Andy Flower is a very calm and well thought-out influence on the dressing room: Strauss
Kevin Pietersen marked England's crushing Test victory at the Adelaide Oval by proclaiming that it had removed unhappy memories of a negative and disunited dressing room on the last Ashes tour four years ago.
England were whitewashed in their last Test series in Australia, with Andrew Flintoff as captain and Duncan Fletcher as coach, and it was in Adelaide during a calamitous batting collapse on the final day when their fate was as good as sealed. Six of this victorious England side played on that day.
Pietersen, named man of the match for a serene double hundred, and for his inspirational dismissal of Michael Clarke at the end of the fourth day, looked as contented an England cricketer as he has since his early days as captain of the national team.
“The best feeling is walking into the dressing room having won this Test match,” he said. “Four years ago this was a very, very horrible dressing room to walk into, a very quiet dressing room, a very negative dressing room and not as united as the dressing room is at the moment.”
“The feeling walking into the dressing room now is a very special feeling. Individual performances add to a team victory, and I think the team victory today is incredible. That's the best feeling, no matter who takes the wickets or gets the runs. A Test victory in Australia is a great feeling but we're not going to get complacent because as soon as complacency sets in, it bites you. Australia are a formidable team in Australia – anything can happen. They're going to get better and we're going to have to play better, because normally an England team doesn't finish off a series too well, so we've got to make sure we've got out heads on.”
England's togetherness is palpable, a far cry from four years ago when there was tension between captain and coach, and cliques within the dressing room. Pietersen insists that improved results are not the only reason.
“There's definitely more to it than that,” he said. “Yes, winning does go a long way, but also keeping your feet on the ground and making sure you keep working hard, keep trying to improve as an individual, a human being and also as a cricketer. Those are the key attributes for a happy dressing room.”
For Pietersen, in particular, to speak so warmly of the collective effort emphasises the achievement of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, as captain and coach, in instilling a sense of purpose and ambition. This is the player who only a few weeks ago Shane Warne tried to claim was “an outcast” in the England dressing room, a claim that has only strengthened their desire to maintain unity.
Strauss amplified Pietersen's comments, saying England recognised the only way they could win the Ashes in Australia was that if all 11 players performed to their potential and that individual flashes of brilliance would not be enough. The message seems to have got home.
“We've been a very tight unit for the last couple of years now really, and we're seeing guys that are getting used to winning, and celebrating each other's success, and that's a great thing,” Strauss said.
“At the start of the series we said the only way we'll win the Ashes is through 11 guys performing, that we couldn't rely on one or two, and we've seen some good performances from a number of different people on this tour so far. Andy Flower has been absolutely fundamental to all of it. His experience out here before has been important, but a lot of it stems back to last summer, thinking about what we might need to do to win out here, the type of players and preparation we might need.”
“He is a very calm and well thought-out influence on the dressing room. He makes sure we keep our feet on the ground and he has the absolute respect of all the players.”
The loss of Stuart Broad for the rest of the tour because of a torn abdominal muscle now necessitates that one of Tim Bresnan, Ajmal Shahzad or, most likely, Chris Tremlett makes an impact in the third Test in Perth. All will play against Victoria in a three-day game beginning in Melbourne on Friday.
England are only 1-0 up with three to play, with a chance to emulate Mike Gatting's 1986-87 squad, the last to win in Australia. Predictably Strauss issued another warning against complacency.
“We've got the opportunity to win in Australia, but we won't do it unless we play as well as we have this week. We don't know what's round the corner – we never do.
“It's very easy to think everything's easy and is going to go on the same course. The likelihood is it won't – that's not the way cricket is played. We've got to be prepared for a scrap.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010