Andy Flower has been confirmed as England's new full-time team director of cricket after working on an interim basis during the recent tour of West Indies.
Flower, 40, stepped up from his assistant role in January, following the dismissal of the former head coach, Peter Moores. Though England's results were mixed during a turbulent 11-week tour, he impressed the selectors with his work ethic and formed a strong bond with the captain, Andrew Strauss, which was rewarded with a last-gasp victory in five-match ODI series that followed the Tests.
After taking over in such uncertain circumstances Flower admitted it took him a while to decide if he wanted to apply for the full-time post. "When I went on that West Indian tour I didn't know whether I wanted to apply for this job or not. Halfway through I had made up my mind that I did," he said. "I'm very honoured to be given the position. I believe the last three months will stand me in good stead."
Now that he has the top job Flower has the chance to stamp his identity on the team and is looking forward to being able to plan ahead. "I was interim coach for that tour, now that I'm in charge, so to speak, things change, definitely," he said.
Flower's salary is expected to be approximately 250,000, and his first major job will be to help select the squad for the first Test against West Indies, at Lord's, which begins on May 6. An enlarged squad is expected to be named at the weekend.
"There are some big decisions we have to make, it is a huge summer ahead of us," Flower said. "It's going to come up on us very quickly, some of our players are already away at the IPL, and the season starts today so there are big decisions to make and hard work to be done."
Having called upon the professional headhunting firm, Odgers Ray & Berndtson, to help pinpoint the ideal candidate for the role, the ECB were left - partly by design and partly by accident - with what Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, described as "a very short shortlist".
Morris said that 30 people had applied for the role although many high-profile targets pulled out at various stages. "We had a great deal of interest and were very happy at the level of candidates and we believe we have the right man for the job," Morris said. "Andy was a world-class cricketer and we believe he has the potential to become a world-class coach."
One high-profile figure, Western Australia's coach, Tom Moody, chose not to put his name forward, while another, Kent's coach Graham Ford, the former favourite for the role, withdrew from the nomination after criticising the long-drawn-out nature of the process.
Other names mentioned but since ruled out include the coaches of South Africa and India, Mickey Arthur and Gary Kirsten, while Warwickshire's director of cricket, Ashley Giles, was told he lacked sufficient experience, which left him frustrated. John Wright, the former India coach and now New Zealand's high performance manager, remained as the one genuine competitor but in reality the job always seemed to be Flower's since the end of the West Indies tour.
One factor in Flower's favour, in the short term at least, was the sheer volume of cricket faced by England's cricketers in the coming months. After a period of intense upheaval, encompassing the loss of three captains and a coach in the space of four months (and with a fourth captain in the pipeline for the World Twenty20), the time has come for some consolidation at the top, especially with the Ashes looming in early July.
It may have taken Flower until the final weeks of England's tour to register his first victory in the role, but on his watch the team has put a greater onus on personal fitness, which will prove invaluable given that most of the squad faces a non-stop 11-week schedule in the run-up to the Ashes, starting with the IPL in South Africa for several key members, including Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen.
Furthermore, Flower will also have to make a call on the readiness of the former captain, Michael Vaughan, for a return to the Test side. He quit the captaincy in August on account of a prolonged run of poor form, and he made just 12 for MCC against Durham in the season opener at Lord's last week, but Vaughan's reputation in Ashes cricket could well count in his favour, especially if doubts continue to linger about his competitors for the No.3 spot, Ian Bell and Owais Shah.