Let me pick up on a news-line from the Ashes aftermath which has generally gone under the radar. Forgive me if the guys at Being Outside Cricket have already sunk their teeth into it.

I’ve recently written quite extensively on the subject of vindication. There are three key threads in the narrative.

One is the backlash aimed at the public by the establishment: the sense that the great unwashed now deserve their comeuppance. We were wrong, we were wrong to question their judgement, and now we must pay the price.

The second is the notion the Ashes victory justifies everything everything which went before, absolves everyone of blame, and leaves those responsible heavily in credit.

The third is that England’s triumph is heavily attributable to the administrators, rather than the players who actually did the business on the field.

Our posts have generated a fascinating and thoughtful debate on our comments boards, and we thank you all for your contributions. Some of you make similar points. Others are sceptical. Isn’t this just paranoia, you often ask. Why can’t we all simply move on?

Here’s a striking example of why the vindication-meme is all too real. It also demonstrates exactly why we struggle to move on: the establishment themselves will not, at least until they’ve had their pound of flesh.

Speaking to Radio Five Live shortly after England won at Trent Bridge, Angus Fraser, an England selector, said:
What has been said or written about Cook, Strauss and Whitaker has been harsh and personal. There’s a bit of anger.

But there is also huge satisfaction. I’m delighted for Cook and Strauss, who took a lot of stick for the decisions he made.

Jimmy [Whitaker, as chair of selectors] is the one at the front so he gets named-checked all the time. Quite rightly you are under inspection, because you are there to do a job properly. But when people are making judgements on your character, knowledge and whether you are in touch with the game, you sit there and seethe.

Sometimes success brings more relief than joy, or satisfaction from proving people wrong.

So there you have it. The overriding emotion of the England selectors is…anger. Anger directed at the public. Anger at those who dared criticise the conduct or character of the people who run English cricket. Anger at anyone with the temerity to question their judgement and decision-making. Anger at England supporters who irreverently expressed their frustration at a year of defeat and decay. Anger towards people who should have shown greater deference.
Fraser’s remarks softly echo the notorious ‘outside cricket’ press release. In both cases, in the face of legitimate criticism, the ECB responded not with sympathy or recognition, but in scolding terms of rebuke, self-pity, and retaliation.
All along we should have been feeling sorry for those poor old selectors and administrators.
By Fraser’s logic, fans were wrong to complain when England lost to Holland and crashed out of the World T20. Supporters were speaking out of turn when they blamed the selectors for the test series defeat by Sri Lanka or the struggles against India. And when England were humiliated at the World Cup, and failed to beat either West Indies or New Zealand, it was bang out of order to pin any of this on the people in charge.
While England lurched from one disaster to another, the selectors called up Sam Robson, who wasn’t good enough; Chris Jordan, who wasn’t good enough; Gary Ballance, who wasn’t good enough for long enough; and Jonathan Trott, who was no longer good enough. They continued to pick Matt Prior when the only suitable arena for him was an operating table, not a cricket field. They lacked the nerve to try Adil Rashid in the Caribbean. Of the eleven selected for the Lord’s test against Sri Lanka last year, only five survived to take the field at Trent Bridge two weeks ago.
In 50 over cricket, the selection panel got every major decision wrong. Alastair Cook was persisted with when all cricketing common sense screamed otherwise. Alex Hales was overlooked until it was too late and then messed about with. Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara were hokey-cokeyed and mis-cast. They couldn’t decide whether James Taylor was good enough or where he should bat. The bowling “attack” was homogenous and sterile.
And after all this, says Fraser, how did we dare question whether James Whitaker, who played one test match, and Mick Newell, who played none, were in “touch with the game” or had enough “knowledge”. When despairing supporters vented their dismay, Fraser “sat there and seethed”.
What impudence it was to doubt whether Whitaker had a firm grip on events, even when his phone went off during TV interviews, he seemed unable to answer simple questions, or remember whether or not he’d spoken to Colin Graves.

It was Whitaker, during the Pietersen affair, who stamped his authority on proceedings with such reassuringly unambiguous public utterances as:

Unfortunately I’m not in a position to reiterate what reasons there have been. What I can say is that there’s a group of players there looking forward to re-energising this team, going forward with different values, re-evaluating the culture of the team. There are issues but at this stage I am not at liberty to suggest in what areas the situation has altered from the beginning of the winter.”

It is tricky to say. Only that people who are negotiating will know that but all I’m very optimistic about doing … is to reinvigorate and reignite the passion going forward to play for England and win back the country because I feel that some of that enthusiasm from cricket followers has diminished during the winter.

If the ECB and their hench-men really wish to move on, why is Fraser’s leading emotion the “satisfaction [of] proving people wrong”? Why is he delighted not for England supporters and the nation, but for himself and his colleagues – at the vindication of their decisions, and the avenging of the “stick’ Andrew Strauss received for re-sacking someone without proper explanation, the day after he scored a triple century?

English cricket’s mandarins portray themselves as the victims of the piece, because in their mind, the narrative is neither about the team, nor the cricketing public, nor the game itself, but their own selves. Cricket exists solely for their personal fulfilment and gratification.

That Angus Fraser has fallen into this self-regarding trap is a source of sorrow. I’ve always had huge affection for him – as the unsung hero of Barbados 1994, as a fine if unlucky England servant, as a Middlesex legend, and as a wise, wry, and generous, observer of the game. I usually really like Angus Fraser. But as David Banner might have said, I don’t like him when he’s angry.