England cricket: the fightback starts here?

After a disastrous World Cup the ECB has fired its managing director – and Michael Vaughan has offered his services

(Image credit: Getty)

Just hours after Wisden accused England cricket chiefs of being out of touch with their supporters, Paul Downton has been sacked as managing director the England Cricket Board.

Downton, 58, was fired from the top job in English cricket 14 months after his elevation. For many fans the only surprise at the announcement, made public on Wednesday evening, was that it had taken so long to come.

On his watch, England have lurched from one disaster: an Ashes whitewash Down Under in 2013/14, the decision to sack Kevin Pietersen, the confusion about Alastair Cook's captaincy and finally the humiliating World Cup debacle in which the English failed to make it out of the group stage after defeats to New Zealand and Bangladesh.

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The 14 months of mayhem were neatly summed up in the 152nd edition of Wisden, the sport's bible. "In 2014 English cricket repeatedly lost touch – not just with things it wished had never happened, but with the basic idea that the national team belongs to us all," wrote editor Lawrence Booth. "The power brokers indulged in mutual backslapping... It was a nexus of self-preservation."

Now the backslapping has turned to backstabbing with Downton sacrificed and rumours that national selector James Whittaker is next. According to the Daily Telegraph, Whittaker could be axed today "because of a lack of international cricket experience and a bungled radio interview about the selection policy over Kevin Pietersen".

In announcing Downtown's departure, ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison said: "Paul is a man of great integrity who has worked extremely hard to make a difference at the ECB.

"He joined at a very difficult time, but under his leadership the Test team have made significant strides. We thank him for his hard work, drive and determination and wish him every success for the future."

Harrison added that there would now be a restructuring in which the role of managing director role will be removed from the ECB structure, replaced by a 'director of England cricket'.

"The new role we are putting in place will deliver an environment where world-class performance is at the heart of everything we do," explained Harrison. "The touring team in the West Indies are aware of the changes. The process for appointing the new role, with sole responsibility for the England set-up, will begin immediately."

Though head coach Peter Moores attracted a lot of criticism after England's embarrassing World Cup campaign, the Telegraph predicts he will remain in his post because he "he retains strong support within the England team".

England are about to play the West Indies in a three-match Test series before returning home to prepare for the daunting challenges of facing first New Zealand and then Australia.

So time is of the essence for the ECB in appointing someone who can cleanse an organisation that, in the words of former England captain turned Times cricket correspondent Michael Atherton, has become a "toxic brand".

One name already in the frame is Michael Vaughan. Now a highly-regarded media commentator, Vaughan led England to Ashes glory a decade ago and on hearing the news of Downton's fate told Sky Sports: "It was inevitable that there would be change but it won't just get England playing like Australia on its own. There are deeper-rooted problems. There needs to be a collective desire for change, a cultural change.

"In Test cricket we're alright. The team could improve a bit but it's the World Cup which is the reason that Downton has lost his job. We need to catch up and the other teams will take some catching."

When it was suggested he might be the man to lead English cricket into a bright new era, Vaughan replied: "I'm always open to chats about the future of English cricket. They've got my phone number."

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