England's coach Andy Flower has run his race

As the norm, after every sporting annihilation there is a serious postmortem to see what went wrong. Clearly, this England team has put in a shocker.

When a team capitulates as easily as England has on this tour, something tells me there are many problems within its structure and culture. Great buildings or structures just don't fall over that easily. Their strong foundations won’t allow that to happen under any circumstances. Basically, England received two punches on the chin from Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson on the first day at the Gabba and hasn’t got up from the canvas.

English and Australian captains are measured on how their team plays within an Ashes series.

Recently, England has had a good run under Alastair Cook’s reign, winning five of his past six series. But the way England lost at the MCG showed me that  it has lost the plot and it was mainly caused by the captain, coach and selectors.

First, the selection of Jonny Bairstow was a shocker. I firmly believe any Test team must have a specialist wicketkeeper. Bairstow isn’t in the best six keepers in England and not in the top 20 batsmen, and yet he was selected in front of Matt Prior. I know Prior is out of sorts, but utility keepers don’t work  in Test cricket and Prior’s record should have entitled him to play out the series as he is the best keeper in England.

Throwing raw leg-spinner Scott Borthwick to the wolves in the SCG Test was another bad call.

The English batting has been woeful. Ian Bell or Kevin Pietersen must bat at No.3. I prefer Pietersen because I believe he needs a challenge. He looks bored.  He needs a challenge in life and batting at three could be the answer. Also, I would field him at gully, instead of on the boundary, to get him involved in the match.

The captaincy of Cook on the morning of day three in Melbourne was the worst I have  seen in Test cricket. With Haddin and Nathan Lyon at the crease, we saw fieldsmen spread all over the MCG, with bowlers having private meetings, and no direction from the captain. It was deplorable. After the first hour, England lost all momentum and that was enough for Australia to go in for the kill. It was almost a sackable offence there and then for Cook. But, as I looked around the field, there were no leaders putting their hand up to help Cook. They still have no idea how to get Haddin out and were playing reactive cricket.

All I saw was Pietersen asleep in the deep, Bell thinking of how to make runs, and their vice-captain taking out drinks.

So this smouldering wreck has been thrown into the lap of Paul Downton, the new managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board.  His biggest job is finding out what went wrong and what can be salvaged from  this mess. Should Cook stay as captain? Should Andy Flower stay as coach? Have they got too many staff?

Let’s talk about the England captaincy. Is Cook the solution or the problem? No doubt England has lacked direction and leadership over this series. Captaincy can be learnt. Allan Border did and so can Cook. There are no other standout candidates within the England squad, as none of his teammates are captain or vice-captain of their counties. The only other candidate is Prior. So Cook is still the solution, in my opinion, but he must look to others for help. Cook can learn from his adversary Michael Clarke, who has a great mentor in Shane Warne. This relationship must not be overlooked or downplayed as Warne challenges Clarke and keeps him positive and instinctive. I feel Cook must take the same lead and look to a David Gower, Mike Brierley or Mike Gatting for inspiration and advice.

Flower is really under some pressure. In AFL parlance, when the president comes out to give the coach the board’s support, you know he has two weeks left. Luckily for Flower, that hasn’t happened yet. But if this England team was an English Premier League team he would have been sacked by now. Flower was a tremendous cricketer and has been a very successful coach. But he has suffered the most humiliating defeat you could think of. He must know that things need to change. He has to get his team back to the level it once knew. He can put up new walls and create more discipline or loosen the noose, so to speak, and allow the players more freedom, as Darren Lehmann has by letting the Australian players take more responsibility in their games and allowing them to play more freely.

Sadly for Flower, I think he has run his race and I would be looking for other aspirants. England’s best option would be Warne, but it hasn’t got enough money. Others worth considering are Michael Vaughan, Tom Moody, Justin Langer or someone from left-field such as Michael Hussey. I probably would lean towards Vaughan, who likes a challenge. The best cricket coaches, I feel, are guys who have been there and done that and Vaughan would bring back that strong English culture  he had when he was captain. If England is going to make a change, it needs to do so very quickly. The late change of Micky Arthur made it very difficult for  Lehmann and the Australian team to adjust properly before the Ashes series last winter.

Many touring teams seem to turn up their toes before they arrive. They simply don’t prepare properly. If I were a touring coach, I would ask for three four-day matches at Test venues. I would then put up a $250,000 bounty to any team who could beat us. As a coach, you want your team to play very competitive matches and put players under the pump before meeting the Australians in a Test series here. England looked like it was having a net in the touring matches before the Test series and  wasn’t ready.

There are many other reasons why England lost this series. Its quicks seem to be down on pace. Its batsmen got worked over and its fielding has been shoddy. And the tourists didn’t help themselves much with their ridiculous dietary  requirements. England has simply lost the plot and now needs some tough leadership and direction and that starts with Downton.

The story England's coach Andy Flower has run his race first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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