JASON GILLESPIE is the right man to coach England.
I have been saying that for the past year-and-a-half – ever since the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash – and now the rest of the country is in broad agreement.
But the question is: are England right for Gillespie?
After watching the disastrous debut of Andrew Strauss as director of cricket, I must admit I have serious reservations.
To judge by Strauss’s performance at Lord’s last Tuesday, when he confirmed that there would be no way back for Kevin Pietersen – at least not in the short-to-medium term – and that Alastair Cook would captain the Test side all summer, Gillespie and England could not be further apart in terms of approach.
By making those stipulations, Strauss effectively said that the new coach – whoever he is – will not have the freedom to pick the team that he wants or to decide who leads it onto the field.
In other words, the new coach will be Strauss’s glorified lackey.
Gillespie is nobody’s lackey, and yet if he does take charge of England, it seems reasonable to conclude that he would have to succeed as much in spite of Strauss as with his input and that he might not necessarily realise his full potential.
By any standards, Strauss’s unveiling at headquarters was a PR disaster.
A man supposedly vested with more common sense than most uttered one of the most absurd contradictions in recent times when he addressed the preposterous issue of the preposterous Pietersen.
On the one hand, Strauss said that there was “a massive trust issue” between Pietersen and the England and Wales Cricket Board that made it impossible for him to play in the team.
On the other, Strauss added that the ECB do trust Pietersen enough to have offered him the chance – predictably rejected – to act as an advisor in one-day cricket.
Whatever you think of Pietersen, who is one of the greatest batsmen in the game’s history and whose loss to English cricket is desperately sad, it is impossible not to feel a smidgen of sympathy.
Whatever Pietersen has done – texting opposition players, writing inflammatory autobiographies, and so on – he has been dreadfully managed and hung out to dry.
Colin Graves, the ECB chairman, seemed to suggest a clean slate if Pietersen went back to county cricket and scored lots of runs.
Small wonder that Pietersen used such words as “deceit”, “garden path” and “dead end” in his newspaper column after the door to an England return was slammed shut on the very day that he scored a career-best triple hundred for Surrey.
The irony here is that if anyone could manage Pietersen properly and get the best out of him, it is Gillespie. Indeed, if you were seeking to crystallise why Gillespie has been so successful during his time with Yorkshire, it lies in his ability to man-manage and to create the best environment for players to flourish.
The former Australia fast bowler – who is expected to hold talks with Strauss after the latter confirmed that he is “one of the candidates” to replace Peter Moores – would surely want to make up his own mind on Pietersen and Cook.
Instead, Strauss has booted out Pietersen and bullet-proofed Cook – one of his friends, incidentally – before England have even announced the new coach.
Of course, it is perfectly possible that Gillespie might conclude for himself that Pietersen is more trouble than he is worth.
It is also possible that he might conclude that Cook – whose brand of cricket appears to be the antithesis of Gillespie’s attacking philosophy – is the right captain for the Test team.
It is also possible, of course, that Lord Lucan will turn up at Headingley next week riding Shergar while holding an envelope that contains the answer to the meaning of life. Possible, but not ruddy likely, you feel.
Gillespie, 40, is clearly ambitious. He reached the top as a player and, although every Yorkshireman would say that he has already reached the top in his current job (is there anything more exalted than Yorkshire cricket?), he wants to reach the top as a coach.
Even accounting for Strauss’s pre-conditions, which emphasise perfectly why England do not need a director of cricket as well as a coach, with the two likely to tread on each other’s toes, it would be difficult for Gillespie to turn the job down.
But unless there is a surprise U-turn, he would have to do that job on other people’s terms.