Flower sees rosy future

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Andy Flower is optimistic England have adopted all the right methods on and off the pitch to take their performance to a new level in 2013.

Flower left India last night, along with the nucleus of the team who yesterday completed an historic Test series victory under new captain Alastair Cook.

While others - a 14-strong squad under the direction of captain Eoin Morgan and assistant coach Richard Halsall - will stay on for two Twenty20 internationals at Pune and Mumbai before returning home for Christmas, Flower had time to assess England’s achievements in 2012 and how they can improve next year.

The team director is especially encouraged by his own new brief to concentrate his efforts on Test cricket and devolve the limited-overs management to Ashley Giles.

England finished the calendar year on a high in Tests, with a draw in Nagpur which confirmed a first series success in India since 1984-85. But their overall record stood at five victories, three draws and seven defeats from their 15 matches in a hectic year which saw them lose their world number one status to South Africa.

Andy Flower

England team director Andy Flower happily reflected: “It’s very satisfying for that group of 30 blokes to have come out here and adapted to these conditions and overcome the opposition.”

Flower believes the comeback to win in India demonstrates they have made progress, however, and is anticipating more in another jam-packed 12 months which will feature a Champions Trophy on home soil and back-to-back Ashes series.

“It is going to be a busy year,” he said. “We’ve got the Champions Trophy, one of our priorities - happening in England - and we’ll have a chance there. Then there’s the two Ashes series in the second half of the year.

“That’s going to be some tough, sustained cricket. But we’ve shown out here that we can play that type of cricket, and that we learn to survive in different conditions.”

As for his own status, Flower appears reinvigorated by a new chain of command - with him still at the top of team development and performance - which means he will not be spread so thinly.

“I needed something to change, and we hope that this will make us a more efficient organisation,” he admitted. “We hope that this will be a better use of our resources.”

England’s two senior coaches issued mutual endorsements of one another’s skills when the new structure was first announced, and Flower is convinced Giles’ appointment can only be of great benefit.

“We hope that Ashley Giles can take the limited-overs teams forward,” he said. “I think the injection of new ideas and new energy from a successful coach and successful international cricketer, as Ashley is, will be something that Alastair Cook is looking forward to. I hope it takes our limited-overs cricket up another notch.”

He acknowledges too that, despite the near-instant success of his Test partnership with Cook following the retirement of Andrew Strauss, it is an association which must continue to develop.

“It has to,” he continued. “We have to have an excellent relationship to work healthily together. He’s been outstanding on this tour, with his batting but also as a leader - he’s been very strong, and is growing in confidence all the time.

Alastair & Alice Cook

“We have to have an excellent relationship to work healthily together," Flower said of Alastair Cook, left, here arriving at Heathrow Airport this morning

“I said to him earlier I thought tactically he has been excellent - and you can’t always say that about English sides in the sub-continent. I think he’s been a good observer of the opposition, and what works for them, and he’s used some of that to our advantage.”

Flower is positive but realistic in his assessment of England’s 2012.

“I certainly wouldn’t describe it as a year of decline,” he reflected. “We’ve had up-and-down results. We didn’t play that well against the spin in the UAE, but we’ve also done some superb things.

“We became number one in one-day international cricket; we drew an important Test series in Sri Lanka and won one against the West Indies - and we lost to a very good South African side in England. I don’t think there is any embarrassment in that. That happens in international sport.

“Then we’ve come out here and very importantly shown that this bunch of cricketers can learn and adapt.”

Asked if the fightback in India could be a turning point, he replied: “I think it is.

“We had a tough time in the UAE against Pakistan at the start of the year, and one of the most satisfying things at the minute - certainly for me, and I’m sure for the players - is that they’ve shown they can score runs.

“Even some of the older guys, that have been around and have excellent Test career achievements, have still adapted their game and shown their game can improve. They’ve done that in conditions where English teams don’t historically do very well. I think everyone is very proud of that.”

Generations of England batsmen, in particular, have been found wanting in India since David Gower’s tourists also prevailed by a 2-1 margin.

“It’s very satisfying for that group of 30 blokes to have come out here and adapted to these conditions and overcome the opposition,” added Flower. “It’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of thought and a lot of skill out there in the middle - and they should be very proud of themselves.”

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