Ten days have now passed since the confidentiality agreement expired and still the ECB haven’t explained the Kevin Pietersen sacking.
What are they waiting for?
Huge significance was attached to the lifting of Pietersen’s gagging clause. What would he say? And now he’s said it, what does it mean?
But amid all the heat and noise around his book (see our review by Tregaskis), it’s been slightly overlooked that the ECB themselves are now also free to speak. They can tell us what happened, openly and fully.
Surely they have something of great import to say. Only last week, Paul Downton told Mike Atherton in The Times that he “really didn’t see any alternative” to firing the leading run scorer in English cricket history.
You can only sympathise with the ECB, who all this time have been yearning to reveal all to their dearly-valued supporters. How they’ve longed to open up and get everything off their chests. If only it hadn’t been for that pesky confidentiality agreement getting in the way. What a nuisance!
We’ve all sensed their frustration at being – until now – unable to reveal their rationale for the Kevin Pietersen sacking. When Paul Downton appeared on Test Match Special on 22nd May, he explained that the legal position limited what he could say. Seven weeks earlier, on 1st April, it was clear that Alastair Cook was champing at the bit to reveal all:
“I can’t actually answer that question totally at this precise moment in time, which is incredibly frustrating for me. Everyone will say I’m sitting on the fence but there are a number of reasons which will become clearer soon.
“You have to respect the decision, the position I’m in at this precise moment. Everyone is going to keep asking that question until we give the answers but at the moment we just can’t, so I’d love to talk about something slightly different if possible.
“It is frustrating. If anyone thinks the decision was taken lightly and without a lot of consideration and a lot of thought…a lot of things went into the decision. It was a tough decision and the decisions will be made clearer in due course, and you just have to respect that at the moment. It is frustrating but that is the position I’m in at the moment and that is what it is.”
Ever since February 4th, while we’ve fuminated and speculated, ECB sympathisers have always been able to say, ‘but you haven’t heard the other side of the story…they must have had their reasons’. Implicit in the ECB’s stance, and repeated references to the gagging clause, was the notion – almost a guarantee – that as soon as the embargo was lifted, they would speak.
Ten days have passed. Nothing.
Why does it matter? Because the ECB’s failure to explain the Kevin Pietersen sacking goes to the very heart of this entire saga.
We were angry – we are still angry – because Paul Downton and Giles Clarke sacked our best player without telling us why. As they saw it, there was no need to explain to supporters – the people who are the very lifeblood of the game – why such an important cricketer had been summarily and permanently removed from the side.
There are two reasons why they haven’t told us.
The first is that they have nothing to say which would be remotely convincing or satisfactory. As the dossier, revealed, the ECB had no genuine reasons for firing Pietersen, beyond ill-defined dislike and Flower’s personal grudge.
Even Paul Downton is not quite so naive that he’d go into a press conference and talk about whistling and looking out of windows.
The second reason is much more profound. The ECB remain silent because they simply don’t see the need to tell supporters anything of substance unless it involves Waitrose or Buxton Water. We serve no purpose other than to keep quiet and buy the tickets. We should know our place and be grateful.
Giles Clarke holds us in contempt. Supporters are at best an irrelevance and at worst a bloody pain in the neck. Do you think he’s spent the last few days fretting about what we think?
This is what I wrote two days after the Kevin Pietersen sacking. Eight months on, I stand by every word. Have a read and tell me if I was exaggerating.
This is has been the most tumultuous week imaginable for English cricket, and what do the ECB want to tell us about? What’s on their minds? Take a look at their news site, and the big story is that renowned cricket enthusiasts the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been awarded life membership of the MCC. Congrats, Kate and Wills!
What have the ECB deigned to say? Dark Lord Downton has spoken twice about Pietersen, firstly at the Moores press conference, when he thanked the professional journalists for attending but forgot to address the punters who actually pay all their wages.
The best he could come up with was the ‘disinterested and disengaged’ twaddle which he then largely repeated on TMS a month later, an appearance so successful he ended up apologising to Pietersen, and mendaciously claimed that Pietersen had no supporters in the dressing room.
What else? Giles Clarke’s single reference to an affair came in the form of a third-person order:
English supporters must move on. There isn’t going to be any going back, that’s for sure.
And apart from that, nothing, save their infamous press release of 9th February. This was, as Dmitri Old acutely puts it, cricket’s 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”.
It was also masterpiece of self-pity and sour hostility.
It has been a matter of great frustration that until now the England and Wales Cricket Board has been unable to respond to the unwarranted and unpleasant criticism of England players and the ECB itself, which has provided an unwelcome backdrop to the recent negotiations to release Kevin Pietersen from his central contract.
Those negotiations have been successfully concluded and whilst both parties remain bound by confidentiality provisions the ECB would like to make the following comments.
The ECB recognises the significant contribution Kevin has made to England teams over the last decade. He has played some of the finest innings ever produced by an England batsman.
However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.
Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.
Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.
Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.
These are men who care deeply about the fortunes of the England team and its image, and it is ironic that they were the people who led the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen into the England squad in 2012.
Eight months later, and nothing has changed. The ECB remain arrogantly aloof and aggressively detached from the people whose support alone sustains the game of which they are merely the temporary custodians, and not, as they believe, the proprietors.
We have been disenfranchised, patronised, and exploited. This is why we became angry and why we continue to be angry. Not because of one man but for what his assassination symbolised. We know that Pietersen will never return to the side but that is completely besides the point. We want them to listen, to apologise, and to respond. Until then we cannot move on. Because nothing has changed.
All you need is baby steps, Giles. Just tell us why you fired him. Is it really that difficult?
You thought the Kevin Pietersen sacking would all blow over and after a few months and a win against India, we’d just forget about it. You were wrong.
Update: since posting this piece last night, Alastair Cook has given this interview to the BBC.