Don Topley: Time for change at the top after England’s Ashes debacle in Australia

England's tormentor Mitchell Johnson

England's tormentor Mitchell Johnson - Credit: PA

Major surgery is required at the top of England’s cricket hierarchy, according to Don Topley.

However, the healing process may take some time to reach completion and any transition could be a slow one.

Topley has called for Alastair Cook to quit as England captain, for an interim period, to concentrate on rediscovering his form with the bat, while Graham Gooch’s performance as full-time batting coach has been severely criticised by his former Essex team-mate.

But Topley backed Andy Flower, who issued a statement yesterday denying he threatened to quit his role if Kevin Pietersen remained in the international set-up, to remain as head coach.

“I am underwhelmed by Alastair Cook’s tactical knowledge and underwhelmed by his leadership,” said Topley, Master in Cricket at Royal Hospital School, Ipswich.

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“It would be my suggestion that he is relinquished of the captaincy in the interim period while he regains his form with the bat. Above all else England need his top order runs more than his captaincy.

“There is no natural replacement around the team though and the million-dollar question would be who would be named as his successor?

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“The next Sri Lanka Test series is not until June so some senior county batsmen with captaincy experience may emerge.”

As for Flower, he has won three Ashes series since being installed as team director and led England to the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 title in the West Indies.

He was also responsible for appointing Gooch, initially on a part-time basis, as batting coach.

“Andy Flower has to take responsibility ultimately, in his position as coach, but in my humble opinion he is the best person to take England forward,” said Topley, who gave Flower his first Zimbabwe cap as a player.

“He is an excellent communicator and the best coach available, but the other backroom staff (their positions) may have to be revisited.

“In Gooch’s case, while he was a fantastic batsman, I fear his shelf-life may have expired.

“I am massively concerned about the batsmen’s mode of dismissals and I believe he is maybe failing to communicate or prepare his batting charges mentally from both an aptitude and attitude point-of-view.”

He added: “From a bowling perspective I think we are OK but I am extremely concerned that so many people have come out of the woodwork saying that we need extreme pace bowlers now.

“Three years ago, Mitchell Johnson was a laughing stock who bowled extreme pace but did not take wickets.

“Being fast is great but doesn’t guarantee wickets. Being a good bowler with pace is even better.”

Only seven players from the battered and bruised five-day team will be part of the limited overs squad, but the stigma will remain.

Topley labelled the tour “worse than a disaster” and believes any recovery could take a long time.

“I go back to Sir Alex Ferguson in football and how he culled players at Manchester United and kept his team fresh and full of players on the way up,” Topley said.

“There are some difficult decisions to be made and the first thing on the agenda will be Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower’s relationship.

“Also, will the ECB be happy to drop players on central contracts?

“The recovery will take a lot longer than people think and no-one has the divine right to be selected or score runs. Whether we do well or not (in the summer), it has been a bit depressing.

“We nearly did not draw in New Zealand last year and have not scored 400 in a first innings for a long time.

“Apart from in Sydney, where there was a bit of uneven bounce and turn, we played on some flat wickets with a Kookabura ball that softens quickly.”

He added: “I believe Cricket Australia did not help England’s preparation making them fly to Hobart, to play in the rain, in temperatures colder than Manchester.

“They then had to fly to Ayres Rock to play in 50 degree heat, so the adverse weather wasn’t ideal either.”

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