Flower would put problems to bed but England still need Pietersen

IT wasn't long after England had beaten us in the World Cup in 2007 that I got a phone call from one Kevin Pietersen. I had known Kevin down through the years. I was on the South African scene when he was on his way up, always had a very good relationship with him and obviously knew what a great player he was.

He had always struck me as a class guy but this took it to another level. I took the call and he offered to brief me and the team about our upcoming opposition right off his own bat.

Naturally I was very surprised but when the number one batsman in the world offers help, as a coach you jump at it. He was of huge value to us. During that talk you could understand why he is the player he is because he knows the opposition bowlers so well. He was simply brilliant in his analysis. We were all stunned as to the length he goes to to study the opposition. We learned a lot and it was easy to see why England would make him captain. (Pietersen's talk helped Ireland to a famous win over Bangladesh in the Super 8 phase of the 2007 World Cup.)

Then this week happens and English cricket now finds itself in a horrible position, and I was obviously surprised at what happened. It gets more and more difficult to manage egos in a dressing room as you go up the ladder and all this being in the spotlight is very difficult and they would not have wanted this fallout to be so public but that's the nature of the beast they have created.

It all goes back to the relationship between the coach and the captain. Ultimately cricket is one of the few sports that leaves the captain in charge once the team is on the field so you can't have a submissive captain; you have to have a guy that's a leader. And that dynamic means there has to be a very strong bond between a coach and his captain.

I don't think there is a set model for the balance of power throughout the world of cricket. It all comes back to the strength of the individuals' characters to decide who is ultimately in charge.

In the South African model, I would say Graeme Smith would be the driving force and he is supported by the coach Mickey Arthur. In other models the coach would be the driving force. And in England that balance of power has led to what we have seen in recent days. And it will be very damaging.

I know a little bit of Peter Moores and I think he is a very, very, valuable resource that England are losing. That is sad. Kevin Pietersen isn't an experienced captain so I don't know what they are losing there. But the key as regards him is damage limitation. They can ill afford to lose him as a batsman and I don't think they will.

But there is hope too. Andrew Strauss is the ideal guy to bring it all together. I know Andy Flower is in the backroom and I know his resolve and his character and I'm hoping that he becomes the next England coach as I'm sure he would be outstanding. If they went for him only good things would happen for England and this mess would be put to bed.

Adrian Birrell is the former Ireland cricket coach - Interview by Ewan MacKenna

This article first appeared in the Sunday Tribune and is reproduced by kind permission of the author.