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2019-09-11 13:48:12

It is no secret that the ECB wanted to win the home World Cup more than anything, it is then no surprise that England’s Test team has suffered as a result of increased emphasis on the one-day game.

England’s failure to win an Ashes series on home soil for the first time in 18 years has now prompted a shift of focus back towards the traditional form of international cricket.

England’s defeat at Old Trafford to take the Ashes series 2-1 in Australia’s favour with one match to go perhaps increases the gulf in class between Joe Root’s side and the rest of the world and now the ECB want the next coach, who will replace Trevor Bayliss when he steps down this month, to make England the best Test side in the world. Sound familiar?

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The present situation draws parallels to the state of affairs that Andy Flower inherited in 2009.

Flower’s mission was simple, be the coach that gets England to number one in the Test rankings for the first time in history. After two years, which started with stripping back everything the side knew and building back up the team of ludicrously talented individuals, including Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson, England were on top of the world.

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With that in mind, whoever succeeds Bayliss may be tempted to take a look at recent history to see just how it can be done, however, there are a number of red flags to be aware of.

A culture of winning at all costs crept its way into the England set-up and Flower later admitted, “I look back at some of my decisions with regret. I’d definitely try to work with a person as much as with a player and understand the place that he was coming from.”

The players were asked to push themselves so hard in everything they did with limited consideration of what the repercussions may be. Having achieved their goal in 2011, things went south pretty quickly.

All the problems between teammates that were once masked by the quest to become the best in the world and sidelined in the name of achievement began to spill over. The results and personal suffered.

Jonathan Trott, a fine England batsman who ended his international career in May 2015 with nine Test centuries and a hat-trick of Ashes victories, has warned England’s next coach that it would be “dangerous” to draw inspiration from previous success in a similar task. 

Trott believes England must go in a new direction to regain the No 1 ranking (PA)

“I think they [the next coach] need to find their own way, I think sometimes trying to copy somebody else or what other people do could be a little bit dangerous and you go away from what feels right at the time if you go into something with a pre-determined idea of what you need to get done,” Trott told The Independent.

Trott scored a century on his Test debut at the Oval in the 2009 series and became a key player as a specialist batsman in the best Test team this country has produced.

“We were lucky at the time things fell into place,” he added. “We had a few guys at the back end of their career that started playing really good cricket at county level and started taking that to the English international level and playing for England. 

“Look at Graeme Swann, he played for England later on in his career if you like. It’s not just blooding in young players to a new way, you’ve got to have the right players in the right position.”

Trevor Bayliss and Jonathan Trott before the fourth Ashes Test (Getty)

The relentless demands of constant success became the eventual downfall of that historic team. Trott was one of a number of players that experienced deteriorating mental health and withdrew himself from the 2013/14 series Down Under, citing anxiety and stress as a reason he was unable to play for England.

Cricket has long been a game of immense highs and equally large troughs, even to this day Liam Plunkett revealed he felt a “massive low” and was “down” during the days after England won the World Cup final at Lord’s.

Trott reflects that a change in society towards the way we view mental health has helped to develop the way mental health is viewed in sport.

“There’s more focus on it now with regards to every industry and that’s the biggest change for me,” he said. “I think people are willing to open up and talk about things where yesteryear people are perhaps not.”

The demands of the international cricket schedule is something fairly incomparable with other sports. Playing staff can be travelling far from home and spending up to two-thirds of a year away from their families and regular lives.

Trott believes the ECB are improved on handling player workload (PA)

“Ashley Giles [managing director of English cricket] is very passionate about all formats of the game and getting England to number one in all formats. That’s where the focus is going to be.

“You have to find the right balance between players playing all the games or they get a little bit of rest. I think the ECB are very good at that now, understanding players’ workload and resting players at the right time,” Trott said of the modern schedule which allows players to join teams all around the world during brief breaks in the calendar.

Taking England beyond India, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in the Test rankings took blood, sweat and tears as a minimum, the next coach will now do well to learn from history and go their own way.

Jonathan Trott was speaking on behalf of ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers, Official Test Partner for England cricket ahead of the final Test of the Specsavers Ashes Series at The Oval. Specsavers are encouraging fans to take eye tests and hearing checks this summer.


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