The Loughborough power grab which has seen Paul Shaw assume sole responsibility for England team selection is far from unprecedented in the world of sport.
In football as we know, the manager invariably acts as a sporting dictator in on-field matters; and this arrangement generally works pretty well – the players know who is in charge… and so do the fans, the media and the board when the team’s performance doesn’t live up to expectations! Indeed it is this which provides a degree of accountability within the system – if England Rovers lose The Ashes Cup, the crowds chant, the press pillory… and the chairman loads the shotgun!
So whilst this may not be the way we’ve traditionally done things in cricket, preferring the more collegiate approach of a selection panel, the football-style “managerial” system now in place for England Women isn’t necessarily wrong.
However, it can only work if it is accompanied by the kind of checks and balances provided by the robust (if mostly informal) structures which are in place in football; and this is where things potentially start to get problematic.
Thus far, Paul Shaw seems to have largely avoided any degree of accountability. He managed to drift through the summer without anyone actually knowing he was in charge of selection; and the one time he sort-of-agreed to speak to the press after the defeat at Worcester, we were told this was only on the condition that we softballed him. (Such agreement was not collectively forthcoming; and it didn’t happen!)
And since The Ashes, mainstream media interest has waned to a whisper, with even the couple of ill-informed calls for resignations that we did hear focusing on the captain instead of the admiral.
Of course there is always the shotgun, which was used on Mark Lane a couple of years ago, but Clare Connor has a lot on her plate right now, with the Super League, contract renewals, World Cup planning… you name it – the last thing she wants is to have to spend valuable time looking for a new head coach against the wishes of her skipper!
In short, Paul Shaw is largely unanswerable in practice right now. Going forwards, this needs to change. Shaw needs to be made available to the press at the very least at the end of each series, and he must accept, if the team’s performance justifies it, that hard questions will be asked. Will he enjoy it? Of course not! But he has all the power now… along with it, he has to accept some accountability.