Andy Flower has declined to commit himself to a future as England Test coach beyond the already unsuccessful Ashes tour.
England lost the urn in Perth on Tuesday when Australia took an unassailable 3-0 lead with a third successive comprehensive victory over the tourists.
Flower’s own job, as team director with specific responsibility for the Test team, has therefore come under scrutiny – along with the playing futures of several long-established regulars in Alastair Cook’s side.
Asked whether he believes he can still take England forward, Flower spoke of “judgments” which must be made by him and his employers, and cast his mind forward only as far as the final two Tests of this series.
England arrived in Australia hoping to win the Ashes for a fourth successive time but, instead, have lost them in just 14 days of cricket and must now try to ensure they do not suffer a second 5-0 whitewash in their last three tours down under.
In between, of course, Flower and then-captain Andrew Strauss famously oversaw a long overdue series victory here – and also beat England’s oldest rivals twice on home soil, in 2009 and then again just last summer.
Yet, at a press conference in Perth in the aftermath of the latest defeat, when assurances were sought about his future, Flower said: “I’ve got that judgement to make, and the England and Wales Cricket Board will have that judgement to make as well.”
His ECB staff contract, amended a year ago to split the roles of Test and limited-overs coach between him and Ashley Giles, has no fixed term. There has, however, been a clamour for clarity about Flower’s continued involvement, former Test opener Geoff Boycott among those speaking out within hours of England’s third Test hammering.
Flower added: “I don’t plan that far ahead, personally. Obviously, my role means I have to plan ahead for the team’s sake but, personally, I don’t like looking too far ahead. There are still two Test matches to play in the series and I want all my focus to be on those two Test matches.”
However, a watershed may be approaching, not just for Flower but a clutch of senior players – wicketkeeper Matt Prior and off-spinner Graeme Swann perhaps foremost – who have fallen well short of their usual standards.
Flower is not about to write anyone off, but does hint time is not necessarily on the side of England’s thirtysomethings.
“We do have some experienced cricketers, and they need to draw on their experience right now to help them through tough periods,” he said. “We are going through a tough period as a side now, and a number of those individuals have been going through tough periods in their careers. It doesn’t mean that their careers are over, but it does mean they need to call on that experience to help them get out of those tough times a little quicker.”
Prior has a stalking horse in reserve wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and Flower is not ruling out a switch for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. “It’s a possibility, of course,” he said. “Matt Prior has been outstanding for England during the second phase of his career but we constantly review what our best side will be, what will give us the best chance of winning. We have to have an eye to the future as well, so we will meet over the next couple of days and start getting a little clarity.”
Whoever represents England in the final two Tests will know improvement is a must after defeats so far by 381, 218 and 150 runs. Flower said: “When we reflect on the way we’ve prepared and the way we’ve taken on the opposition in this series, I think honestly we can say we’ve been outplayed in every facet. So we do have to very quickly look forward to the Melbourne Test.”
He is prepared to take his share of the blame for England’s apparent under-performance after their 3-0 home Ashes victory only four months ago.
“Absolutely, it’s my responsibility,” he said. “So I’m quite comfortable taking that on. I think without a doubt I have to look at how we prepared and the decisions we made – certainly that I’ve made – so, of course, we will reflect on those things.
“Learning from our mistakes is very much a part of our ethos of constant improvement and we need to improve quickly.”
Flower still hopes he, his management colleagues and players can help to put England back on track, saying: “We need to take some time to make sure we’ve clarified our strategy for the next couple of Tests and the future for this team. I don’t think getting up for those games will be a challenge at all.
“Ashes Test matches, especially at Melbourne and Sydney, are exciting affairs – and they’ll be absolutely up for that challenge.”