ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss is to take time away from his post to be with his wife, Ruth, who begins the second phase of cancer treatment at the end of the week. England Lions coach Andy Flower, former technical director of the full men’s side, will assume Strauss’ duties in his absence.
Strauss, who has been in his role since May 2015, returned home early from Australia after the second Ashes Test when Ruth was first diagnosed with cancer in December. While the first treatment went well, the second, which begins on Friday, is “more challenging” and, understandably, the former England captain will support his wife and family during this stage.
“My wife was diagnosed with cancer in December. We’re very lucky she has been very well up till now. Although, she is starting a new treatment on Friday that is going to be more challenging for her. As such, I am going to be stepping back from my day-to-day duties while that treatment is going on.
“Andy Flower is going to be stepping in for me over the course of the summer. We all know about his qualities and his experience of England and English cricket. I look forward to returning once the treatment has finished and grabbing the reins again. But, I hope you appreciate that for this period of time my focus needs to be supporting Ruth and my family at this challenging time,” Strauss said.
Flower will be acting director of cricket for at least the next three months. Since his tenure as England head coach, in which he guided the national team to number one in the Test rankings, along with historic series wins in India and Australia, Flower was appointed technical director of elite cricket coaching at the ECB before taking a more hands-on job in charge of the Lions.
In Strauss last engagement before taking leave, he also named the six England scouts employed to help national selector Ed Smith, who is also to appoint an assistant selector in the coming months. They are Somerset and England veteran Marcus Trescothick, Lancashire head coach Glenn Chapple, former Worcester director of cricket Steve Rhodes, Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson, former England and Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper Chris Read and former England batsman James Taylor.
The part-time roles will give the England management a better grasp of the talent – both established and emerging – across the county game. While England head coach Trevor Bayliss has been rightly criticised for his lack of knowledge on the domestic game, he could only have done so much with the spare time he has. This system will ensure fewer players slip through the cracks. Those scouts involved directly with counties will not be filing reports on those at their own clubs.
“The idea is for us to get better information on all the players playing in county cricket. This is not what some people think it is around loads of data and statistics. This is about getting qualitative information on what England’s needs are,” said Strauss. “They will be compiling reports on players of interest to us but those involved with counties won’t be compiling reports on their own players. It is about formalising a process that has been going on in a more ad hoc way before.”
Lastly, Strauss took the time to debrief what, all told, was a chastening winter for English cricket. ODI successes in Australia and New Zealand continued the white ball upturn, but a 4-0 Ashes defeat and 1-0 loss in the two-match series against the Blackcaps continued dismal returns away from home in Tests. As well as looking to judge English players on how they will fare abroad, Strauss confirmed the midnight curfew, brought in after a series of trivial yet unprofessional drunken misdemeanours in Australia, will still be in place for the home summer.
“We have learned a lot of lessons over the winter. We have sharpened up with the way we deal with things. Players are clear about what is expected of them while on England duty and I reaffirmed that today when I spoke to the players,” said Strauss. “It (curfew) is one thing the players got used to over the course of the winter. We are a high performance environment and guys being professional about how they prepare for games is not something that should be frowned upon, it should be expected of players.”
“I think there is definitely an opportunity to look at that a bit more creatively. It is very hard for one coach to coach all formats. It is possible and most other teams go down that route but we play more cricket than anyone else, we play more cricket than anyone else and that is something we will definitely be looking at as part of that process.”
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