Chris Waters: Whitewash proves it is now time for Flower to move on

FOR me, the most telling words spoken in the wake of England’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash were uttered by Australia vice-captain Brad Haddin.

ON YOUR WAY: Andy Flower must pay the price for England's abject Ashes failure in Australia.

Reflecting on how Australia coach Darren Lehmann has transformed the side from zeroes to heroes, Haddin paid glowing tribute to the former Yorkshire batsman.

“I think what Darren and his staff have done is take the anxiety out of the changing room,” said Haddin.

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“They have got rid of all of the nervous energy.

“We’re playing the Australian brand of cricket and Darren and his staff can take a lot of credit for that.

“We’ve got back to having fun and enjoying our cricket.”

The key word there is “fun”.

Since Lehmann replaced Mickey Arthur 16 days before last summer’s Ashes, Australia have made a conscious effort to enjoy themselves – even while they were losing in England.

Out went Arthur’s notorious homework assignments and in came Lehmann’s “joke of the day”, told by a player or member of the support staff given 24 hours’ notice.

An oppressive regime was replaced by a more relaxed modus operandi, with players treated like adults and given the confidence to play an aggressive brand of attacking cricket.

At the heart of it all has been Lehmann’s man-management, the way he has got the best out of a good team – but by no means a great one.

Contrast that with England’s joyless, regimented approach, and you have a gulf as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.

The forensic preparation, including an 82-page cookbook, betokens an environment plagued by the paralysis of analysis, one which has forgotten that cricket is a simple game meant to be enjoyed.

It is an environment – as anyone who works in my industry could testify – which is arrogant to the core and often self-delusional, populated by mollycoddled men with misconceptions of greatness.

And it is one that has got its comeuppance Down Under in no uncertain terms.

The man in charge of that environment is team director Andy Flower, and although he possesses many qualities as a coach and as a person, he has the unmistakable air of a busted flush.

Flower briefly led England to No.1 in the world Test rankings and to the Twenty20 World Cup, but he rules by stick and is short on carrot, which you can tell by taking one look at his careworn team.

It is not the defeats per se but the haunted manner of them that suggest Flower is no longer the man for the job, and that a new coach would be a better foil for Alastair Cook, to whom there is no logical alternative at this stage as captain.

Yes, Australia’s bowling was exceptional, with Mitchell Johnson the standout difference between the sides, and Haddin a close second, but that cannot completely explain the way England have capitulated to one of the worst defeats in Test history.

Instead, the answer rests as much with the shackled nature of the England set-up under Flower as it does with the freed-up quality of Australia’s under Lehmann, and although Flower is by no means the only one at fault, his environment is no longer fit for purpose.

Back in 2009, when Flower took charge, it was a different situation.

Meticulous planning and organisational skills were needed following the mess left by former captain Kevin Pietersen and former coach Peter Moores, while the England team generally picked itself under new captain Andrew Strauss.

But Flower’s strength then is his weakness now, for as his methods have evolved and the Strauss era waned, the cracks have become cavernous and there is nothing to suggest he can lift the troops when the going gets tough, Lehmann-like, or bring through the next generation.

Indeed, England’s selections in the Ashes were worrying, for if Michael Carberry is a more viable opening batsman than Joe Root, and Scott Borthwick our best spin bowler, and Graham Onions not good enough full stop then, quite frankly, fresh ideas cannot come soon enough.

As coaches, Lehmann and Flower are polar opposites, and England need more of the former’s mentality.

There is no praise high enough for what Lehmann has achieved, for his work-hard, play-hard, have-a-few-beers approach has completely reinvigorated Australian cricket.

That is not to say he is all sweetness and light; far from it.

When he played for Yorkshire, Lehmann was invariably the one who would stand up and say something in the dressing room if something needed saying, and he gives freedom only on the understanding that players are accountable.

But at the core of his philosophy is fun and enjoyment, just as it is with his great friend Jason Gillespie at Yorkshire.

Espousing those same values, first team coach Gillespie has led Yorkshire to Championship promotion and to a runners-up finish in his first two seasons in charge, laying the foundation for future success. In fact, there are a number of similarities in the way that they speak, the way that they coach and go about the game.

England could do far worse than look to someone like Gillespie to turn them around, someone who can break the chains that so obviously bind them.

What Lehmann’s success shows, of course, is how quickly the picture can change.

It was only a few short months ago that Australia were thrashed 4-0 in India and derided as a laughing stock, convincing Cricket Australia to take the bold decision to appoint Lehmann in the first place.

Whether England will be so bold is doubtful.

David Collier, the England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive, has already backed Flower (the ECB would damn themselves by not giving him their full support), so one can only hope that Flower himself recognises that all good things must come to an end.