I don’t have Will’s nerdy eloquence, Jay’s tact, or Neil’s moves on the dance floor (neither am I eighteen for that matter), but I certainly feel like an inbetweener right now.
Everyone’s been going hell for leather on Maxie’s Sticks and Stones article, but I’m a little bored of Kevin Pietersen to be honest. I neither love the bloke nor loath him.
I’m stuck in the middle and I don’t really have an opinion. I can see both sides of the argument. Pietersen was no angel, but his dismissal was handled terribly.
One thing I’m certain of, however, is that this issue isn’t going away in a hurry. I tried to get a discussion going about former England cricketers on Tuesday, but it attracted a fraction of the comments that Maxie’s article received. I think that says it all. Pietersen is still the burning issue.
As for KP’s impending book – the story of the century, the tale that waited six months to be told – I’m pretty ambivalent about it. I’m sure there will be a few interesting nuggets, but my concerns about English cricket have little to do with the former KwaZulu Natal, Notts, Hants and England batsman.
For me Kevin Pietersen is history; he was dropped very clumsily (by a very clumsy cricket board) but that was seven tests ago. The World Cup is on the horizon, and one-day cricket is about to take centre stage, but KP last played an ODI over a year ago. That’s ancient history.
I’m worried that all the Pietersen sniping will obscure the greater problems with English cricket. You could say that KP’s sacking was a symptom not a cause, but there were plenty of other symptoms to dwell on way before the disastrous Ashes whitewash.
The first warning sign for me was the Allen Stanford debacle, which showed the ECB was arrogant as well as clumsy; they couldn’t bear the fact that India and the IPL held so much power in my humble opinion.
Giles Clarke’s attempt to create another powerhouse IPL tournament, and keep England’s best players firmly within the ECB’s orbit, smacked of incompetence and carelessness. It wasn’t behaviour befitting a modern, dynamic organisation. At that point, I sensed English cricket was in trouble.
The next thing that concerned me was the rapid rise of Ashley Giles, who I always considered to be the nicest, but least inspirational, former member of the triumphant 2005 team.
My views might be somewhat harsh, as they were mostly formed during Giles’ ill-fated stint as a summariser on Sky (in which he said absolutely nothing remotely insightful) but I simply couldn’t understand why someone with so little interesting to say was rising through the ranks so fast.
I think we all sense why Gilo went from player to selector to ODI coach so quickly: he knew how to play the ECB’s political game. He kept his head down, impressed the right people, said all the right things and did his best to become part of the in-crowd.
Giles was so good at this that the ECB made him a selector despite the fact he was head of cricket at Warwickshire. The conflict of interest was obvious and painful.
When Geoff Miller stood down as chairman of selectors last year he admitted this conflict of interest caused problems and advised the ECB never to do it again. The ECB’s bizarre response was to appoint two more selectors who were employed full time by counties.
We can only conclude that experience and logic means nothing. If you’re a good old chap and a team player, you’re in.
The promotion of Andy Flower, who had done such a good job for England but left the team in desperate need of new ideas, was another warning sign. The move made no sense whatsoever.
However, all this paled into insignificance when Peter Moores, who always came across as a bit of a weird eccentric to me, was inexplicably reappointed as England coach earlier this year.
I often wonder what planet Downton, Collier and Worcestershire’s worst player from the 1980s, Gordon Lord, were inhabiting when they made this inexplicable and boneheaded decision:
“Let’s all reappoint a coach who failed in the job last time”. Err why? “Because he’s learnt at lot since we last sacked him”. Maybe the three stooges think Norman Lamont should be chancellor again. “Everyone deserves a second chance old chap” … unless you’re Nick Compton or Michael Carberry of course.
I simply do not understand how, when a team needs a fresh approach, the ECB thought it was a good idea to sack Moores, appoint his assistant, and then appoint Moores again a few years later. These two people have been coaching England for almost a decade now. Change is desperately needed.
And finally we come to Alastair Cook. If anything reveals the true priorities of the ECB, their outlook and inherent prejudices, it’s the pig headed and utterly blinkered support they’ve given England’s most ineffectual captain, and possibly most overrated batsman (he averages no more than the frequently maligned Trott and Bell), in living memory.
I know we’ve all trotted out this quote on many occasion (so forgive me for using it one more time), but nothing, absolutely nothing, encapsulates the sheer ignorance and aloofness of the ECB than Giles Clarke’s infamous remark about Cook coming from the right sort of family. Only in the peculiar, insular world of the ECB does someone’s background justify their rather tenuous position as England skipper.
I wonder how many people, when they see Cook and Moores together, think ‘best men for the job’? What I see is two people who owe their positions to prejudice, intransigence and a total failure of imagination.
The ECB’s mantra is always better the devil you know. They prefer men who won’t speak out of place to men who speak inspirational words. Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke will eat them for breakfast.
So this is why I’m down in the dumps. The England cricket team is stuck with a captain that makes me cringe, a coach I find irritating, and a board I’d like to shoot at the first opportunity. It’s a triple whammy if ever there was one.
And it’s got nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with Kevin Pietersen.