THIS hasn’t been the easiest of summers for the England cricket team. A difficult Test series against South Africa resulting in the loss of the No1 ranking, the resignation and retirement of captain Andrew Strauss and the distraction of the Kevin Pietersen controversy.
But one man to have emerged with great credit is Andy Flower. He has held the team together and kept them playing at a high standard while displaying the same impeccable conduct he has shown since becoming coach in 2009.
Over the next few days he faces the most difficult and important decision of his time in charge: whether Pietersen should be permitted to return to the squad for the winter tour of India, following his exclusion for sending disparaging messages about Strauss to South Africa players.
Clearly Pietersen is immensely talented and would be an asset to any team, but it might pay Flower to remember that his promotion came as a direct result of his predecessor Peter Moores’s disagreements with Pietersen, during the batsman’s brief stint as captain.
Personally, if I was a player on that team I would find it very difficult to welcome him back. He has obviously not acted in the best interests of the group, so I would expect him to offer a sincere and humbling apology before I was happy to play alongside him again.
Flower will approach this as he has every other issue, by being level-headed, unbiased and calling things as he sees them. Unless his criteria are met I don’t think he will recommend Pietersen be recalled, and England selectors would do well to trust his judgment.
He may sound out senior players because this is potentially a hugely divisive issue. There are only 15 or so characters in the dressing room and if England are to move on everyone needs to be singing from the same hymnsheet.
On a happier note, I must congratulate Warwickshire on their County Championship title. It’s reward for a very consistent season in which, without Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott for long spells, the team pulled together brilliantly.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. He has also captained and acted as chairman of Warwickshire.