Cow Corner

England’s ‘player management’ entirely justified

Flower and Strauss chat with Anderson

The subject of England resting players has been extensively debated over the last two weeks and, as a talking point, it shows little sign of abating.

While it is generally accepted and recognised that the burden on the top players has become too onerous as a result of a relentless international schedule, no one seems happy with star performers being sidelined.

Almost every international coach has spoken out about an itinerary that is bordering on the absurd, but each is adopting very different approaches regarding team selection.

Inevitably, once the decision had been made by England coach Andy Flower to rest Anderson for the third Test at Edgbaston, a string of former players and pundits were left outraged.

The many objections to Anderson being rested included the following:

-         'No coach could have told me to rest'

-         'The public deserve to watch the best players in action'

-         'Players perform best when they are kept busy'

-         'Bowlers need rhythm and must never be rested'

-         'In my day, no player would have given up their spot'

We've heard it all over the last few days; but the fact is that cricket is ever evolving and the demands upon the players — and indeed coaches — need to be adapted to accordingly.

As much as the spectators pay a premium to watch England's star players in action, there is an increasing awareness and acceptance of the fact that every cricketer cannot play in every match.

Ian Botham, for example, wrote in his Mirror column, possibly while on his third bottle of Merlot, that the decision was "complete madness" and "an insult to the English public who pay their money to go and watch the best players in the land represent them on the field".

Indeed, such was the backlash to the decision in many parts of the media that Flower took the unusual step of approaching Test Match Special to provide a thorough explanation of the rationale behind the decision, employing an assertive, rather than defensive, manner.

Make no mistake about it; this is a sensitive issue for many and a big call.

Committee meeting atop a roller

Like any sport, cricket will continue to develop and to demand different things from those who participate in it as a professional level; and as such, it is the role of the management and coaches to manage their talent and resources.

It is important to remember that Flower has to think beyond simply picking his best XI for each match. The Zimbabwean is having to become adept at prioritising certain games and planning his schedule accordingly.

Equally, the England coach cannot ignore the fact that his bosses are directly responsible for agreeing to the schedules that he struggles so much to contend with. Flower is far too savvy to be caught lambasting the itinerary too forcefully in the public domain.

"If it had been 1-1 going into this third Test, Jimmy would have played," Flower said. "He is not badly injured and he could play this Test if we wanted him to. But it's 2-0 and we've won the series already.

"The days of us playing our players until they are either worn down significantly, or snap physically or mentally, are over. We think it our responsibility to manage things better than that. It is our duty to make decisions in their interests and the interests of the team.

"In the past we tended to play the fast bowlers until they were either bowling so poorly we had to leave them out, or they break down. And that doesn't make sense to us. Would you enter your prize horse in every race through the year? You wouldn't."

Flower went on to outline further points about 'growing the pool of competitive replacements' at his disposal, and arguing that the quality of his squad ensures that matches are never devalued as a result of a rotation policy.

While Stuart Broad was selected in the 12-man squad, there is every possibility that he too will be omitted when play eventually gets underway in the third Test with both Graham Onions and Steven Finn desperate for a game.

The weather is increasingly rendering the Edgbaston Test an inevitable draw with little possibility of a positive result. The persistent rain has essentially ensured that the edge has already been removed from the contest.

As Flower pointedly added: "We don't select people to get their Test tally up; we make decisions in the best interests of English cricket."

There will always be those who find the very idea of an international cricketer being rested to be objectionable but, in this intensely professional era, the game is changing beyond all recognition.

Fortunately, one man who certainly is 'with the times' is the England coach. Flower's conviction is as courageous as it is prudent.