Cricket legend Ashley Giles on the return of the Aussies, wonderful Edgbaston and some unfinished business with England
Unfinished business is how Ashley Giles sums it up. His relationship with the England cricket team. The bowling legend who spent 14 years of his career at Edgbaston gives a sigh of frustration tinged with an edge of anger as he talks ahead of Birmingham welcoming the Aussies back to the city next month. It’s six years since an Ashes match was played at the ground, and 15 years since the most famous England-Australia game of them all took place there – when the home side won by just two runs! Ashley was part of the team (Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen et al) that made history that day, and his performances with the ball played a large part in claiming the Ashes in the series. Now he’s hoping for a repeat in the 2015 version of the most famous rivalry in sport. Hoping, but not expecting!
ONE OF THE GREATS
“Edgbaston is one of the great cricket grounds in this country and the world,” he said. “It deserves to have the Ashes played there, and the city, the county and the people are huge supporters of the game and always turn out in large numbers. It’s going to be a great occasion, let’s just hope that England are up to the task and the expectation. “Over recent years Edgbaston has been developed into a wonderful modern facility and I’m hoping that the return of the Ashes this year marks it down as a regular test venue once more. Much like Old Trafford.” Ashley mentions Old Trafford quite a bit these days as it’s where he plies his trade as head coach of Lancashire County Cricket Club. Having taken over the role last October, Ashley is settling into the job nicely with his new country making a strong start to the season. But despite his switch to the Red Rose, he’ll always be a Midlands lad. “Look, Edgbaston and Warwickshire is always in my heart,” he said. “I spent over half my life at Edgbaston, the whole of my playing career. So everything I achieved I will always be thankful for. But Lancashire has given me a great opportunity and one I am relishing.”
His roots remain firmly in the Midlands with his family living in Worcestershire and his children going to Bromsgrove School. Ashley is also a keen supporter of Birmingham-based Cure Leukaemia. As a patron he gives as much time as he can to help raise money for the charity which he first got to know during his benefit year at Warwickshire. “Gary Smith was the chairman of the charity at the time and also became the chairman of my benefit committee,” explained Ashley. “I really didn’t know an awful lot about Cure Leukaemia but made it one of my benefit charities. Ever since, I seem to have quite a few close friends who are also linked to the charity. Some are through the kids at Bromsgrove.” Ashley is good friends with ex-Wolves football legend Geoff Thomas who is a leading figure in the charity. “I met Professor Charlie Craddock who is an amazing man with a great love of sport and of cricket in particular. Often sportsmen are labeled as great, but what Charlie does is what I call truly great. He saves lives and has made Birmingham the new centre of medical excellence worldwide. And, he’s always got a smile on his face too.” Our interview with Ashley came soon after England disappointingly drew the test series against the West Indies in the Caribbean. That followed a disastrous World Cup campaign in Australia in the winter, with the team and management coming under huge criticism. “The series in the Caribbean is something we would expect to win,” said Ashley, who was part of the England one-day set-up as limited overs head coach until leaving amid confusion and acrimony in April 2014. He spent the following summer months as a match analyst for ESPN, playing in the Warwickshire Premier League for Nuneaton CC in return for a charitable donation and setting a world record by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to play in the highest game of cricket ever, also for charity.
“England seem to have gone to short-term solutions,” he said. “People don’t seem to be able to see what’s happening next week, let alone what’s going to be needed for the Ashes. “We need to build and have an eye on the future with the 2019 World Cup and another Ashes series coming here. That means blooding young players, but it has to be done carefully. You can’t just throw caps around at people. You need a structure that allows you to blend the new players with the experienced ones. A certain amount of change is essential but it has to be very carefully orchestrated.” And so to the ‘unfinished business’. Would Ashley see himself back in a coaching role with England? “I just can’t answer that,” he said. “The whole England situation is very unstable at the moment. Look, you can never say never, can you?”
ASH’S BIG YEAR In 2005
Ashley Giles swept all before him:
- He won the Ashes with England
- Hit the winning runs in the deciding match
- Was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year
- Became an MBE in the Queen’s Honours
- Was made an Honorary Citizen of Droitwich Spa