Flower in tribute to Strauss
Andy Flower is already plotting to help England make the most of Andrew Strauss’ outstanding leadership and stay well ahead of the rest of world cricket.
The England team director described captain Strauss as a “special man” as he assessed today the factors which have helped their team rise to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings, and spelled out his gameplan not just to stay there but continue to strive for new heights.
A winter of Asian challenges lies ahead for England, following the small matter of next week’s fourth and final Test of an npower series they have already won 3-0 against former world number ones India.
That scoreline, and England’s consequent inauguration as the best Test team on the planet, was confirmed by yesterday’s innings-and-242-run victory at Edgbaston.
Less than 24 hours later, after a night of appropriate celebration in Birmingham and this morning’s announcement of an unchanged squad for the Kia Oval, Flower is turning his attention to further self-improvement.
Asked first about what he and Strauss have done to put right a team which two-and-a-half years ago was languishing near the bottom of that ICC table, he chose instead to bring his assessment into the present.
Flower said: “What is right about this side at the moment is it’s got an outstanding leader in Strauss - he really is a special man.
“The players, after being asked to embrace responsibility, have delivered. Strauss asked that of them when he took over the captaincy a couple of years ago, and they are repaying him.”
The key now, of course, is to ensure England’s rise to the top is a beginning rather than an end - and Flower, like his captain, is determined to do so.
“Now that we have achieved that, what Strauss and I don’t want to do is (just) hang on to the number one status,” he explained.
“That’s not a very exciting way to go about our business. We’ve always had a goal of constant improvement, and that doesn’t change just because your ranking points change.
“It would be a really dangerous position to be in if we weren’t trying to constantly improve ourselves.”
Flower is convinced too he is not asking a richly-talented group of players to do something beyond their capabilities.
“We’ve definitely got a large scope for improvement, and I think that everyone in our dressing room realises that. I always think it is very dangerous to try to hold on to what you have got,” he said.
“You have to move forward and you are always looking to improve. That is a much healthier position to be in.
“From a strategy point of view, it would be a mistake to try to hold on to what you have. We are always looking at ways to improve - some of the coaches and management staff are excellent at it. That makes it a more fun environment.”
He does not have to look too hard to identify tough new targets.
Those winter series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and away to Sri Lanka are followed by a summer at home to South Africa, the 2012/13 rematch with India on their home patch and then the first World Test Championship and back-to-back Ashes series.
“We are going to have to reset our goals, and I’d like to do that not only with the captain and the captains but with the team,” said Flower.
“This winter we go to play against two countries that, the last time England toured, we lost. We want to go away and play Pakistan and Sri Lanka away from home and win those series.
“We’ve also got the World Test Championship for the first time in 2013, and that’s in our own country. That is certainly something we are striving for.”
By then, comparisons with some of the great teams of the past - the West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s or Australia in more recent times - may be feasible.
But according to Flower, that is not the case yet.
“I don’t think we can compare ourselves to those sides,” he insisted. “They dominated world cricket for lengthy periods. We have been playing well for a little while now, but only for a short time in cricketing history terms.
“There is no way we can compare ourselves to those sides, in my opinion. Who knows what the future holds, though? That is going to be up to us. It is up to us to deliver excellence and be hungry enough to keep driving ourselves hard enough to deliver that excellence.”
England know their new-found status means everyone will have a point to prove against them, though.
“Now we are ranked number one, people will be very hungry to knock us off that perch. There is no doubt about that,” said Flower.
“It is one thing being good for a short period of time - but having a side that delivers some special results and has some special times together that they will remember for the rest of their lives, that will be a much better thing to look back on than a few victories here and there.”