Tag Archives: hugh morris

The Ashes: A future without Flower

IN his autobiography, Playing With Fire, Nasser Hussain said his greatest fear for English cricket was what would happen when Duncan Fletcher moved on.  It is now more than six years since “the man behind the shades” parted company with the ECB, and many will find themselves experiencing a similar anxiety over the void that could be left by England’s latest enigmatic Zimbabwean coach.

Andy Flower took on the role in 2009, following the Peter Moores debacle, and was powerless to prevent England’s immediate capitulation in Jamaica, a result of frazzled minds and a lack of leadership. Since then Flower has overseen three consecutive Ashes victories and home and away series wins over India, either side of England’s rise to number one Test team in the world.

Like his predecessor, Flower has developed an inscrutable persona that gives nothing away and a protective shield around his close-knit group. As the press pack grows ever hungrier for a story away from the action, the vicious circle is squared. But Flower’s rare, brief and considered interviews often say more than endless hours of Sky Sports waffle and tabloid speculation ever could.

When the TV cameras caught up with him in the Oval darkness at the end of the fifth Test, as his players and their respective offspring cavorted and gurned their way across the outfield, Flower was his usual calm self. Paying tribute to his players and particularly his captain, he threaded some well-timed remarks neatly through the gloom up to the glowing media centre.

“There’s more to leadership than funky field placings and stuff like that,” he said. “I think Cook’s strong leadership was a key. The players need to trust and respect their leader. He is a man they all look up to and he has a certain conviction and inner strength that will serve English cricket well.”

Flower could just as easily have been eulogising himself. If Fletcher brought England out of themselves and taught them how to enjoy winning, with all the pedalos and open-topped buses that followed, Flower has moulded them into a mature, professional outfit with that “conviction and inner strength” that he showed himself so often as a player.

But how long will it last? Having relinquished control of the one-day side last year, reports are now suggesting Flower will quit for good after the Australian tour. When pressed on the issue during the Oval celebrations, he said simply: “We’ve got to enjoy the moment and not look too far ahead.” It was the diplomat’s response, the equivalent of the embattled MP’s “We’re doing all we can.”

It was not so long ago that English cricket fans, and moreover their representatives in broadcast and print, were simply happy to see their side winning. At the turn of the century, a 3-0 Ashes win would have been scarcely believable. On Monday several back pages chose to dwell on the bad light and inflexible umpiring that denied what would have been a hugely flattering 4-0 scoreline. The fact is, England are good, approaching very good, and have been so for quite some time now. Expectation levels have risen. Performance must follow suit.

If Flower does decide to hang up his laptop in a few months’ time, ideally toasting his departure with a fourth consecutive Ashes urn, he should be thanked and congratulated for all he has done. The ECB, now shorn of outgoing managing director Hugh Morris, will doubtless already be considering his likely successor.

Ashley Giles could take the logical step from one-day coach to full honours, but may be too inexperienced and lacking the toughness and spark required. Graham Gooch might stray the other way – a popular and familiar figure but could he innovate and bring a new approach?

From there the list of names roll off an increasingly familiar merry-go-round. Whatmore, Arthur, Buchanan, Kirsten – perhaps even a return for Fletcher himself. Whoever is chosen, if and when Flower steps aside, will have a tough act to follow. To call it a poisoned chalice would be misleading – the England coach would do well to drink from such a vessel as he ducks, dodges and dives to avoid the venomous darts coming at him from all angles. If one of them hits its target, he could always call for a review. But that’s another story.

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The paradox of unemployed exam success

by Hugh Morris

LAST Wednesday morning, while in bed, with no firm plan for the day and no job to go to, I became a fully-qualified journalist. I became a senior reporter. I passed the final set of journalistic exams to bring my credentials fully up to date, and now the media world is my metaphorical oyster. Only, I’m not actually a senior reporter because I’m unemployed after my newspaper , Cambridge First, shut down a fortnight ago. It’s a sad paradox. But this, I’ve learned, is life in the media.

I was ecstatic and mildly shocked when I passed my NCE because, frankly, the exams were difficult. The pass rate was only 45 per cent for March’s exams and on reading the examiner’s report you can understand why. All it takes is one legal blip, one missed piece of vital information, one typo, and unlike A-levels where your grade might slip from an A to a B, the way these exams are marked makes it more likely your pass will become a fail. That’s it. Over. Gone.

While passing is obviously better than failing, if you look at the job market it might seem this additional qualification makes me overqualified and potentially “too expensive” for many of the vacancies going. Off to the top of my head, I can think of two jobs I was seriously considering where my new senior reporter title makes me unsuitable. I admit I am being a wee bit selective about the jobs I am looking for at the moment, but it’s early days and I feel there are some roles I am willing to wait for before things get too desperate.

So here I am, a senior reporter looking for a job. Let’s go on Gorkana and see what they can offer me. Oh, so Gorkana basically tells me I need to be an intern or a business journalist with plenty of experience. Well, I am neither. I represent somewhat of an enigma to potential employers because I am a senior reporter with no experience of being a senior reporter. I feel I am above going back to being an intern (though at 24 it does not seem completely unreasonable) but I obviously do not have the experience to enter into media roles above reporting.

Likewise, freelancing. I believe I could write articles and features for newspapers, websites and magazines, but I am young and do not have a strong enough CV as it stands to get my name about. This may well be something I will have to change myself and is something constantly at the back of my mind.

I have no experience freelancing so my thoughts on it are fairly speculative: in my mind, one has 10 ideas, five of them could be worth writing, one or two get selected and it is probably not the ones the creator thought were the best. Can anyone back that up?

Anyway, this piece is just an outlet for the utter mess of frustration, ambition and fear my mind is at the moment. I am most pleased I passed my seniors, but it does feel like a slightly hollow victory.

This piece first appeared at Wax Lyrical

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