Now the dust has settled, we’ll continue to pick our way through the fine detail of Kevin Pietersen’s book. How does it match up with what’s already in the public domain? Where does it shed the most new light? And what else goes on the list of questions Paul Downton must answer?
Earlier we looked at the first, previously unreported, meeting between Downton and Pietersen. Now we’ll turn to what happened next.
Pietersen makes no mention of his meeting with John Carr, the ECB director of operations. According to the ‘due diligence’ dossier, this took place on 30th January.
JC informs KP that he will not be selected for the West Indies One Day tour nor for World T20, as “following discussion between MD England Cricket, Selectors and England Captains it has been decided that the team needs to move on in a different direction with an emphasis on a strong team orientated culture”.
KP then raises concerns regarding his IPL availability. JC states that the ECB would understand, under the circumstances of KP’s non‐selection, if full IPL availability was now KP’s priority. JC details his understanding of KP’s contractual position.
The terms of a compromise agreement are set out, which envisaged: “Player gives notice with immediate effect. Whilst contractual requirement is only for ECB to pay retainer for 30 days, subject to concluding the agreement ECB would be prepared to pay the equivalent of the player’s retainer through to [start of April when player will be due at IPL] [end of September when the contract was due to end]”
Is either Pietersen’s account or the dossier’s wrong? If this was a meeting held after the sacking, to discuss severance terms, it seems a little unlikely Pietersen himself would have turned up rather than leave it to his agents. Why did Carr feel the need to recap what Pietersen already knew?
And by the by, interesting that Carr attributes the decision not solely to Downton but the selectors (of whom more later), and the England captains. Plural. Therefore, including Stuart Broad. Was he genuinely consulted?
In his book, Pietersen highlights the fact Downton chose to sack him at the Danubius hotel in St John’s Wood, not at Lord’s itself.
Just one person tweeting ‘Pietersen at ECB #SkySports’ would start the cavalry charge.
So why the discretion – an anonymous hotel instead of the suspicion-arousing “home of cricket”? To protect Pietersen from the rumour-mill? Or to protect themselves? If Downton didn’t want Pietersen to come to Lord’s, then why, as he was about to sack him, did he insist on a traipse over to St John’s Wood?
At this point in the book, as Pietersen heads off to the meeting, it would have been interesting to know more of what was going through his mind. All he says, rather obliquely, is:
I’m not sure how it will go.
Did he roundly expect the sack? If so, specifically why? For no immediately obvious reason, he then says:
When I left Sydney my relationship with all but one of the players (Matt Prior) was absolutely fine, and I’d chatted with many of them since then. They had spoken very favourably about me in the media.
My theory is that by referencing this, Pietersen is simply in self-defence mode – battling against the accepted wisdom that he’d antagonised the entire dressing room.
In public, Downton’s remark to Jonathan Agnew that he could find no support for Pietersen among “quite a few senior players” was generally and erroneously reported as ‘not one England player wanted him to stay in the side‘.
In semi-private, Downton told Piers Morgan that Pietersen “had a terrible effect on the dressing room”.
Pietersen then makes an interesting assertion about Matt Prior.
Prior…was a massive negative influence on the dressing room, and when I said that to Andy [Flower[ the night before the Sydney test, [he] didn’t disagree.
Of course that could mean anything. But wouldn’t itt be an interesting point to broach to Downton or Flower, if they ever deign to be interviewed again? As would this:
They know that a clique choked our team, and that Andy Flower let that clique grow like a bad weed. Flower could never stop its growth., so he focused instead on managing upwards.
Since the book, Anderson, Swann and Broad have spoken to the media several times, and on each occasion the interviewer’s focus has been on the bullying claims. I wonder what they’d say if instead the subtler but arguably more pernicious issue of cliques was put to them.
But back to the meeting, and the often-quoted description of Alastair Cook’s mien.
Cook shakes my hand, but he doesn’t want to look at me. He looks at the floor. I feel sorry for him; it must be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of his career.
Pietersen is sympathetic to Cook (and caustic to Prior) throughout the book. And that’s taken people’s eyes off the ball. The ‘Big Cheese’ is a distraction. Proper questions need to be asked about Cook’s role – both in the decision to fire Pietersen, and the way it was executed.
If Pietersen’s book account is accurate, Cook acted like a coward. He’s the captain, for goodness sake. If he was prepared to fire Pietersen, he could at least have had the courage to look him in the eye.
Clearly Cook was party to the decision. So he needs to explain his rationale, in public. Remember, back in April he promised to tell his side of the story. What are you waiting for, Al? There’s been no confidentiality agreement for thirty nine days.
Will the next person to interview him remember this?
Much the same applies to chair of selectors James Whitaker, whose conduct has so far been little scrutinised. He was just as party to the whole business as Cook. According to Pietersen:
[Downton said] you are not part of our plans going forward now. Silence. Whitaker nodding.
Finally, again according to Pietersen (and not a single word has been denied by the ECB), it was Downton who brought the meeting to a close.
Then Downton spoke: You can go and speak to your people and then we can discuss things.
Okay. Is that it?
Yes. Thank you very much.
Hang on – I thought Pietersen flounced out of the meeting before everyone had a chance to speak? After all, Paul Newman in the Mail said:
Kevin, why did you walk out of that last meeting with Cook and Paul Downton when they told you about your deselection, rather than hang around to hear the reasons and talk it through?
Cook wanted to have a full discussion on where it had all gone wrong but you did not give him a chance, instead getting your mate Morgan to suggest Cook wouldn’t front up.
(You can only marvel at Newman’s front here – the sheer ludicrousness of suggesting that someone who’s just been sacked should dutifully hang around to have his nose rubbed in it.)
On our own comments board, Sun cricket correspondent John Etheridge said:
Cook was at the meeting when Pietersen was told he was being sacked. Whitaker and Downton were also there. This is the ‘captain weasel – he looked at the ground and said nothing’ meeting as described by Piers Morgan.
The counter version is that Pietersen flounced out after four minutes before Cook had a chance to speak.
There are two possibilities. Either Pietersen is mistaken, or the ECB are deliberately propagating a false claim to the press. Whoever is right, how did details of a confidential personnel issue escape their proper confines? Which one of Cook, Downton or Whitaker told anyone else what happened in the meeting?
To be continued…