Monday, 21 May 2012

An Interview with Steve James

In anticipation of Steve James' forthcoming book The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket, available from all good bookshops on Monday 24th May, I was granted the opportunity to ask him some questions about the book and his analysis.

As we know from the book's outline you discuss at length the transformation of England from the worst test team to the Number 1 team in the world.  You base the transformation on the work of two individuals - Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower; what have these two men done to change the English game?
It's not just about them but they obviously played huge roles. Both of them brought clarity when there was darkness.  

Yet these two men have different traits how can they both take credit?
They're different but very similar if that makes sense! Fletcher is the technical expert, Flower the man manager.

So how did someone like Peter Moores become a failure?
In fairness to Peter, a lot of what he put in place is still there.  He employed Flower firstly. It was the way he conveyed his messages that was wrong, and he is quite honest about this in the book.

Why was the change necessary, what was wrong with England when they lost at home to New Zealand in that fateful summer of 1999 at the Oval?
Everything! No coach, no direction, poor selection. The introduction of central contracts coming in was huge in terms of consistent selection, and the most influential change resulting in England's success.  Fletcher couldn't have done what he did without them. Nor Flower.

Does the influence of Captains deserve to be acknowleged?
[Nasser] Hussain was the most important, his determination helped to toughen England up.  [Michael] Vaughan and [Andrew] Strauss have obviously been very good in different ways.

It seems the most pivotal point of this transformation was the Ashes success of 2005, itself a formulation of a plan to implement certain bowlers?
Yes it had been coming together for a while.  The tragedy was that that attack - Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff, Ashley Giles - never played together again in a test match.

What are your memories of that 2005 Ashes summer?
My favourite memory is arriving at Old Trafford on the last day and being convinced there had been a  bomb scare with so many people without tickets streaming away from the ground.  On the field it was the reverse swing of Flintoff and Jones- the Australians simply had no answer to that bowling with Flintoff always taking wickets on vital occasions.

What has greater significance, the 2005 Ashes or winning the Ashes in Australia in 2010?
2005. It was against one of the greatest sides ever...

What does the future hold for the English test side? A big test awaits this year at home and abroad.
They'll still be No 1 by the end of the summer I reckon in a 3 test series against South Africa. India will be very tricky, just like last winter [in a four test series]

Is there anything you would change with the current England set-up?
Not particularly, however there are lots I would change in the County game though.

Can 'The Plan' continue to reap rewards beyond the next two Ashes series in 2013/14?
I hope so but a lot of course will depend on how Australia change themselves.  It looks like they have started to copy our plans which is what we did to them.  Nothing lasts forever though.

Many thanks to Steve James for giving me the chance to interview him before the release of his fourth book, The Plan:How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket, published by Bantam Press on Thursday 24th May for £20.00RRP

Steve James is cricket columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and a sports writer for the Daily Telegraph.  He won two caps for England.
Follow him on twitter @sjamesjourno

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