Flower was most impressed with Cook’s leadership skills during his first Test series as captain
England coach Andy Flower has lavished praise on his side, stating that they managed to break their 28-year losing streak in India due to their rapid ability to “learn and adapt” to the unfamiliar conditions in the country.
England last won a Test series in India in 1984-1985 and the defeat handed India their first home series loss since 2004.
England’s performance in India was completely opposite to their horrendous and humiliating 3-0 whitewashing at the hands of Pakistan in January last year, where they were cut down to their knees by the spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman.
Flower was extremely impressed at how England learnt from their mistakes while playing against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last year and added that the team may have become a little overconfident ever since they became the world number one Test team after whitewashing India 4-0 at the end of 2011.
“I don’t know if lost focus is quite the right phrase to use,” Flower said. “But if there are degrees of hunger and desire perhaps we dropped off a couple after getting to No 1.
“We had a tough time in the UAE against Pakistan at the start of the year, and one of the most satisfying things at the minute – certainly for me, and I’m sure for the players – is that they’ve shown they can score runs. We’ve come out here and very importantly shown that this bunch of cricketers can learn and adapt.
“They have proved they have learned a lot. For some of the older players, guys that have been around and have excellent Test career achievement, that is testament to their humility and their maturity to continue their learning into this phase of their careers. They have still adapted their game and shown their game can improve. It’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of thought and a lot of skill out there in the middle. They should be very proud of themselves.
“We certainly refocused on this challenge in India. We knew we would have to display that we have learned certain things about the game of cricket in these conditions if we were to prevail so it’s nice to see that has happened. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as a year of decline.”
Flower paid special tribute to captain Alastair Cook by saying that he was impressed at how he had led by example during his debut Test series as skipper.
“That innings at Ahmedabad was vitally important as a lead,” Flower said. “It provided evidence that runs could be scored if you use your brain, if you’ve got a reasonable method, if you show courage and discipline. He did that and for the captain to do that was especially important. He has been very influential in the series. We are very lucky to follow a quality bloke like Andrew Strauss with a quality bloke like Alastair Cook as leaders of the England side.
“I said to him I thought tactically he has been excellent – and you can’t always say that about English sides in the sub-continent. I think he’s been a good observer of the opposition, and what works for them, and he’s used some of that to our advantage.”
Batsman Kevin Pietersen also received high praise after scoring an outstanding century during the second Test in Mumbai.
“He has been excellent since he has been back with the England side,” Flower said. “The guys have enjoyed having him around and he has fitted in really easily and everyone has made an effort to make it work. It has worked.
“He has played superbly. I thought his innings in Mumbai on a difficult, turning track was one of the better innings I have seen played against spinners in those type of conditions. It was a very, very skilful innings; even more skilful after he had struggled in the first Test because that piled a certain amount of pressure on him. So for him to handle that pressure, turn it round and then dominate the opposition as he did was great testament to him holding his nerve.”
While the victory in India may have been a perfect ending to 2012 for England, Flower noted that there were other positives throughout the year amongst a lot of the disappointments as well.
“We’ve had up-and-down results,” he said. “We didn’t play that well against the spin in the UAE, but we’ve also done some superb things.
“We became number one in one-day international cricket; we drew an important Test series in Sri Lanka, and won one against the West Indies. And then we lost to a very good South African side in England. I don’t think there is any embarrassment in that. That happens in international sport.”
Even though Ashley Giles has been brought in to handle all of the England’s limited overs tours, Flower stated that he would still be involved in a lot of the planning and development, especially since England will be playing host to the last ever International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy in June.
“I do have a young family and they have supported me amazingly well over my playing and coaching career and it is time for me to make sure that I can give a little more time to them,” Flower said. “The purpose of the move is to make us a more efficient organisation and to use our resources as wisely as possible so certainly that will assist me to remain involved with the English side.
“Ashley Giles is a smart cricket coach with very good experience of both coaching and playing and I think he can do a very good job with the limited-overs sides. We hope he can take the limited-overs teams forward. We don’t know if the system is going to work ideally, just like we didn’t when we introduced three different captains for the three different facets of cricket that we play. But our job is to make it work.
“It is going to be a busy year. We’ve got the Champions Trophy – one of our priorities – happening in England and we’ll have a chance there. Then there’s the two Ashes series in the second half of the year. That’s going to be some tough, sustained cricket. But we’ve shown out here that we can play that type of cricket, and that we learn to survive in different conditions.”