There was an air of familiarity around English cricket this week with the appointment of home-grown coach Peter Moores for the second time in the national role.
To the day virtually, seven years ago, Moores had been unveiled for the first time just 24 hours after the departure of Duncan Fletcher who had just overseen a 5-0 Ashes debacle. Fast forward to 2014 and Moores is replacing another highly successful modern coach of African descent, Andy Flower, after another England team had wilted in the heat of the Australian summer and succumbed unforgivably in every test.
Michael Vaughan has predicted that Moores will gel more easily with the current captain, Alastair Cook, this time around than he did with the former Yorkshire batsmen. He has suggested that Moores can fill the motivational niche in the setup, an area where Cook seems to be lacking somewhat at the moment.
He also is in prime position to oversee the integration of new players from county cricket into the national setup over the next year, having seen a large number of them play in person with Lancashire having played in both divisions during the past two years.
You can’t help feeling, however, that for Moores to be successful he must inspire a number of the senior players in a way which he wasn’t able to manage during his first tenure.
These holdovers include Ian Bell, a leading candidate to be walking down the steps of the Lords pavilion at first drop on June 12th, Alastair Cook, England’s captain and leading hundred maker, Matt Prior, the previous incumbent behind the stumps and likely glove man this summer due to Johnny Bairstow’s absence through injury, James Anderson, the experienced leader of the seam attack and Stuart Broad, Anderson’s new ball partner.
With the influx of young, inexperienced players into the squad throughout the Ashes such as Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Scott Borthwick, Peter Moores needs the senior players to step up and produce around or above their career levels to remain competitive against top opposition such as Sri Lanka and India this summer with Australia on the horizon in 2015.
His ability to individually motivate and coach these five senior players must be brought into question however through analysis of their performances during Moores’s first spell as coach from 2007 to 2009.
Only James Anderson of the holdover senior players performed at his career level last time round taking 81 wickets at 29.65 compared to 262 at 30.99 in games played not under Moores as coach.
His likely new ball partner this summer, Stuart Broad didn’t fare as well taking just 33 wickets at 45.03 in comparison to 205 wickets at 27.95 from games under other coaches. It must be noted however that Broad made his test debut under Moores in Colombo at the end of 2007 and the stats presented exhibit the first two years of an inexperienced player’s career which started at the tender age of 21.
Whilst Moores’s record with the bowling department holds up fairly well during his first spell, his record with the three holdovers from the batting department he can be less proud of. Of particular importance going forward into this new era are the performances of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, yet their body of work under Moores’s initial reign leaves a lot to be desired both physically in terms of technical improvement made through his coaching skills and mentally in terms of his ability to motivate and achieve full focus from these two players.
Alastair Cook scored 1771 runs at an average of just 40.65 which is over 8 runs below his average in games played under other coaches. Meanwhile Ian Bell scored 1399 at an average of just 36.82 which is nearly 12 runs below his average in in other games. Meanwhile Matt Prior had a similar record, scoring at nearly 5 runs below on average each innings; however he isn’t likely to be a consistent member of the setup in the coming years.
I feel the conversion rate statistic has always been a strong proxy for a batsman’s focus and concentration during an innings with those who have been taught how to focus and concentrate for the longest able to convert fifties into hundreds on a more regular basis. This is an important statistic going into the new era because England have been unable to score large first innings scores in the past 12 months, having not achieved a first innings total of more than 400 since passing that mark in Wellington, New Zealand in March of 2013.
Cook and Bell’s conversion statistics during Moores’s first time at the helm leave are underwhelming however, with the current captain converting fifties into hundreds only 17.6 percent of the time, a distinct drop from 51.2 percent when not under Moores. Similarly Bell sees a notable drop in his conversion rate from 35.4 percent to 27.3.
Where once England’s batting dominance was supported by the notion of players scoring ‘daddy hundreds’, their recent failures have been in converting starts into more substantial contributions and this must change quickly starting with the senior players this summer.
Peter Moores must find a way to inspire these two important pillars of the batting lineup into scoring runs on a more consistent basis than they did during his last time as coach and help them focus in order to convert these starts into telling, match winning contributions. Large innings from senior players will only help the integration of young guns Root, Stokes, Robson and maybe Taylor, allowing them to settle in and make their names in test cricket this summer.
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