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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Insider's Book
Cricket has recently been blessed with former players such as Michael Vaughan, Mike Selvey, Simon Hughes and Michael Atherton who have managed to translate their real knowledge of the game and their pungent views into insightful writing and their numbers have certainly been joined by Steve James.

Previous author of a non-ghosted and authoritative gem of an...
Published 22 months ago by G. Waterman

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and a good read but where is the plan?
With a title of 'The Plan' how Fletcher and Flower transformed English cricket was I nave in thinking that there would be a single plan executed by them both?

Steve James has played first class cricket for Glamorgan & England and is friendly with both Fletcher and Flower and various people in the ECB hierarchy so has therefore a lot of insight into the current...
Published 7 months ago by Tim Addison


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars English cricket history at its very best., 12 Aug 2012
By 
Bobby Smith (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
This was a really good read for the cricket junkie, written by the ever consistent pen of Steve James - the ex-Glamorgan opener and owner of two test caps.
The book starts from the low point of English cricket - a series defeat by New Zealand in the late 1990s - that saw England plummet to the bottom of the rankings system - not including Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. It then charts the gradual development of the team as it slowly improved via the astute coaching of first Duncan Fletcher and then Andy Flower - a couple who share the distinction of being proud Zimbabweans. Given that James also wrote Fletcher's autobiography he has a plethora of good quotes direct from the horse's mouth, as it were. He also interviewed many of the integral people behind the rise of English cricket - Hugh Morris, Ashley Giles and Peter Moores, for example, to give the book a balanced feel.
What emerges is a respect for the hard work that the coaches and players put in. They really did have a long-term plan for the growth of English cricket and it was interesting seeing the layers of success added one by one. Fletcher, despite the damaging final year of his regime, really was the catalyst, alongside Nasser Hussain, for the turn-around in fortunes, with his subtle man-management and tactical brain the missing key. It was fascinating seeing how the `critical mass' of a team structure is formed, as Fletcher recounts how a cricket team needs eight or so good, steady professionals, to allow for a couple of mavericks in a team - in this case Flintoff and Harmison. This, I guess, goes some way to explaining how lesser talented members of the 2005 team - Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles - played their part in our regaining the Ashes. In actual fact, contrary to his public image, Flintoff comes out of the book with his character questioned. He certainly seemed swayed by the allure of the celebrity culture - as his well-documented drinking stopped both himself and the team from building on success, post 2005. One can almost feel the steam coming out of Fletcher's ears as the disastrous 2006/07 Ashes series is played out once more - the `critical mass' notion being destroyed by the mavericks exceeding the steady eddies of the team - lured in by Freddie's playful approach to sport and life in general.
That said, the book is very fair to Flintoff and points out his sterling on the field performance as well as his off the field shenanigans.
In between the two Zimbabweans we had the short Peter Moores period of head coach and this time is very well covered. The press at the time were full of clashes of ego between coach Moores and the new captain of England - the divisive Kevin Pietersen - a footballer trapped in a cricketer's body. Pietersen comes over like a man who is used to having things done his way - even down to him choosing the coach for the team. Quite obviously, Moores was not his desired choice. His having this viewpoint undoubtedly made the relationship between the two of them neigh on impossible - as proved by their eventual sacking.
However, in many ways, this speeded up the development of the team, as the determined Flower was then appointed head coach. Under Flower the team made better use of statistics and their fitness improved. This caused problems for the likes of Flintoff and you can clearly see from the book that Flintoff was becoming a stranger in the team, with the `critical mass' balance reaching ten in a team of eleven. Although sad at the time, Flintoffs problems with injuries and his eventual retirement, made the transition to `total cricket' easier for Flower. Certainly the current England team are almost robotic in their quest to be number one in the world - with the only splash of charisma being the quirky Graeme Swann.
Flower's determination and moral backbone really shines through in this book and he emerges as a very strong character - best proved by his black armband show of defiance to the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe (alongside Henry Olonga, another man of integrity.) The book delves into Flowers background and shows how a hard life on the family farm prepared him for the strain and stresses of international cricket management. He really comes over as a man of iron and one not to be crossed, a character trait shared by Fletcher, especially when he dealt with the press.
All in all I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those interested in the dynamics of team sport and of our summer game.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Insider's Book, 10 Jun 2012
Cricket has recently been blessed with former players such as Michael Vaughan, Mike Selvey, Simon Hughes and Michael Atherton who have managed to translate their real knowledge of the game and their pungent views into insightful writing and their numbers have certainly been joined by Steve James.

Previous author of a non-ghosted and authoritative gem of an autobiography the former Glamorgan and England opener has used his deep inside knowledge and close working relationships with current and former England coaches Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower to produce a thoroughly researched analysis of their reigns as the guiding lights of the England test team.

James provides a witty, clear and concise analysis peppered with anecdotes and inside stories that provides an in-depth outline of the fortunes of the England team over the past decade and more importantly, James provides the reasons for the turn around and sustained levels of success over the past few seasons.

As a former player who reached international level, James is ideally placed to understand the stress of playing at the top level and also provide technical analyses and explain why some players have made it at test level and others have fallen short

If you want to read one book about the rise in fortunes of English cricket then this is the book to choose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars cricket lovely cricket, 21 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
Well, for starters, who am I to challenge the very complementary review of this book by the distinguished writer, Gideon Haigh, in the current issue of " The Cricketer"? This is indeed an always interesting, and at times facinating review of the upper echelons of English cricket over the past 10 years or so. In particular, although both men seem very private individuals you do conclude the book with, at least, the feeling you know Messrs. Fletcher and Flower a little better. There ae also some interesting pages upon the demise of Messrs.Moores and Pietersen as coach and captain respectively.
Whilst acknowledging that I am a founder member of the "born again Pessimists brigade" I do harbour some doubts upon whether this team is quite as good as some members of the media would have us believe.Am I alone in wondering whether,next year, after the conclusion of series against South Africa/India/Australia our present somewhat precarious lead among Test nations will be a fond memory?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heavyweight analysis, readable style, 3 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
I was really impressed by this book. It's never easy to make sense of contemporary history, but Steve James does a really good job taking readers through the last fifteen years in English Test cricket while at the same time standing back and analysing the management regimes of Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower. There are some books that can be described as the "first draft of history" and I think this is one of them.

It is essentially a book about what went on behind the scenes. The strategic, tactical and man management approaches of the two coaches, the similarities and differences in their backgrounds in Zimbabwe and how these influenced their coaching, the relationships between the two coaches and their various captains, the evolution of English cricket administration since the 1990s, new approaches to player development and performance analysis, and so on. As such it is full of detail I'd never come across before despite following Test cricket fairly closely.

Steve James is particularly well equipped to write this book as he knows the two England coaches better than most. Fletcher was his county coach at Glamorgan, while as a young pro he spent several winters in Zimbabwe playing cricket alongside Flower. I've heard it said that these relationships make him insufficiently critical of Fletcher or Flower, but while the book is certainly "pro" both men it is a very nuanced account and I didn't find this an obvious problem. Highly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and a good read but where is the plan?, 22 Aug 2013
By 
Tim Addison (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
With a title of 'The Plan' how Fletcher and Flower transformed English cricket was I nave in thinking that there would be a single plan executed by them both?

Steve James has played first class cricket for Glamorgan & England and is friendly with both Fletcher and Flower and various people in the ECB hierarchy so has therefore a lot of insight into the current England setup.

The book charts the rise of the England team from the nadir of 1999 vs New Zealand through to the Ashes triumph in Australia and their rise as the number 1 ranked test team. So the recent test series against South Africa(home) and India(away) are not in here.

What emerges is not a single plan but a number of things which came together to help England's rise. Getting pummelled by the Aussies for 16 years certainly helped to focus English minds and bring county cricket out of its sleeping lethargy. Lord Mclaurin takes credit here for galvanising the counties into a two division league system, with central contracts for key players. County cricket has become more competitive and key players are now turning up fit and ready to play in a test match. Just think how many games/series we might have won if this had happened 30 years before.

The setup of the centre of excellence at Loughborough, the England Lions, the Elite development programme etc are also key building blocks but again implemented by the ECB not Fletcher and Flower.

That is to take nothing away from Fletcher and Flower who are both great coaches who have certainly helped to develop England into a better team. The book provides insight into both characters, showing their similarities and differences their upbringing in Zimbabwe to their methods and approach. There is also some good information on the brief Moore's era in-between the two.

I have respect for both of these fine coaches and after reading this book I have even more admiration for them. they have both introduced a team ethic and mental toughness combined with winning edge that was lacking in the England team before their arrival.

As I write this after day 1 of the 5th Ashes test at the Oval, England 3 - 0 up in the series but debutants Kerrigan and Woakes getting a pummelling from Shane Watson it will be interesting to see how Flower handles this situation and plans the upcoming tour to Australia which I think is going to be far from straightforward.

Update... It's now 6 months on from when I originally wrote this review... I'm listening to Day 2 of the 5th Ashes Test in Sydney 4/1/2014 on TMS and now my original comments seem even more poignant. If there is/was a plan it seems to be in shatters as we head for another 5 -0 whitewash. I remember back in 2007 after our last Ashes pummelling there was a review by the ECB and we were told this wouldn't happen again! We need more than plan, actions too!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Plan, 30 July 2013
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P. Spencer - See all my reviews
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Well worth a read from an informed,articulate, cricket writer who knows the game. Excellent. Best cricket book I have read in 2013-the mighty Gideon not withstanding.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Cricket Team Transformed, 30 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
These two took a demorolised and fragmented team and transformed a number of disparate individuals into a coherent whole.Their methods couls well be used by any sports team.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read, 25 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
This an engaging book on the England cricket team's transformation in the last dozen years. Steve James personally knows the principal players involved in the startling improvement in the team's fortunes and has used this knowledge well. Sometimes, however, I felt more objectivity would not go amiss. Are there lessons to be learnt about how to deal with the extrovert "superstars"such as Flintoff, Gough and Pieterson or do you have to be polite and " public school" to fit in. This is perhaps something for another book.

This is not a definitive history of this period but will be a vital source for the eventual historian.

I would have welcomed James views on some of the things that did not go well, the players who did not succeed, apart from the Moores interlude, and perhaps some insight into what will happen next. (I suppose I should get the Sunday Telegraph for that.) On the other hand I learnt some things which whilst not directly relevant were interesting.

Engaging though it is , the book could have done with some proof reading and occasional editing. A chronology of events and perhaps a key to the initials used would have been helpful. There is , however, a good index. I would have also liked some photographs. Nonetheless recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful account of English (and Welsh) cricket's rise, 17 Feb 2013
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
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Steve James has made a very smooth transition from Glamorgan's opener to one of cricket's sharpest writers. He manages to combine penetrating analysis of the game with a light-hearted and often self-deprecating touch. Here, he deals with England's transformation from the lowest-ranked test team in 1999 to the highest a little over a decade later. He does this through a thorough examination of the contribution of England's two Zimbabwean coaches of this period, Duncan Fletcher, James' sometime coach at Glamorgan, and Andy Flower, a friend of many years from James' time playing in Zimbabwe during the British off-season. Through speaking to players, officials, coaches and journalists, he presents a detailed picture of these two men and their achievements. His analysis of other key individuals, including all the captains of this period, is highly informative. The contrasts between Fletcher and Flower are revealing, and James is able to link this convincingly to the way in which the team has developed in recent years. Highly recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A UNIQUE INSIGHT, 22 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket (Hardcover)
Steve James is probably the best qualified to write this book and his involvement with both Fletcher and Flower as well as having played in county and internaional cricket is obvious throughout.He gives us a thorough run down of the progress made by England during the Fletcher and Flower regimes as well as an insight, with some authority, into the Moores era. I found it difficult to put down and is easily one of the best written and articulate of cricket books in recent years. Roger Skyrme
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The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket
The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket by Steve James (Hardcover - 24 May 2012)
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