London: Acting England cricket team coach Andy Flower may be the frontrunner for the post of full-time coach or team director, but rumour mills are agog with news that Indian crcket team coach Gary Kirsten is also in the race for the coveted assignment.
While The Telegraph reports that Flower is expected to continue his partnership with captain Andrew Strauss into the summer, the Daily Express says that Kirsten has emerged as a strong possible challenger.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said that it will begin the interview process as soon as the England team arrives home next week, with an appointment set to be announced before the West Indies tour starts at Lord"s on May 6.
ECB Managing Director Hugh Morris has said that face-to-face interviews with all the candidates on the shortlist would take place soon after England return home on Sunday.
According to The Telegraph, Morris will then chair a panel of experts which he declined to name – although the process, he promised, would be "robust and transparent" – and forward their recommendation for the England and Wales Cricket Board to appoint, before the first Test against West Indies at Lord''s on May 6.
It would cost a minimum of a million pounds to pay off two or three members of England''s backroom staff and bring in replacements which a new coach would want.
So long as Flower does not want to change more than the odd person upon being appointed the permanent coach, he would be the cheapest option in these straitened times.
Flower, moreover, is already working "hand-in-hand" with England''s captain Andrew Strauss, as they speak of each other in public with unfeigned respect. And even if he is coming to the end of only his second year in coaching, Flower also has a clear vision of where English cricket is after playing for Essex until 2007. That gives him a head''s start over the other candidates.
Apart from Kirsten, the others include New Zealander John Wright, who played for Derbyshire in the 1980s and coached India from 2000-05, South African coach Micky Arthur who never played Test or county cricket.
Kirsten is understood to have shown discreet interest in the post when contacted and has excellent credentials.
Kirsten has achieved much with India since taking over a difficult job in December 2007. He is a firm believer in the development of mental strength, has a good reputation in bringing on young talent and a good track record in limited overs formats.
“The successful candidate has to show where they want to take England cricket, where cricket is going to go in years to come, and how England cannot just catch up with some of the top teams at the moment, but overtake them," the Daily Express quoted Morris, as saying.