State of the Nation - Chris Waters: Giles is in pole position to welcome a bright new dawn

What next for England?

What next for England?

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THE New Year will mark a brand new dawn for English cricket with key changes to the structural hierarchy of the national team.

Paul Downton, the former Middlesex and England wicketkeeper, is to succeed Hugh Morris as England and Wales Cricket Board managing director.

And James Whitaker, the former Leicestershire and England batsman, will succeed Geoff Miller as chairman of selectors and national selector.

Both will take on if not quite a poisoned chalice then certainly a challenging one as England look to create a bright new era following the darkness of Ashes defeat.

Whether Andy Flower, the England team director, is part of that era remains to be seen.

The former Zimbabwe batsman, the most successful coach in England’s history, has refused to be drawn on his long-term future.

After England lost the Ashes in Perth, Flower said he was looking no further than the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

It raises the possibility that he could be on his way at the end of the series and that a new head honcho will have to be found.

If that is the case – and much could depend on how England perform in the last two Tests – then Ashley Giles is in pole position.

The England one-day coach, who was appointed when Flower relinquished control of the limited overs side to spend more time with his family, is widely seen as the natural successor.

Ideally, the governing body would want to wait until after the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in early 2015 and the Ashes in England later that summer before parting company with Flower, who, despite the difficulties of recent weeks, has done a splendid job over the years.

That is seen as the natural point when he and senior players such as Kevin Pietersen might call it a day, effectively drawing a line in the sand.

But the ECB’s hand would be forced if Flower wanted out, and they would need to decide whether to continue with the two-coach system or to persevere with the status quo.

At 40, Giles might feel that he is young enough – and fresh enough – to take sole charge.

The former left-arm spin bowler did a good job at Warwickshire, leading them to County Championship glory in 2012.

He would also have a more relaxed style than Flower, albeit the same steely under-belly.

Test cricket will remain England’s priority going forward, and with the current Ashes series having been brought forward a year to avoid a clash with the 2015 World Cup, England will play only seven Tests in 2014.

They play a two-Test series against Sri Lanka, with the second of those games at Headingley from June 20-24, followed by a five-Test series against India.

The 2014-15 winter is focused solely on one-day cricket in the build-up to the World Cup, giving any new coach time to rebuild the squad.

A brand new dawn, therefore, for English cricket, but whether it leads to a golden sunrise is anyone’s guess.

chris.waters@ypn.co.uk

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