2014. The annus maximus horribilis of English cricket, as my colleague James Morgan dubbed it earlier this week. This has been an extraordinary twelve months for our game – a year of unprecedented turbulence, conflict and division. We witnessed English cricket’s civil war, and in many eyes, the end is still far from sight.
We thought it would be interesting, alongside James’s review of the year, to recall how events unfolded through the lens of what we wrote, at the time, on this blog – both in the posts and your comments. What did we get right, what did we get wrong, and how do things feel different now?
We’ll start with the first three months of the year, with special thanks to contributors Tristan Haddow-Allen, Nick Allbury, and Tregaskis. For another perspective, Dmitri looks back at January to June in enthralling fashion here.
4th. We stood on the brink of a crushing defeat at Sydney and with it, the ignominy of five-nil. How had our batting unravelled quite so disastrously in Australia? What exactly had the coaches been doing? The very next day, our humiliation is complete.
17th. The dust begins to settle from the disasters of Australia, shrouding English cricket in the radioactive ash of a nuclear winter. It’s now evident the team’s decline traces back to the start of the 2013 Ashes, and the first clear signs that Andy Flower was losing his way.
20th. As an Ashes whitewash is quickly followed by a 4-1 walloping in the ODI series, we reflect, as supporters, on the interminable weeks of overnight misery which had stretched our sanity to breaking point.
24th. The ECB and BCCI are in cahoots to stitch up world cricket through the Big Three deal.
4th. For two weeks the rumours swirl around: “it’s KP or me”, says Flower. But still no one quite expects what come next – Kevin Pietersen, the highest international run-scorer in the history of English cricket, is sacked without explanation.
England have chosen the easy option: the lazy and selfish option – putting personal prejudice, scapegoating, and making their individual lives easier, ahead of the general welfare. The ECB’s pride, and their desire to teach a rebel a lesson, has triumphed over cricketing logic.
The decision to ditch Kevin Pietersen from international cricket is a weak decision made by weak men – and it’s come about because England have a weak captain, and an even weaker management team.
The ECB acts like a club that enjoys patting itself on the back. If you can dress correctly, say the right things, and keep your head down, then your face fits. But if you don’t suffer fools lightly, and you resent stuffiness and incompetence, you’re a loose cannon whose days are numbered.
England’s best player, meanwhile, is out in the cold at the age of 33. He’s been labelled as unmanageable, but what the ECB really mean is that Cook (and probably Giles) cannot manage him. Darren Lehmann had a dressing room full of rebels. England can’t cope with one
Pietersen’s dismissal constituted the greatest act of betrayal in the history of British sport.. [Not only] a vindictive and cowardly way to treat one of English cricket’s finest servants, it was a self-inflicted and catastrophic act of vandalism against the very fabric of our team.
Our team. Not their team. Our team.
We, the followers of the England cricket team, have been treated with an arrogance and contempt to a degree which is grotesque even by the standards of the English game’s hierarchy.
The ECB has taken a long, slow look at us, and then – quite deliberately – thrown a bucket of cold piss in our face.
6th: Graeme Swann goes off message.
[Pietersen] made a huge effort to improve his attitude around the dressing room. I saw or heard no issues with him in Australia this winter, his approach was exceptional. That’s why I was baffled when he was sacked as an England player.
9th. In an infamous press release, the ECB label England supporters “outside cricket”.
15th. Angus Fraser – director of cricket at Middlesex – is appointed an England selector, raising questions of conflicted interest, just as they’d done when Ashley Giles had combined the role with a county club job. Later, the waters are muddied even further when Mick Newell, the Notts supremo, also joins the committee.
3rd. Matt Prior claims that the England dressing room will be a better place without Kevin Pietersen.
6th. Ashley Giles appears to be inked in for the England coaching job, not that his rhetoric inspires much confidence.
18th. Jonathan Trott makes a series of media interviews which provoke, in different quarters, both sympathy and criticism. And Giles Clarke tells England supporters to “move on”. [Our original post on this seems to have vanished].
25th. Why, we wonder, is virtually no county cricket being played on Saturdays?
27th. Meanwhile, the ECB’s case against Pietersen, already wafer thin, is steadily collapsing, as one player after another emerges from the woodwork to rebut the leaked claims and insinuations. Chris Tremlett’s testimony is the most devastating yet.
31st. Fifty five days since Pietersen’s sacking, still no one from the ECB has spoken publicly, let alone Paul Downton, the new MD. On the field, a winter of discontent reaches a fitting conclusion when England are knocked out of the World T20 following a tragicomic defeat by Holland.
Next time – April to June. Peter Moores returns, and Paul Downton speaks.