Long time readers of our blog will know I’ve never been a massive Kevin Pietersen fan. He used to delight and frustrate me in equal measure. I don’t think he should walk back into the England team – although he should be first reserve – and I fully appreciate that textgate and his autobiography damaged his reputation badly.
However, the way he has been treated this week makes me extremely angry. It’s not so much because I have sympathy for Pietersen personally (although I do have a little) the issue for me is how our cricket board behaves: the evasions, the spin and the risible logic employed to justify insane decisions. It makes me seething angry.
Above all, however, I resent the patronising way the ECB continues to treat it’s public. We are not morons, so please stop treating us as such. Colin Graves’s risible statement today, in which denies misleading Pietersen over his England future, is just the latest lamentable example.
Graves’s argument is contemptible. It’s weak, appears disingenuous, and is about as convincing as the acting in a Greek soap opera. He fudges the issue and even has the temerity to pose as the injured party – suggesting he’s mortally offended that his reputation has been smeared.
The new ECB chairman is fooling nobody. The only person who has damaged Graves’s reputation is Graves himself.
I have to confess I know very little about Graves. I’ve read that he’s done a good job at Yorkshire and used to be a successful businessman, but I had no strong feelings about him either way before today.
However, in one stoke, on his first day on the job, he has succeeded in turning me – a loyal, passionate England fan of thirty years, who has followed the team to the other side of the world – completely against him.
His pathetic explanation – that he offered Pietersen no guarantees that he would be picked for England if he scored runs in county cricket, and therefore slamming the door in his face was in no way a u-turn or contradiction – insults our intelligence.
Anyone with half a brain knows that telling someone there are ‘no guarantees’ is not the same thing as saying ‘you’ve got no chance mate’.
If Colin Graves had been honest with Pietersen, he would’ve said “I’m sorry Kevin, we don’t trust you and consequently you’re not going to play”. Instead, he said he wanted the best players playing for England and that KP might have a chance of playing (or would have more of a chance) if he played county cricket.
As it turned out, the bit about scoring runs in country cricket was the mother of all red herrings. The door has been slammed in Pietersen’s face because of ‘trust’ issues – which have absolutely nothing to do with playing for Surrey whatsoever.
Graves therefore gave Pietersen a total bum steer – and for that reason alone, he misled Pietersen. And if he misled Pietersen, then most people will conclude that he was dishonest. End of.
The chairman’s statement is therefore the archetypal politician’s explanation. At no point does he deny that he wiped the slate clean with Pietersen – but he still implies that Pietersen is a liar and has somehow besmirched his reputation. It’s beyond parody.
Amazingly, Graves also tries to pose as some kind of moral bastion, who has actually taken Pietersen’s best interests into consideration: he claimed that telling Pietersen where he stood ‘allowed him to look at this opportunities’. I’m sure he’s really grateful!
I really hoped that with Giles Clarke and Paul Downton out of the way, the ECB’s smugness and endless spin would be toned down. This now seems a vain hope. This new regime seems just as bad – and incredibly, even more incompetent.
Cricket fans are generally an intelligent and discerning audience. If Colin Graves thinks supporters won’t see through his nonsense I’m afraid he’s got another thing coming.
There is very little hope for English cricket at this juncture. The new chairman and CEO were supposed to reconnect with supporters and move English cricket into a new era. They didn’t necessarily have to recall Kevin Pietersen to do that – all they needed to do was treat everyone the same, pick the team on merit, and introduce what Andrew Strauss called a little ‘honesty’. Instead, all I see at the moment is bluff, evasion and the same worrying inability to take responsibility for mistakes.
I think the obvious point is this (from what I can discern). A month or so ago Graves was prepared to move on, or at least remove the ban on Pietersen, but Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss emerged as two major roadblocks. Indeed, Graves’s decision to appoint Strauss now looks as misguided and inappropriate as many of us suspected it would be weeks ago.
What’s wrong with being honest, Colin? Why didn’t you just say something like this today:
“Yes, I talked to Kevin a few weeks ago and at that stage it looked like it might be possible for him to play for England again (although I gave no guarantees).
However, unfortunately things have moved on. We now have a captain and Director who don’t want to recall him, and I promised I would defer to my Director in all matters of selection; therefore it’s out of my hands.
It’s tough on Kevin, of course, but what I said to him was true … at the time. It’s a shame for him that the situation is now different”.
I suppose saying the above would’ve been just a little too straightforward and sincere for the ECB. I despair. I really do.