’s, particularly amid suspicions that he may be party to the politics that no other international side knows quite like this one. Former captain Michael Vaughan believes Cook’s style of captaincy is better suited to Moores than his own, perhaps because the current incumbent is less outspoken.
While England prepare to face India and Sri Lanka this summer, these lingering questions can only hinder them. To make matters worse, how are they supposed to regroup with most of their biggest names back with their respective counties for the next five weeks? A break from the poisonous atmosphere that has enveloped all things England may do the world of good, but Moores will be anxious to gather them together as soon as possible.
Of course, none of this is to take anything away from Moores’ style of management. The new coach has done incredibly well to restore his reputation at Lancashire. Yet, the dilemma remains: Andy Flower’s men were not just beaten Down Under – they were ripped apart. And those type of wounds take a long time to heal.
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