Paul Collingwood & 5 Reasons for Optimism for England Cricket's Recovery in 2014
There have been very few reasons for English cricket to feel optimistic in 2014. They've lost the Ashes, an ODI series and a T20 series—as well as their coach and their best batsman.
In amongst all the furore surrounding the dramatic consequences to England's tour from hell Down Under, England's tour to the West Indies, comprising of three ODIs and three T20s, has come around very quickly. On Friday, Stuart Broad's team will depart for what they hope will be happier days.
This slideshow picks out five reasons for be optimistic for English cricket in 2014.
Andy Flower Is Gone
The margin of defeat in the Ashes and the limited-overs leg in Australia proved that not only were England losing, but there were fundamental problems with the setup somewhere. No team can lose that badly for so long in a healthy team environment.
It is with this in mind that the resignation of Andy Flower is good news for England.
Flower was a supreme England coach—perhaps the best ever. However, there was a real sense that by the end of the Australian tour his tenure had run its course. His methods, selections and processes had worked so well for so long, but the time had come for change.
It was strange that David Collier, the ECB's chief executive, came out and supported Flower so stridently before the series had even been concluded. What's more, Flower too expressed his desire to stay on as coach in the immediate aftermath of the series.
But only a month later, Flower's resignation was confirmed by the ECB, and England stepped into a brave new world.
Paul Downton Is Ready to Make Brave Decisions
Whatever opinion you hold on the Kevin Pietersen saga; whether you see it as being right or wrong; what it exhibited was that England's new managing director Paul Downton is not afraid of making bold, brave calls. In an era when there will be plenty of such decisions to make, at least the whole saga demonstrated that Downton won't be shirking away.
Paul Collingwood's Appointment as Assistant Coach
Paul Collingwood's appointment as England's assistant coach for the ODI and T20 series in the West Indies and the World T20 is a good move by England.
Collingwood is a classic example of a player who turned little natural talent into an impressive international career, and the grit and resilience he became so renowned for will be key traits in England's immediate evolution.
Collingwood was close friends with limited-overs coach Ashley Giles during their playing days and will no doubt form a good partnership leading England forward. What's more, although his close relationship with some of England's current players could be seen as a hindrance, he should have no trouble getting his message across to a group of players he'll be broadly familiar with.
Although there appears to be very few options for the Test side in the short term, England can be confident that the hoard of youngsters coming through the impressive infrastructural age-group systems will bring about a resurgence.
Immediately below the Test team, the likes of Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Jamie Overton and James Vince, amongst others, offer enormous potential for the not-too-distant future.
And the success of Ben Stokes at number six in the Ashes offers England the potential for balance that they have not had since the retirement of Andrew Flintoff in 2009.
Perhaps the most encouraging and reassuring factor for England fans is that following previous Ashes humiliations, the problems have run deeper than merely at a board and team level. They have in fact been infrastructural problems with things such as the county and academy systems.
The same cannot be said of England this time.
The defeat has undoubtedly raised questions over the management and leadership of the team, not only on the ground level but at a board level too. But the systems the ECB have installed over the past decade, such as the academy in Loughborough, bolstering the county system, encouraging age-group sides and growing grass-roots cricket, all remain as areas of strength and prosperity.
That there appears to be a dearth of county players pushing for selection cannot really be seen as a fault of the county system. It is more of a failure at an England management level that those pushing for selection have not been given the opportunities or encouragement to make the step up. The England team does appear to have become somewhat of a cosy-club in recent years, and the environment has been seen to be particularly intense.
The number of players under Andy Flower who ascended from county cricket only to try and fail in international cricket is so significant that it seems the problem is when they arrive with England, not before it, and in that fans and the new management can draw hope.