Paul Farbrace stepping down from his role as Sri Lanka coach to become England's assistant was never going to be the most exciting piece of job news on a day David Moyes was axed by Manchester United—but its implications could be fascinating.
Peter Moores has been given a second chance to coach the national team after his acrimonious exit over five years ago.
Captain Alastair Cook, backed to the hilt by the England Cricket Board after the disastrous Ashes campaign, continues on as leader.
Farbrace, for those seeking some change in the way things are done, is by some distance the most exciting appointment of the last few months.
He has coached within the England set-up, leading the women's team and Under-19s. He has led a county side in Kent having once been their wicket-keeper. And he has, most recently, led Sri Lanka to an unprecedented Asia Cup and World Twenty20 double.
In those short few months with Sri Lanka, he has achieved far more in international coaching than Moores has managed.
Paul Farbrace, in three months as Sri Lanka's coach: - Asia Cup winner - World T20 winner - One loss in 18 games Quit while you're ahead!— Alternative Cricket (@AltCricket) April 22, 2014
The Moores reign from 2007-09 was typified by trying to begin again, and the upheaval that came with it.
The Ashes-winning team of 2005 were gone or going. Marcus Trescothick's illness had all but ended his international career, captain Michael Vaughan struggled for form and eventually fell on his sword in 2008. Matthew Hoggard had the curtain brought down unceremoniously on his career, while Steve Harmison was a shadow of his former self.
Kevin Pietersen's reign as captain was flawed and ultimately broke up the team again, but retrospectively—and looking past the results and the acrimony—the seeds were sown for the side that briefly became the world's best in 2011.
On the field, Moores backed the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Matt Prior. Off of it, his backroom staff included the likes of Mushtaq Ahmed and Richard Halsall (spin and fielding coaches, respectively). And of course, the batting coach was Andy Flower—and we all know how that appointment turned out.
An eye for talent is not Moores' weakness.
What's fascinating, however, is just how similar the situation Moores finds himself in today as to the one he inherited in 2007.
Then, as now, a stoic and disciplined leader had taken the team as far as he could, before a 5-0 Ashes defeat signalled it was time to move on.
But with that defeat came a painful rebuild for Trescothick, read Jonathan Trott, whose battles to be mentally ready for cricket seem to cast doubt on his future. The old guard of Swann—perhaps Prior too—have gone.
And whether you believe Pietersen deserves a place in the team or not, the gap his run-scoring and his mere presence in a batting order leaves behind is hard to overstate. It could yet destabilise the summer and beyond.
It took 10 minutes for Pietersen issue to be raised at Moores' press conference. Downton handled it with aplomb, as did Moores.— Stephen Brenkley (@stephenbrenkley) April 19, 2014
The interesting point was the first KP question. Moores froze. That surprised me a little.— Dmitri Old (@DmitriOld) April 19, 2014
Moores must rebuild again—rebuild the team whose foundations he laid, but whose triumphs he missed. And with a five-Test home series against India and a winter of ODIs building up to a World Cup in Australia ahead, there are plenty of opportunities to slip and stumble into the Ashes of 2015.
Success or failure there is what Cook and Moores will be judged on.
For all his many qualities, Moores did not convince as a man with a blueprint on his unveiling last weekend.
As Scyld Berry of the Daily Telegraph put it:
And what was disturbing about the press conference yesterday was the lack of substance in the pronouncements by Moores and Cook. Yes, Moores said he wanted an exciting brand of cricket that will connect with England’s supporters. But, apart from exciting challenges and exciting times ahead, we were not offered a vision such as Clarke or Lehmann would have set forth on such a significant, image-shaping occasion.
The two fundamental questions about Cook and Moores are whether they understand what is required to beat Australia’s streetfighters; and secondly, if losing starts in earnest, do they have the capacity to stand back and come up with a solution other than hard work and more hard work?
Like Moyes at United, there's a part of us that wants it to work out for Moores—a nice guy, a hard-worker and a man getting his chance.
But there's a nagging sense England are not facing up to the real issues within their team starting with the captaincy and the environment, which could not cope with a talented rogue like Pietersen.
Fifteen months out, a scenario emerges: an Ashes defeat, which costs Cook his captaincy and Moores his job. Is that the moment history repeats itself and a coach familiar with the job after a spell working in the shadows—Farbrace—gets to finally shake up the team?