Cow Corner

Is England’s best asset Zimbabwean?

Cow Corner

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Andy
Flower continuing his work as England team director might sound like a relatively
trivial piece of news, but it could be the most significant development as
England plan the next four years.

After
a World Cup there's always a period of change and restructure in international
cricket. Several teams have already changed their coaching set-ups, including
India, who were believed to be quite keen on parachuting Flower into the top
job.

And
though the decision to keep him on board was simple, there were considerations
which made an extension less than certain.

The
time away from home that Flower has to spend is a big concern - he has a young
family and has just come back from almost six straight months on the road.

How
he manages the workload, and how he prepares the nation's cricketers to compete
on several fronts across the globe over the coming years, will have been
discussed in great length.

But
England could simply not afford to let him go.  

At the
start of 2009 when he first took on the role, England were a fractured mess.
Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen had divided the dressing room in spectacular
style - both lost their jobs - and England's performances on the pitch were
aimless.

Who could
have imagined that what would follow would be back-to-back Ashes victories, the
title of Twenty20 world champions, and a side that can once again be talked
about as realistic contenders for the Test number one spot?

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 "We have made no secret of our
determination to become the number one side in the world and challenge for
global titles and I feel we have been making steady progress," Flower said
on the signing of his contract.

"I firmly believe we have the
talent amongst the playing squad and management team to help us realise our
ambitions."

The
road Flower is leading his side on is an exciting one. And if he is confident
that England have what it takes to be the world's best, then we should take
what he says at face value.

Flower is not the type to talk up his
own role in that, but he deserves huge credit for improving the team with
limited changes to the players available to him.

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There were nine players in common
between the last Moores Test (versus India in Mohali at the end of 2008) and
the first Ashes Test in Brisbane two years later - Jonathan Trott in for Andrew
Flintoff, and Steven Finn as a pace replacement for Monty Panesar.

Again,
few would have thought at the time that Flintoff's absence and the shift in the
balance of the side would actually lead to a stronger line-up.

And Kevin Pietersen, once the star player, is no longer required to score heavily in order for England to succeed.

Ironically, the one man becoming indispensible in this flowering era is Flower himself.

So
there will be no great upheavals in England's side in the coming months. Nobody
new to answer to (although there may be a new limited overs captain in the
offing if Strauss decides enough is enough).

Other
nations - like Sri Lanka and India, both of whom visit England this summer -
will have to get to grips with new approaches and new personnel.

In
short, by keeping things the same England may just have set their ship on the
right course to finally reach the top of the game once more.

Is there any ingredient more important to England's success than Andy Flower? Leave your comments below!

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The ICC World Cricket League Division Seven is taking place in Botswana this week. As well as the hosts, Kuwait, Nigeria, Germany, Norway and Japan, cricketing giants one and all, are taking part.

For the top two sides, the prize of success is Division Six, where they can mix with the might of Jersey, Fiji, Malaysia and Guernsey later in the year.

They might yet climb higher - as Afghanistan, once of Division Five, have done in recent years, to become one of the best Associate Nations teams.

But wouldn't it be nice if any of these sides had the carrot of World Cup qualification waiting at the end of it all?

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CAPTION COMPETITION: Congratulations to the winner of last week's caption competition, pj2ww, who suggested that Liz Hurley was saying to Shane Warne, "I have this irrational fear that if I let go of my sunglasses, my hair will fall out like yours did."

 

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But this week, tell Cowers: what's coming out of Harbhajan Singh's mouth?

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Post your captions below, and the best will be announced in the next blog...

 

 

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