Earlier this week you might have seen our open letter to Waitrose. We wrote to Mark Price, their managing director, requesting that as he uses his influence within the ECB, as England team sponsor. We asked him to tell Giles Clarke that England supporters feel betrayed, ignored, and disenfranchised.
I heard back from Waitrose this morning, and it was a disappointing response. Their press officer simply said she would pass the letter on to the ECB. She didn’t make it clear whether she’d run it past Price’s office, but I suspect not.
We need Price to see the letter himself. Whether or not he acts on it is his choice – but we want him to be able to make that choice. So I went back to Waitrose to gently press the point. When they reply, I’ll let you know what they say.
In other news, Wisden editor Lawrence Booth, also of the Daily Mail’ has popped his head around the door on Dmitri’s blog. Well worth a look.
Meanwhile, here at The Full Toss we’ve already taken two considered looks at Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography, in overview. Alongside the elegant and pithy review by Tregaskis is James Morgan’s study of the book’s key underlying narrative – the interplay between personality, emotion, and politics.
So we’ve talked about the macro. Now comes the micro. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll pick out a selection of the most interesting incidents, facts and specific information the book reveals (and thanks to Clivejw for his fine work already on this front).
Why? Partly because so much of the mainstream coverage of the books appears to be written by people who haven’t actually read it. They glibly flaunt second-hand opinions like two bores in a golf club bar.
There are, of course, some very honourable exceptions.
Here’s another reason: whatever you think of Pietersen, his book is unique. It provides an unparalleled insight into Team England and the ECB. No one else has provided such candid, authentic, and forthright testimony – unafraid to speak his mind, burn bridges, and piss people off. Sure, you might think he’s biased and exaggerates. But the ECB have refuted none of the facts.
The crickosphere became too hung-up on the book’s tone and overlooked a lot of the substance. Really, the book is less important for what it tells us about Pietersen himself than the light he sheds on what was going on around him.
Outside our little universe, the wider world has now moved on. But we won’t, and we can’t. Twenty four days have now elapsed since the confidentiality agreement expired, and still not a peep from St John’s Wood. They’re hoping that by keeping quiet everyone will forget about this. Our job is to stop that happening.
Anyway, to the book, and to start with let’s take a close look at a rather under-reported event.
Pietersen’s solo meeting with Downton shortly before he was sacked
Pietersen himself instigated this:
I had previously discussed the tour with Angus Porter [of the PCA] and we had decided that Downton would be the next stop. I called [him] up and said I thought we should meet. There would have to be debriefings after all that had happened in Australia, and as a senior player I felt the need to be in that loop.
Were there other reasons Pietersen wanted to see Downton? Reading between the lines, his motive was probably to counter what other people were saying about him. He clearly knew his England career was already hanging by a thread. But did Porter know something more specific?
I knew there were stories being told against me, so I had said to myself when I asked for the meeting that I would tell the guy everything. I wanted to speak to Downton about my relationship with Andy Flower, which had become a huge issue. It had been played out in the media and refreshed day after day with a steady stream of leaks.
In the meeting Pietersen confronted Downton about the ECB culture of leaking:
I said to Downton, let’s make sure that the discussion we’re having here doesn’t leave these four walls. He seemed offended by the very thought. How dare I even suggest such a thing? Aw, none of that, I said. I’ve been in meetings and the next day I’ll read a version in the media.
I do hope that when the Dark Lord finally emerges from the woodwork for an interview, he gets asked about this. Even if we have to wait until 2019.
During the meeting, Downton criticised Pietersen for his batting during the Ashes tour.
“[He] said he had seen the way I played – I hadn’t batted well. Careless. He saw the way he got out. Reckless”.
Pietersen then goes on to make a good point: what business was it of Downton, as an administrative employee of the ECB, not a coach, to critique his batting in this way, and at their first meeting? When did this become part of the England MD’s remit? We know that Downton later began to barge his way into selection meetings.
According to Pietersen’s account, Downton hadn’t seen his Melbourne innings, nor seemed conscious of it.
Given that Pietersen was series top scorer for England, what did Downton say to the other batsmen? In particular, what was his feedback to Alastair Cook (who made 246 runs at 26.40). Which adjectives did Downton apply to this dismissal, in the second innings at Adelaide?
But for me the most intriguing part of the meeting, as described by Pietersen, was this:
Next question from Downton: where do you see yourself in the future?
I would love to get ten thousand Test runs, and I still think I can offer that. I want to pursue that dream.
Hmm, he said, I would have preferred you to have said, I would like to help England win matches.
If I score ten thousand runs the way I am batting, England will win matches.
Well, he said, I still would have preferred you to have said the other thing.
The meeting throws up several questions. By this point, had Downton already decided to fire Pietersen? If so, why have the meeting? To look for things he could use as justification? If not, did the meeting influence his eventual decision?
According to the ‘due diligence’ dossier, at some point in January:
AF [Andy Flower] was asked for his view on whether KP should form part of England team re‐building process. AF said that AC [Cook] and the Vice‐Captain would struggle to re‐build the team with sufficient unity or strength with KP involved.
As Pietersen himself observes:
Paul Downton, watching his very first test in his brand-new job, opted to study me exclusively and concluded that I looked ‘disengaged’.
Is Downton claiming that he was watching me when I was in the outfield? Why would he do that, if not in order to gather evidence to strengthen a case that somebody must have already made to him?