Moores the merrier
Peter Moores told skysports.com he is pleased with England's progress heading into the summer Tests.
By James Root
Last Updated: 09/05/08 11:06am
Peter Moores' first year in charge of England has been a bit of a rollercoaster (or as Moores himself put it 'a journey') results-wise, but there's no doubt he has given the squad a lift after the lacklustre final 18 months of Duncan Fletcher's reign.
Since the glory days of the 2005 Ashes, Fletcher steered England to only five Test victories in 18 matches. Moores came in and gave county cricketers a new lease of life at a time when many believed the door to the England team was closed.
In came the likes of Matt Prior, Ryan Sidebottom, Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad - players that had impressed on the county circuit.
Some performed sporadically, notably Prior and Bopara, while Sidebottom has cemented his place in the team. And in Sidebottom's case Moores was happy to give another chance to a player who had a poor Test debut years beforehand but had been consistently sound in county cricket since.
Moores believes English cricket is in a healthy state at all levels, including grassroots where he has put his name behind the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme, which trained over 5,500 cricket coaches in its first year, 50 per cent more then had been targeted for.
That suggests the game is growing healthily. Especially when you take into account that there has been a 27 percent increase in participation in clubs and schools in the last year.
After coming back from 1-0 down in New Zealand to win the series 2-1, Moores was delighted with the spirit and application shown by England back in March, and hopes they can continue their upward curve this summer.
"To finish the year strong was great," said Moores. "People portray New Zealand as an easy place to go and win, but it's not and that has been proved by the results - the last team to win in New Zealand before us was Australia three years ago.
"When we were one-nil down we were very disappointed with the way we had played but to turn that around and bounce back was a great effort, all credit to the lads.
"They worked so hard and we need to take that momentum now into this series and then we have another tough Test series after that against South Africa."
The start of the county season has been largely undermined by events in India with the IPL's razzmatazz and bottomless money pot dominating column inches.
Fears of the IPL posing a threat to the prestige of Test cricket have surfaced but Moores believes there is a place for all forms of cricket, although he feels that Test cricket will remain the ultimate form of the glorious game.
"There is room for both," said Moores, "It's very exciting the whole emergence of the form. Twenty20 has been round for a few years, we've seen it and the crowds have voted with their feet that they want to watch Twenty20 cricket.
"With the IPL the goalposts are moving because of the financial rewards on offer, but there's space for Test match cricket, four-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket to fit in because they all provide different tests to the player and different challenges that the players want and that people love to watch.
"The landscape has changed so quickly over the last six to eight months and everybody is waiting to see how the IPL goes, it's obviously gone pretty well so far.
"Everyone will have to look at their structures and schedules and see how that is affected and what's best because at the end of the day we provide an entertainment industry for people to watch and they've got to be able to do that, and at the same time, from a selfish point of view, we want to be able to pick a competitive international side that can compete against other countries around the world.
"I don't think the IPL will diminish Test match cricket at all because Test cricket has its own special place. It's the ultimate test for any player - purely because you are tested in all facets of the game over five days - and it will always be the jewel in the crown.
"That doesn't mean there's not a place for Twenty20 cricket to provide and entertain for a different sort of supporter and keep the game of cricket moving forward."
Moores is pleased with the way that fringe players have started the County season, with the likes of Robert Key, Ravi Bopara and Owais Shah starting strongly with the bat.
He has also been impressed with the form of Matthew Hoggard who is pushing hard for a recall having been dropped after the first Test defeat to New Zealand in March.
"It's been a really great start to the county season in many ways and it's a good advert for the county game that there are so many players playing well. We're in quite a strong position at the moment as there are quite a few senior players outside of the England team who didn't play in the last game and are vying to get back in.
"So it's all great to see those lads competing - that's what they can do. We have a tough challenge now making sure we can pick the right XI to represent the country, but it's also nice to know that the last two Tests we've played we've won and the lads all performed well so we are in a healthy position."
And he also says that the door is well and truly open for other players to stake their claim, even Mark Ramprakash who has averaged more than 100 for the past two seasons in County cricket yet been overlooked for the squad.
"Mark has had a fantastic few years, he's been a great player for quite a long time, but he's had a very good last few years in particular where he has set the world alight and he has put a lot of pressure on to get back in the England team.
"And that's a chance for we, the selectors, to look at that and see what's right and balance with what we've got.
"We don't underestimate the batsman we already have in the team, we've got some really good players, a lot of guys with a Test match average over 40 and Mark has had a decent opportunity for England in the past and has played over 50 Tests as well."We have to make those decisions but when you are scoring runs and playing well you're in with a shout."
Looking ahead to the New Zealand Test series, many will be waiting to see if Andrew Flintoff will be recalled to the squad, Moores is giving little away but concedes that there is always a place in the team for a fully-fit Flintoff.
"Obviously Fred's Test record shows that he is a great all-rounder and he has had a very influential effect on England's performances, especially over the last three or four years, when he is fully-fit.
"The most exciting thing for me is that he is fit again, he's pain-fee and is bowling without that ankle problem, which is really important. And batting-wise, like all players who have had a break, you need to get yourself back into it as he is doing at the moment and we'll keep an eye on that with a view to bringing him back to the team when it seems right for him and also, for England, that he is playing well enough."
But Moores is content with the way the team have coped in Freddie's absence.
"We have seen different players emerge. In one-day cricket we have seen someone like a Luke Wright come into he team or Ravi Bopara playing a bit more and Test match-wise you see Stuart Broad get an opportunity to play so, with any injury the only upside is that somebody gets a chance to show what they can do and then things move on.
"And then hopefully people do take their chance and then when you bring back senior players, hopefully that strengthens you again and takes you to the next level as a team.
"There's always going to be a balance of both. You've got to take into account a team that's going to be sustainable for a decent length of time but also winning in the short term as well so I think we've got to do that as selectors."
And Moores is particularly excited with this current crop of players leading into a busy and crucial next 12 months of cricket before the Aussies return to these shores with the urn.
"To win the Ashes you've got to keep developing as a team and it's important to look to win as we go along, so the first job really is to tackle New Zealand, we've got three Tests against them and it's a series we would desperately love to win to get some momentum to take into the series against South Africa.
"The first job really is to take into account the seven Tests we've got this summer, it won't be long until those Ashes are here but it would be foolish to look too far ahead too quickly because we've got a lot of cricket before that and we'll look to play some good cricket, build confidence and get ourselves playing the right sort of cricket for that.
"I think we're emerging as a team, there have been quite a lot of changes because of the nature of personnel: a few people have retired, we've had some injuries and have lost some senior players over the last 12 months, that's allowed some fresh blood to come in and some senior players coming back fit so it's an exciting time at the moment with the English summer on our doorstep."
Peter Moores was speaking to promote the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme which in 2008 will train thousands of cricket coaches across England and Wales.
Watch live and exclusive coverage of all seven of England's summer Tests on Sky Sports & Sky Sports HD