Why do ex-England captains choose the microphone over the tracksuit?

With Andrew Strauss installed as England captain for the entire West Indies tour, attention turns to the other vacancy which has emerged in the past week. It is of course that of England head coach/manager (applications to the ECB, don’t all rush at once). The appointment will not be made until after the tour, but unsurprisingly speculation is well underway.

One point which we are continually hearing is that part of the problem with Peter Moores is that he had not played international cricket and could not really contribute to coaching better players. While this shows a worrying arrogance and lack of receptiveness among players, it appears to be general consensus so we’ll let that go.

However, it is interesting to note the identity of the individuals who are making these points and have a think about what they are doing now. We have heard from Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart, Mike Atherton, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Bob Willis, Ian Botham. Anyone notice a pattern here? Precisely – these would be pretty much every single one of England’s long-term captains from the past 25-30 years. And what are they all doing now? Working in the media.

It seems a little odd that these men, all of whom have England’s wellbeing at heart, are all sitting there commenting, criticising (often lucidly and constructively, sometimes not) when, by their logic, they would be just about the best qualified people in the country to take on the role of national coach. Yet while one or two of them may have dabbled, not a single one of them has chosen to embrace a long-term career in coaching.

The question is, why have they chosen to do this when they clearly feel that they could make a difference to the England cause if they so chose? They are all lucid, intelligent and talk a lot of sense. They also continually express a good degree of frustration at the way England go about things on and off the field. Yet still they don’t feel moved to offer their services and do anything about it.

When responding to suggestions that he could be a candidate to take the England job, Shane Warne gave a revealing response. He queried why he would want to join up with a team and travel round the world when he gave up the game to get away from that. While many retire because they are no longer good enough or have lost the competitive edge rather than because of the travelling, there must be an element in many players which wants to spend time with family, make up for lost years and put down some roots.

This is entirely understandable. Many of these guys still follow England tours in their roles as pundits, commentators and journalists, but the biggest pressure they face is a daily deadline rather than the management of an elite international sports team.

However, if we are understanding about their reasons for not wishing to become international coaches, it makes it rather hard to comprehend when they announce that only former players can coach at the top level. If not a single England captain from the past 25 years has been moved to take on a coaching role, then they are hardly in a position to criticise those who work extremely hard to rise to the top of the ECB coaching schemes purely on the principle that they were not elite players themselves.

It is true that only those who have experienced it can fully understand the demands on the international cricketer in terms of time away from home, training schedules, volume of cricket, concerns about form etc. So if these ex-captains are correct in their assessment, the question becomes ‘why are the ECB not doing more to encourage these people to go into coaching?’ There is a huge amount of knowledge waiting to be tapped and being wasted.

We have seen the same in England rugby where a disappointing number of the 2003 World Cup winning team are being lost to the game. While we don’t begrudge them their comfy studios and the fact that they have just as much right to earn a living in the manner of their choosing as anyone else, why is more not being done to harness their knowledge?

Given the remarks being made by the Board, and players both current and former, it is inconceivable that an individual such as Graham Ford who boasts a mere 9 first-class appearances will end up in the hot seat. Tom Moody has been mentioned, as has Ashley Giles although surely it is too early in his career for such a role. Andy Flower is also a candidate who has the backing of many, although he may not be far enough removed from the Moores-Pietersen row. A name which has not come up but which has been mentioned for an international role before is that of John Emburey. He was a former England captain and could perhaps be the exception that proves the rule.

by Stuart Peel

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One comment on “Why do ex-England captains choose the microphone over the tracksuit?

  1. Couldn’t agree more to be honest, the ECB should put in place some sort of post-career training to keep players involved and get them interested in the development side of the game rather than just the careers that earn them the most money. How about a coaching academy in the same way they have player academies? Is there already such a thing?