It’s Tough Being an Inbetweener


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.

James Morgan 


  • Good piece James. The only quibble I have is my opinion that “outside cricket” was far far more damaging than Cook having the “right sort of family”. Though both equally encapsulate the ECB attitude. They are the establishment, the 57 old farts, the old boy network. England more and more seem to gave been successful despite the ECB and not because of them, and that is bearing in mind the efforts made on central contracts to devlop players, keep them fresh, and ensure the logistics & coaching to support them are tip-top.

    This time a year ago. I was champing at the bit for the Ashes, I felt England had finally moved their thinking on, and was looking forward to a back-to-back urn demolition. I agreed with the thinking to seperate down under tours & the World Cup. Its still correct, and was hardly the first back-to-back Ashes. More and more, hondsight shows Giles Clarke & ECB management for the fools they are. The NZ tour was the last of several wake up calls we had in the preceding 2 years, over-ridden by the snooze-button win in India 2012. It was the ECBs job to see that England evolved from the potentially dominant legacy that the team of 2009 set up. And we threw it away through negligence, and for no good reason. The attempts at evolving that ’09 side have been utterly horrific, leaving a lot of corpses ununnecessarily on the way: Onions, Bairstow, Taylor, Morgan, Compton, Carberry, Finn (possibly).

    It makes me weep. The KP saga (of which I am on his side) has divided England fans. And for what? We all want England to play to their best, and dare I say it meritocratically. This issue blew that idea out if the water. And I just cannot accept that. I understand a lot don’t like him. Plenty of players I never liked myself over the years (late-career Harmison springs to mind…). So why has the ECB placed itself above the success of the England team? That is what has happened here, in the post-Ashes, post-ICC reshuffle landscape. And none of the ECB bureacrats are personally invested, or will personally profit, from such actions. Why?

    I can buy Ashes tickets for next year with my Surrey membership in 6 weeks. Why would I? How the hell am I even thinking of not buying tickets to an Ashes Test (even allowing for 2015 as a blatant filler series to keep both sides happy with the Ashes-WC rejig).

    End of rant. And I didn’t even mention the “upskilling” of Cooks captaincy by the ECB…

    • Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing. It helps doesn’t it! You’re right about the outside cricket remark. I should have mentioned it.

      • Cheer James. To this day “outside cricket” makes me utterly seeth with anger. And yet no cricket journo will even dare beat the ECB with it. That’s what puts me most against the cricket journalists in all this. The fact they won’t get off their arses and do something about a comment distancing the ECB from everyone outside the England team, it seems. They wouldn’t have drawn breath before laying siege to the ECB for such a comment 20 years ago.

        • Hi Chris, don’t you think that this is because the Journo’s embrace it to a degree? Don’t they see themselves as part of the group that is inside cricket.

          • I think that’s right to a degree. They’re in an abusive relationship with the ECB, needing access to do their job. The ECB don’t leak (but clearly do, despite journos repeatedly stating it. Yet they still manage to break stories, some of which are even accurate? Hmmm.. ) but also treat journos with almost as much disdain as they treat us (if Etheridge is to be believed. I take it with a pinch of salt, but there is truth in it). Some can’t see the wood for the trees, and do think they are above us mere mortals

            • I have heard it from more than one that they believe the “outside cricket” thing is something the “professionally outraged” are clinging to, so that they can be angry. “You all know they meant Piers Morgan, so why are you upset?”

              I called it the ECB’s Gerald Ratner moment. The day they betrayed what they really felt about those not in positions of decision making, or close to the right kind of families. Indeed, the media make only tangential reference to it (see Nick Hoult this week).

              It would have taken an apology and that rage would have been neutralised, Instead we are told, more than once, that the PCA agreed to it. As if that made it OK.

  • James, we are all too aware of the problems with English cricket. I happen to be in 100% agreement with you on them.

    I would ask, what is the way that things can begin to get rectified? How does this change come about?

    Personally, I think England need to really struggle next year, only this may lead to changes at the top. I don’t think it will change the mentality at the top as I feel like it’s a closed shop. But at least there would be hope.

    BTW, a Dobell gem on twitter, regarding the ECB, “My issue is more that, in an increasingly professional game, we’ve 2 amateurs at the top.”

    • I’m afraid I don’t have the answers :-( all major english sports seem to be run badly. Poor results next year might have an impact, but only the counties can change things and they’re happy with their ECB payouts. It’s a real mess. Hopefully a new Lord MacClaurin type will emerge and change the culture.

      • I’d humbly suggest the RFU are much-improved these days. Professional structure, capable people in the right places, cordial relations between the relevant parties in the game, and good money rolling in to help grass roots (with some of the games on normal telly). And Rob Andrew is hidden away…

        I can understand the ECB wanting to emulate the RFU. But they have no understanding of how & why the RFU got into this state…

    • Aussies batsmen are still are bereft of ability to play with soft hands or inside the line. All the bravado in the world won’t help there.

      God knows if Michael Clarke will even make it with his injury problems. And without Ryan Harris – again a match by match proposition – Johnson will be an entirely different beast.

      What I’m saying is that England won’t struggle as much in the Ashes at home so if you are hoping for change to come about that way, you’ll be a long time hoping.

      Fans will just have to live with Giles Clarke and his insular and backward thinking.

  • Great post, very well written James. I agree with most of what you say. I have moments of being equally depressed about the state of English cricket coupled with moments of optimism when I see the potential in our young and upcoming players. I hope they are allowed to develop in their own exuberant way and are not stifled by playing to formulae and percentages.

    Thank goodness the coaching job did not go to Ashley Giles for all the reasons you gave. I would be interested to know which of the candidates you think would have made the best choice. At the time I found the list of applicants another reason for gloom. Had little idea of who might be best suited.

    The time for a ‘grind them down’ approach to test cricket seems long gone in its effectiveness for wining matches. We need to take the game to the opposition and fall back when it’s needed. I can see that building a platform is good but it’s essential to select the batsmen who can also move the game on.

    The machinations of the ECB can be rather weird at the best of times. I agree with your disquiet on this.

    I don’t exactly cringe when I see Alistair Cook but it is a painful experience to watch him struggling for form. He is in a very unfortunate place and I wish him well. The captaincy has never suited him and his batting has suffered as a result. Not only for his sake, I wish there was another obvious, better choice.

    I agree with every word that you wrote about Kevin Pietersen. A lick of sense for us all to embrace. Have to say that the phrase ‘chance would be a fine thing’ comes to mind. :)

    • Should they not have just gone after the best coach available? Gary Kirsten should have been made an offer that he could not refuse. But then again, there would have been many coaches out there thinking they don’t want to be hamstrung by not being able to pick KP and having a captain selected for them!

      It’s all to obvious these moves were made for the reinstatement of Peter Moores.

      • Gary Kirsten would have been a great coach but he made it clear that he did not want the job. Not wanting to spend long periods away from home if I recall correctly.

        Who knows why there was not more of an interest in taking on the role as England coach. Unfortunately the short list left the board with a very limited choice.

        I am definitely a fringe idiot when it comes to understanding the workings of the ECB.

    • I too was very happy Ashes Giles did not get the job full time as I thought we’d just have more of the same instead of the clean broom that was obviously needed. That being the case you can imagine my horror when they trotted out Peter Moores?

    • Have to agree with a lot of what has been posted above so won’t go over it all again.

      Disconnected doesn’t come close to my feelings of the current ECB set up.

      After supporting the team on several overseas tours and watching England since I was a lad “outside cricket” was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me…

      The worst of it is that the culmination of all that has gone on is that try as I might this just doesn’t feel like my team anymore…

      Hopefully a true new era will arrive one day soon!

  • I agree with you James that the KP issue is now settled. So why is that not the end of it? Here is what I wrote on Dmitri’s site……..

    As I said yesterday I have accepted KP won’t play for England again. What I won’t accept is the manner in which it was done. And to me the far more important issue. Which is…… looks like Team England never want another player like him again.

    That is the thing that turns me away from the game. The junta have decided they want no more mavericks, and no more individuals. Woe betide any player who asserts his individuality. The reappointment of Sergeant Major Flower and his square bashing methods tells you all you need to know about how England will be treating the next generation of players.

    I particularly resent the way the national cricket team has been hijacked by a bunch of pompous ,champagne Charlie’s who want to run the national team like some stuffy gentleman’s club. It’s the national team not a members only club. They drone on about putting England first, yet some of the men in the ECB were quite happy to dump England and run off to South Africa and fill their bank accounts with Kruger rands.

    Finally, we have the mystery of the ECB Pravda.. This issue is still to be explained. Why have so many cricket writers sold their souls to the champagne Charlie’s? KP is not coming back. So why the ludicrous continued puff pieces about Cook? They are just making themselves look ridiculous. And how much longer is this craven, toe curling nonsense going to carry on? It’s almost impossible for England to avoid reaching the quarter finals of the World Cup. So getting out of the group will no doubt be spun as akin to landing on the moon. The Ashes next summer could turn out to one of the lowest points in British media history. If darling Alastair keeps returning to the pavilion with low scores. There must come a breaking point even for these ECB stenographers.

    • The media is the biggest mystery in all of this. The BCCI have Gavaskar and (I think) Shastri openly on the payroll and the kind of Cookspeak we’ve had for the past six months is very much redolent of thae way the pair of them go about their business.

      Is almost evey mainstream journo contracted directly to the ECB?

  • However…..there is one glimmer of light on the horizon…it’s soon to be election time at the ECB…no finer time for a bit of culling and back stabbing I would suggest? Strangely, the likely candidates are “distancing” themseves from Giles Clarke who is now, in the current vernacular, seen as “toxic”
    Who knows what’s gonna happen in the future, maybe the bluff forthright chairman of Yorkshire might be the new broom that sweeps clean?…..Only time will tell my friends!!!

    • I’ve heard inklings that the counties are less than pleased with Clarke, but that he’s tough to remove. Most heads of sporting organisations are. There’s more than a bit of hope that he moves on to the ICC, where he can patronise on a global stage.

  • James,

    I am in agreement on this. There are many of us from the Guardian blogs who have become utterly exasperated over the last few months, because between us we have raised all of the issues you discuss here (and others) but are constantly accused of being obsessed with Pietersen. The “symptom not a cause” line is one we have used time and time again; Dmitri probably uses it at least once a week because he’s so tired of trying to explain that the full range of his concerns extends way beyond one man. Sure, that one man arouses passions on both sides, and this is one hell of a bad week to try and downplay his significance. But this group of posters are, broadly speaking, the same ones who were raging throughout the 2013/14 Ashes about what was actually going on in the middle *apart from* Pietersen’s dismissals; the same ones who were disgusted by the English press’s laissez-faire attitude to the ICC reforms and Srinivasan; the same ones questioning Flower’s new role and his right to oversee the Lions; the same ones pointing out Cook’s manifest failings in the face of relentless propaganda from the usual suspects. Just one example to tie in with your piece: if Pietersen is ancient history in terms of ODIs (and he is), then so are literally all of the stats which are still being used (e.g. by Steve James this week) to justify Cook’s place at next year’s World Cup.

    His sacking was the biggest flashpoint of 2014, no more and no less. It also reminded a lot of us of the way he was trashed eighteen months earlier. But, ever since Stanford and the sell-off to Sky, there have been many more reasons for the level of anger directed at the ECB. You have to ask: whose interests are served by reducing all of these issues to a “pro v anti KP” or “pro v anti Cook” social media bunfight? And who are the people doing just that every time they submit an article?

    • This is why I believe it is they who are biased, not us. Most of the people on the ” outside of cricket ” have accepted KP won’t play for England again. We don’t like it, and we certainly don’t like how he was stitched up by a cowardly and dishonest governing body. But we accept KP won’t play again. If he was 27-29 we might hold out hope. But he is 35. (When will they learn we don’t all think like Piers Morgan?)

      So we remove KP from the chess board. We start again. First topic in the post KP era; Who should be the captain? Remember we are in the post KP era so there is no need to prop up Alastair Cook because of your hatred of KP. But the media can’t do it. They can’t set aside their pathological hatred of KP and do some clear thinking. As a result we get this cringing claptrap where every average performance is turned into a Bradman like gem. “The scratchy 95″ would be a good name for a band. Yet it has gone down as one of the great innings of cricket history. Madness. He was dropped on 10. (A sitter) I wish the catch had been taken just to see how they would have spun the story. ( “Alastair was cheered shoulder high back to the pavilion after scoring a scratchy 10 “). Even the whole Southampton test match has gone down in history akin to Waterloo. As Maxie has pointed out, the ground was half empty. That’s how the English public reacted. They did not turn up.

      And now with the test match series against a poor India won, and rejoicing through the land complete, we turn to the ODI team for the World Cup. ( a World Cup the ECB sacrificed an Ashes series for.) surely now we can have some clear thinking? But alas, no. Even those who have admitted Cook should stand aside for the ODIs are now backtracking ” Alastair wants to play”………” Alastair wants to win cup for England.” …….”you have to admire him for his bravery, fortitude, blah blah vomit inducing claptrap.”

      It long ago ceased to be about KP. It’s actually now about a craven, ECB grovelling media and their desperation not to be proved wrong. Their credibility trumps England’s best interest. Not a good place to lecture us about integrity from.

    • Thanks Arron. There are many more problems I didn’t go in to, so thanks to you and Mark for pointing out many of the other things.

      The media is another reason I’m down on cricket. It was the high standard of cricket journalism twenty years ago that got me interested in writing. These days I’ve just about given up on the mainstream press. For starters I think I know just as much about the game as the journos now (I’ve watched the game for donkeys years, have played at a decent level, been proven right about certain issues/players etc). Although they’ve got their ears to the ground, and have sources I dont, the fact they have to be careful with what they say for fear of offending those they rely on for access to press conferences etc, kind of cancels out that advantage. The fact many of them are former players close to the main protagonists also warps their views somewhat. There are still some good journos around, but I just don’t hold them (as a collective) in the same high regard I once did. They’re just people like many of us really.

      • James you are right about the quality of cricket writing and how it has gone down hill. I don’t mind that some cricket journos hate KP. I don’t mind that some cricket journos are fans of Cook. What I object to is how they are all the same with little or no contrast. During the South African rebel tours there were contrasting opinions. Even during Packer there were contrasting views. Not now, unless you go on line. (The dreaded social media)

        The hero worship of Cook, (and that is what it has become) looks more ridiculous by the day. In their desperation to prop him up they have lost all credibility. The last 2 years stats of his career have been airbrushed away. Other opening partners have been removed with similar records over the same period.

        ACCESS is the word. Or rather the fear of loss of access. They are scared of losing those insider titbits, and juicy gossip. And they are terrified of having access to players cut off. If you are the cricket correspondent of the BBC or a major newspaper and you can’t get interviews with players and management you are in trouble. Not that these interviews are ever important. Just bland management speak. But fear of losing access is at the heart of the problem. And that means the ECB, which is supposed to be the governing body of English cricket is being run like a private club. The FA is run badly and has been unfit for purpose for decades. Yet there is no shortage of criticism in the press. The ECB/ media relationship stinks, and they don’t like the fact that sites like this point it out.

      • You’ve hit another nail on the head James. I too have been watching for donkey’s years and played local league for quite a time as is true for several of my friends. Why would I be interested in the writings of Selvey, Newman etc? Conversely, I enjoy the refreshing, fact based, unpretentious discussions I read here and at Dmitri’s place.

        As for the nuggets of inside information, the journos claim to receive, I never see them released.

  • It’s an oft repeated mantra that the embedded journo’s need to essentially suck up to the ECB to have the access that allows them to write the stories that we all want to read.

    And that this allows them access that lesser mortals who write about cricket just don’t have. Thus making the writing of said lesser lights more poorly informed and with less insight as to what is happening in the halls of power and the dressing room.

    At least this is a line that Selvey has trotted out to support some of the drivel he has spouted in the recent past.

    This is impossible to swallow if you are familiar with the works of the likes of Dobell, Kimber and Haigh. Not to mention the fine work done by Dmitri and here at TFT.

    None of these people claim to have the access of the likes of Agnew, Marks and Selvey, et al. Yet turn out well argued, informed and often passionate pieces about the game they love.

    Kimber on the machinations of the scurrilous three springs immediately to mind.

    And to my mind this piece is another example of the fine writing that is being perpetrated by those outside cricket.

    • One of the things that particularly pisses me off Ian, about Selvey, is that he writes for a newspaper that has a history of standing up to the English establishment. Yet now he/they just seem to suck up everything he/they are spoon fed by the governing body. I can remember when Selvey was a commentator on TMS during the apartheid years, and would quite often challenge more right wing views of people like Fred Trueman and Brian Johnson by supporting the bans.

      I like Vic Marks a lot too, but recently he seems to have become just another ECB pod person. The whole cricket media seem to be pod people like in the film ‘ invasion of the body snatchers. They look the same, their voices sound the same, but they are just hollowed out ECB shells.

      • As you say Mark and the galling aspect of this is that if he keeps out of the politics Selvey is quite an entertaining writer, as is Marks.

        Although I have a different perspective as an Australian I still enjoy keeping up with English cricket and over the years have enjoyed many of the commentators and writers that champion the English team. I suspect this is largely due to the dross that is trottedout as cricket journalism in Australia, with honourable exceptions.

        Sadly over the recent past writers and commentators have adopted a tone thathas alienated me and I suspect many others. So from people that I once enjoyed and in some cases respected they have become figures that sadly I disdain and in some cases dislike.

        Much the same thing has occurred with my perception of Alastair Cook.

  • Great piece James, you (as usual) echo my thoughts exactly – and rather more eloquently.

    The joy (and subsequent challenge) of social media is that everyone is able to have their say in the public arena. Journalists, officials and players are no longer detached in splendid isolation and are open to be shot down or eulogised (usually the former).

    The interesting factor in this saga is that the main protagonists for the establishment (Moores, Flower, Downton, Clarke, Cook etc.) do not directly interect on the aforementioned platform thus presenting easy undefended targets in a pretty tiresome one sided debate.

    Someone wise once said “In the Absence of Information, People will Believe the Worst.” and so it has proved…

  • A controversial choice but it strikes me as being similar to my dilemma with Alistair Cook. No obvious alternative. ‘Anybody but’ or ‘broom on a stick’ does not really address that kind of problem for me. Don’t have the answer myself.

    • I have never subscribed to the TINA argument there are at least ten other alternatives and none of them could be any worse.

      And don’t you think it is an indictment of the whole culture pervading the the ECB and English cricket in general that not a single alternative to Cook can be found because I do and it’s a bloody disgrace to be frank.

      • Ian,
        It is a disgrace – but it’s also the nature of modern cricket with central contracts etc and players not playing much county cricket or being able to learn the art of captaincy in any other way. It’s also not a situation unique to England. I might be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure Michael Clarke had little or no first class captaincy experience before becoming Australian skipper. Australia are lucky that Clarke has a natural flair for captaincy – Ponting, for example, did not and neither does Cook. In fact Cook’s captaincy style – reactive and unimaginative, rather reminds me of Ponting’s.
        As for TINA, of course you can put an alternative in – but given the lack of forums in which to learn captaincy, you’d be guessing as to how good they might be. There’s a fair case that anyone would be better than Cook – but it can only be a guess. And England, rightly or wrongly, don’t tend to deal in guesses or hunches. If you had to drag an alternative out of me, I’d choose Broad. I think he’d be a more aggressive captain, and i think the responsibility would do him some good. The flip side is he’s injury-prone and his captaincy of the one day side so far has been uninspiring.
        So Cook it is. I wish we had someone better, but the sad reality is, I’m not sure we do, at least not for the Test side. I’d love for someone to make a convincing case – including an actual name, rather than “anyone else will do” – to convince me otherwise!

        • I agree with all of this.

          I have given Broad a lot of thought and in the past favoured him in the role. I left him off the list because of his propensity for injury. Also, because of the crazy scheduling the bowlers will need to be rested. The bowlers have a lot on their plates while in the field making captaincy a shade more difficult, I think.

          • You’re right about bowler captains. They’re pretty rare, and that seems counter-intuitive to me, because they’re the ones most mentally attuned to thinking about how to get people out. So I think your point about the rigours of bowling being enough to handle must be a convincing explanation for it.

            I’d be loath to see bowlers rested for Test matches, although I’m sure it will happen. The effect of the ridiculous schedule further cheapens ODI’s of course, because those are where most teams will do their “resting”.

            If not Broad, then who? I don’t know how well Bell has done as captain of the Bears, but I’d always take someone with some captaincy experience over none. I remember in Root’s one game, Middlesex chased down 400 and plenty to win – so it might be too early for him. Morgan’s FC record doesn’t justify a place for him in the side. I suppose another option is to bring in an uncapped county captain – but that’s the biggest gamble of the lot.

            Which brings us back to Cook……

        • There is much in what you say but there are several players in the current Australian team who could make a decent fist of the captaincy.

  • Would be interested in your ten alternatives to Cook who might improve the situation rather than compound the problem.

    I have been searching for a player more suited to captaincy than Alistair Cook since the day Strauss retired. Ideally we need to have Cook in the side as an opening bat, not encumbered by the captaincy.

    • Well there are ten other players in the team and I sincerely do not see Cook as the best or only option.

      If Cook is not captain he becomes unpick-able in any form of the game on past long term form. It’s not TINA that keeps him there it’s his lack of form which is twisted to an insane degree.

      • ‘ten other players in the team’ Come on now. Be sensible.

        Cook was a fine opening bat with no more of a dip in form than anybody else before he became captain. There does seem to be a sort of captain’s curse abounding. He is not the first to ‘go off’ having been awarded the captaincy.

        • Point out what is not sensible about that.

          And Cook’s ‘dip in form’ is a long running malaise that makes him currently un-pickable sans captaincy.

          • Some would say (including Nasser Hussain in fact) that Cook has simply been worked out. Pitch it up outside off!

            • I think this is correct James and on the evidence to date it would seem that Cook does not have the technique to overcome it.

            • Reply to James:

              Gooch said it as well – I wonder if that had anything to do with his departure as England batting coach! Gooch himself substantially remodelled his technique late in his career when he was found out (by Terry Alderman of course).

    • Well first off you have two different teams. Test, and ODIs. Hardly anyone thinks Cook should be ODI captain. Including Agnew, Selvey, and Swann. (All Cook test supporters)

      As for test matches,,seeing as increasingly the coach runs everything, why does the captain need be anything other than a yes man? Some cynics might suggest that the real reason Cook is captain is because he does what Flower/Moores wants. Anybody could do that.

      It would appear, and Cook admitted it, that Anderson was setting the fields in some of the tests when things turned around. So maybe Anderson could do it. Bell captains Warwickshire. And Root can’t be any worse than Cook.

  • There must be something wrong with me because I’d rather ideally have KP in the side than Cook.

    Every. Single. Day.

    From now until the end of time, if it was possible.

  • No! Rav there is nothing wrong with wanting an exciting and talented batsman in the team rather than a boring one. Cook in his heyday could score the runs albeit in a boring manner. He no longer can as long as he remains captain. I think he wants to be all time top scorer but I think KARMA has turned round and bit him on the arse even though ECB are doing everything in their power to assist him. Just a pity it’s detrimental to the team.

    • The press characterised Pietersen as ‘not a great player but a player of great innings’. Yet Cook, who scored slightly less runs across all formats at a slightly lower average than KP in the same period, is frequently labelled an ‘all time great’ or one of ‘England’s greatest ever players’. As I said in my piece, I’m not Pietersen’s biggest fan but the contrasting media portrayals speak for themselves if you ask me. There is clearly something which doesn’t add up.

      • Didn’t say it in the other comments, but great stuff as always James. I fully appreciate that people don’t feel the same way as you know who as I do, but I also know that this can be expressed without being stupid. Something those on the BTL on the Guardian and answering said individual on Twitter, or on the TMS Facebook feed have done in abundance.

        Re Cook. Did you catch Steve James this week in the Telegraph. Cook would go down as the greatest England batsman of all time. I quote…

        “He will never touch the heights of his Test game, where he will unquestionably end his career as England’s greatest of all time, ”

        When someone picked him up on this in the comments, his response was so spectacularly dense, he had to be on a wind up.

        “In Test cricket he will have more runs and centuries than anyone else for England. What more do you want?”

        As I said somewhere or other (I lose track), that makes Hayden better than Bradman and Chanderpaul better than Richards.

        The man just sparks curious pieces whenever he’s mentioned.

        • Hi mate. Yes I did read that piece by James. It was gushing nonsense. If a player is never dropped, no matter how poorly he performs for prolonged periods, then obviously he’s going to score plenty of centuries. Those with the inclination to dig a little deeper will realise that most of these have come (and will presumably continue to come) against the weaker attacks. I’ve been through every one of Cook’s test hundreds and only two (it could be three actually I can’t remember exactly) have come against teams with world class seam bowling attacks. One was in Durban many years ago (his finest knock) and the other was a career saving ton at the oval against Pakistan when he looked incredibly scratchy, could’ve been out several times, and was dropped when on a low score. He struggled mightily in the rest of that series. Against top class seamers Cook struggles badly with that quirky technique, although he is a very good player of spin (as his superb performances in India show).

  • IMO not all of the other 10 players in the team would make a better captain. That’s all I can say on that. It would be a bit tedious to go through the list one by one.

    Of the real possibles, Bell has been erratic of late. Best not to impede his return to best form in either ODI or the tests. Not even sure of his place in an ODI side.

    Morgan as a possible ODI replacement has also been a bit hit and miss. Why swop one captain under performing with the bat for another? We need Moggie returning to more consistent form first.

    Joe Root might or might not be ready for the job of captaining the ODI team. I’m not sure. It would need someone with a greater all round knowledge to make that decision. It’s probably a bit early.

    • Any of the 10 players would probably be no worse than Cook and several could well prove to be better.

      Bell has captaincy experience and has done a fine job of it to boot. Your argument that it would hamper his return to form is perplexing because you have argued that Cooks dip in form is a result of the captaincy, therefore presumably you would argue that removal from the captaincy would benefit Cooks batting. As I said …perplexing.

      I would point out that I am arguing against Cook in all forms of cricket not just ODI’s. His form over more than a year and a half does not warrant his place in the team in any format. His captaincy is abysmal by any standard and in any form of the game.

      It is also my contention that he is a destabilising presence in the dressing room as he is above criticism if you value your career.

      • Its a bit difficult to know what to say about this. Cook’s recent form has been very poor and his captaincy somewhat lacking. You are right in that, but it is still my contention that we need somebody who will be better overall and improve the situation. I do think that Bell’s rather unstable batting at times could be compromised by the captaincy and that Cook might do better without those constraints. It is a very perplexing situation indeed.

        James has made the valid point that Cook has been found out outside the off stump. Whether or not he is able to correct this, with or without the captaincy, remains to be seen. I wish we had better choices but as things stand I think that leaving Cook in place is the best, if not the ideal, option. The Ashes are a fairly long time off. Of course we need to think about forward planning but before any long term decisions are taken on Alistair Cook’s future, I think he needs to get through the World Cup first.

        I have no idea whether or not Cook destabilises the dressing room. I have never been in there and neither I assume, have you!

        • No I have never been in the English dressing room, you are quite right.

          However as Pietersen was always held to have been a destabilising presence in the dressing room by many people and journalists who hadn’t been there;

          I reserve the right to postulate that Cook by virtue of the fact that he cannot be crticised or removed from the captaincy represents a destabilising if not malign influence because who would dare speak against him on any issue?

          From an entirely parochial point of view I would be ecstatic for England to retain Cook for the Ashes.

          Given a broader perspective however it seems to me that a healthy England team (not withstanding the issues posed by the scurrilous 3 boards) is good for the game in general and English fans in particular.

          From the broader perspective and for the good of the English cricket team it is my view that Cook should be sacked from all forms of international English cricket. He should return to his county and be required to force his way back into the national side through weight of runs..if he is capable of doing so.

  • Sadly for Cook he has been found out. He was many people’s number one choice for the job but sadly it has now been proven beyond doubt that he is no Strauss. He is no leader. When the chips are down on the field his demeanour is similar to that of Nick Clegg’s when he’s sat next Cameron at PMQs! He is not sure how on earth he ended up in this situation and knows that there is nothing he can do to change it except quit which he won’t do.

    Bribing England greats to leave the sanctity of the Sky Sports Box is the only way I can see English cricket becoming great again and that won’t happen. even if Botham, Willis, Hussain and Strauss were willing to risk their reputations by coming to the rescue the ECB wouldn’t ask them to as they are not part of their wonderful long-term plan.

    And as for KP the whole situation has become terribly dull and will be even more so once his book is published. It will all be about he said this and he said that and will deflect attention from the important matters….

    • Sadly, I agree with your views on Cook.

      Can’t comment on the ex captains and players becoming the England coach. Do not know enough about their suitability for the job. Michael Vaughan does stand out for me, but maybe that’s because he has an all round higher profile.

  • You make good points.

    Jimmy certainly seems to have the wit and the nous to do it but he has a lot on his plate in the field. A captain needs both good communication and people skills. Not saying that Jimmy lacks these but he does not always seem keen to make the best of those abilities. He will also need to be rested at times because of the scheduling.

  • I have to agree. That’s a very good point. I despair at times.
    My feeling about Jonathan Trott is that he has also been worked out. I wish him well but I am dubious about his return to test cricket.

    • Hi Jenny. It’s James here. I think you might be on to something by comparing Trott and Cook. Both players, in my opinion, have been found wanting against top class pace bowling (by which I mean top draw, world class fast bowling i.e. the likes of Steyn, Harris etc). However, they’re both superb accumulators of good / mediocre bowling. Cook has the edge over Trott in the spin bowling dept, but Trott was better in ODIs.

  • It’s the climate of mediocrity fostered by the ECB and its chronic insularity that get me. Moores was obviously groomed for the coaching role just as much as Cook was groomed for the captaincy. These are the ECB’s dynastic plans, and nothing must interfere with them. Hence the lunacy of sacking our best player and picking a crocked wicket-keeper literally until he could barely walk just to shore up a useless captain. And the farce of a recruiting process whereby the ECB pretend to interview other candidates, knowing full well they are going to appoint their man at the end of the process anyway. The description of Moores as “the greatest coach of his generation” is the stupidest thing the ECB has come out with since it suggested that Ian Austin was going to be our trump card in the 1999 world cup.

  • Exactly!

    I think Bell has done a very competent job at Warwickshire but his form has not been the best lately and I would not like to see him going the way of a Cook.

    I think the captain is saddled with far too much responsibly. Pre match interviews with the media should be the first thing to go.

  • The new captain, if there ever is one, has to be someone with a bit of fight about him. Personally I’d go for Root – he could be our Graham Smith

    • My only worry about Root is he is the ECBs chosen one.

      Which makes me suspicious of him from the start. Probably unfair, but that is how low of an opinion I now have of the ECB.

      If they are for it I’m against it.

      • he maybe their chosen one, but if Cook resigned tomorrow they wouldn’t give it to him as it is too much of a gamble and he’s probably not part of their inner-circle yet. Instead they would go for Bell – more safe options.
        What the ECB need to do now is draw a line under the whole Cook and KP debacle and make some brave decisions. Appointing Root as captain now and finding someone of quality to replace Moores should be their priorities

        • I am afraid I can’t see any of that happening in the short term. They have appointed Moores, and brought back Flower. And have gone to ludicrous lengths to defend Cook. Even appointing him ODI captain. That tells you all you need to know about how they want to proceed. And the brand of cricket they want to play.

          • Well, you can like it.

            Or lump it.

            I know what I’m going to do (after all, I’ve only been following cricket as an ‘outsider’ since the 70s, so won’t miss it much).

  • On ECB journalists Humbert Wolfe said it best in the 1920s

    You cannot hope
    to bribe or twist,
    thank God! the
    British journalist.

    But, seeing what
    the man will do
    unbribed, there’s
    no occasion to.

  • Thanks for all your comments everyone. This blog is slowly becoming the forum we want it to be! :-)

    Appreciate all your input and support.


  • I’m slightly disappointed there is no sign of a ‘cockwomble’ insult, which appeared on the Guardian comments page and is my new favourite word (and Dmitri’s as well).

    On a serious note, I’m just saddened that we continue to play cricket (and try to run cricket) like it’s 1975. The team is lacking leadership and flair, both on and off the field, we only have a Plan A and the ECB is too busy fighting anyone who isn’t from the right type of family, those outside cricket and us ‘keyboard warriors’ as well as cosying up to anyone with money (BCCI, Sky etc).

    We will always be distinctly average until the status quo changes, sadly I can’t see that ever happening, who needs a successful team when we have money coming through the door and a stream of media sycophants providing banal platitudes.

    And don’t even get me started on our one day team…..

    • No doubt we will be hearing from Agnew, Newman, Pringle and Selvey on this topic in…………oh wait…

      Well they did finally get Al Capone on tax fraud.

      Dave it’s just pitiful. Alan Partridge for ECB chairman. It couldn’t get any worse.

    • The persecution of Andrew Gale, continuing to punish him even after the collapse without trial of their ridiculous racism charge, is purely vindictive. Any moral point they are trying to uphold was lost when they administered no punishment at all to James Anderson over his admitted verbal abuse of Jadeja. Clarke won’t dare show his face at Headingley for years after this — and Yorkshire folk have long memories, so he won’t be forgiven up there however long he postpones his visit.

  • So much of what is being discussed here is so sadly true and still unacknowledged by he self-appointed cricket establishment, and many here have known it and repeated it so often for the last few months that we risk becoming a parody of ourselves in some folks’ eyes. The point I would pick up on which I think is most pertinent as to the future, though, is the supposed “destabilising influence” of KP, which may or may not have more or less truth to it. Whether or not it is true, if it is a reason for getting rid of a match-changing player is a debatable point. However, we now have the situation where everyone can see that any disagreements with or lack of full-throated support for the sainted, doe-eyed, square-jawed farmer-in-law will result in exclusion from the inner circle. I wonder why Ravi Bopara, for instance, felt the need to tell us all recently how much he admired Mr Cook, having been almost overlooked for the squad for the World Cup.
    That’s the bit that worries me. The Stepford Husbands stepping out for England next summer. Possibly talented. Possibly able to win occasionally. But never allowed to digress from the narrative of the cult of Cook.

  • The ECB and Our Lord And Master Giles Clarke are Alice In Wonderland Writ – When they say A Statement they Mean it As They Want it to be – Alistair Cooke is CAPTAIN OF ENGLAND! – We have spoken so just shut up, drink the Kool-Aid And fork out your £85 for the chance to watch your betters score a marvelous 10 in two hours before being hoisted up by his Adoring public – Giles Clarke next Summer in Cardiff it al!


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