IT’S all over for Andy Flower, the England cricket coach who has paid the highest price for an Australian annihilation.

The man who helped to guide England to the number one spot in the world and three successive Ashes series triumphs has been cast out after a winter of sheer discontent.

England suffered jarring defeats in all three forms of the game on an ill-fated tour of Oz, capped by the meek concession of the urn. I bet even if England’s flannelled flops had taken on the green and gold baggycapped brigade at ‘tip and run’ they’d have lost.

Ever since the Ashes were so mildly yielded there were calls for heads to roll. It was inevitable there would be casualties, though Flower’s name did not appear to be at the top of the list and certainly not the first neck on which the axe would fall.

Flower, a former pugnacious batsman with Zimbabwe, indeed came out fighting once ownership of the little urn had been overturned.

Less than three weeks ago Flower, above, reaffirmed his “passion” for English cricket and his determination to be at the forefront of inspiring a renaissance. He declared: “Out of adversity some good must come and a renewal of sorts will be good for English cricket.

“This will be the start of something new.”

I suspect the coach did not know how prescient he would be as a fresh era will not include him now that the news has been leaked of his departure.

The curious nature of Flower’s dismissal is that, unlike football where so often when a manager carries the can culpable players remain untouched, the coach’s sacking will likely be the first of others to follow on.

Test and One-Day International captain Alastair Cook will be an obvious candidate to face the chop, if not fall on his bat.

While initially his advance to skipper did little to alter his standing, his form out in the middle has clearly been dismantled by the onerous burden of captaincy. Cook has been a pale imitation of the opener who had rival attacks trembling.

While Cook could lose the leadership his talent as a front-line batsman should ensure he will again rewrite scoring records for the national team, but as a revolution begins to gather pace some of his current team-mates may not be so fortunate.

Spinner Graeme Swann obviously heeded the signs of a waning power when he quit midway through the ill-starred Ashes campaign. He is of an age when the demands of the Test arena might be counter-productive and that may count against even the likes of Matt Prior, Ian Bell and Jimmy Anderson.

There is a need for a new breed, but the difference now from, say ten years ago, is that few players are truly blooded in county cricket.

If they do show promise they are almost instantly rewarded with a central contract pinning them to the national team without necessarily garnering gritty and gutsy match practice out at County Championship outposts.

As Flower falls victim to brickbats where once there were bouquets, lingering in the background is the shadow cast by another England stalwart, Kevin Pietersen. Never a fully-fledged ally of Flower, the question now is whether Pietersen’s grip on a key place in the batting order firms up or is relaxed.

Call the cab may be the cry – it just remains to be seen how many passengers it will drive away.


Sochi lot to lose – and gain

NEXT week the Winter Olympics start in the Russian city of Sochi amid all manner of security and shenanigans prompted by the host nation’s scandalous anti-homosexual laws much touted by he-man leader Vladimir Putin.

Given that a boycott of the Games in protest at Russia’s stance will not go ahead, even if such action would be entirely justified, British hopes of medal success are quite buoyant.

But I still maintain the odds are loaded against us simply because there are few events that these isles can truly replicate.

Now if only there were medals for staring forlornly at railway station notice-boards and airport departure times; or queuing for jaded January sales; or sliding down hills on a variety of tea-trays.

Hang on a minute, that last activity is in the Olympics – it’s the luge. Good luck GB.