Dear mainstream cricket journalists,
For the last ten months the likes of us have given most of you a very hard time. And rightly so. You’ve let your readers down.
When the Pietersen affair began, it was immediately obvious the ECB’s story did not hold water. It hardly required the nous of a Woodward and Bernstein to sense a cover-up.
Paul Downton and Giles Clarke were dissembling, obfuscating, and downright fibbing. They have perpetrated a great deceit, and their conduct strongly resembles corruption.
How did you, the cricket press, react? The majority of you rolled over and had your tummies tickled. You signally failed to do your duty – which is to hold authority to account. You didn’t ask the difficult questions. You didn’t scrutinise. You didn’t investigate.
In a grotesque inversion of journalistic principles, many of you sided with the establishment against your readers.
Why? Few of us could quite fathom it. Was it laziness? Complacency? Were you out of touch with everyday cricket followers? Were good relations with the ECB more important to you than journalism? Did you resent the impudence of bloggers and BTLers, who impinged on your territory and then dared to question your judgement? Or were you simply too close to the England hierarchy, and reluctant to importune your friends?
There were of course a number of honourable exceptions. We don’t tar you all with the same brush.
But to those of you who shirked your responsibilities – whatever the reason – you now have an opportunity to redeem yourselves.
Tomorrow Paul Downton will give a series of media interviews. Here’s what you will do. You shall set the agenda – and not allow him to control proceedings. You will grow a pair, and ask him the questions he does not want to answer. You will hold him to account and get to the truth.
Here are the questions you must ask him.
1. Why did you sack Kevin Pietersen?
2. Seventy five days have elapsed since the confidentiality agreement expired. Why until now have neither you nor any ECB representative spoken publicly?
3. Whose idea was the confidentiality agreement – yours or Pietersen’s? If yours, why did you want one?
4. On 19th April you said, “I arrived in Sydney on 31 December and it was clear from Andy Flower that there were two issues we were facing. He [Flower] was uncertain about his future – and what were we going to do about Kevin?”. Given that England were then 4-0 down, with the Ashes lost, Swann retired, Trott ill, no third seamer or spinner, and Cook, Root and Bell all in poor form, why was Kevin Pietersen (the series top scorer) your over-riding priority?
5. At the same press conference you said, of Pietersen, that during the Sydney test, “I have never seen anyone so disengaged from what was going on”. Given that he was fielding at fine leg, why were you paying him such close attention? What did he specifically do which suggested disengagement?
6. Did Andy Flower tell you to monitor him? Did Flower tell you to sack him?
7. On 22nd May, you claimed that Pietersen “had too many agendas”. What were they? How did they specifically affect the performance of the England team?
8. During that interview, with Jonathan Agnew, you stated that you “talked to every person on the management team and quite a few senior players, and I could not find one supporter who wanted Kevin to stay in the side”. Why did you ask them about Pietersen? Did you ask them about any other players? How did you word the question? How many senior players, exactly, did you speak to? Why did you speak to some players, and not others? Did you only ask the ones you hoped would say what you wanted to hear?
9. As there was supposedly no support for Pietersen within the management team, why did Ashley Giles say, on 15th January, that “there was no discussion about leaving Kevin out [of the World T20]. He’s another million pound asset, at least. He might be worth a bit more than that”.
10. And why, on 22nd January did David Saker say this: “[Pietersen’s] a fantastic player and has done some great things but we went through some tough times in the Test series and things come out of that and people want to make up stories and see things that might not be there. The relationship between Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower hasn’t changed from where I’m sitting and I’m sure what’s being reported and what is out there is nowhere near the truth.”
11. What do you make of the supportive remarks made about Pietersen by Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Broad, Michael Carberry, Monty Panesar, Ian Bell, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, and Eoin Morgan?
12. Did there really exist a four page dossier on Pietersen, which detailed fifty alleged misdemeanours? If so, why was it compiled, who compiled it, and who told the press it existed? If not, how did the rumour emerge?
13. Before the Moores press conference, you had not spoken in public, but Dean Wilson in the Mirror said you had “been quite approachable behind-the-scenes”. Why were you talking to cricket journalists in private, but not to cricket followers in public?
14. Why did the ECB compile the “due diligence” solicitors’ document, which was leaked on 7th October? Who collated the material? Who leaked it? What steps did you take to investigate how it was leaked?
15. That document listed, as an alleged misdemeanour of Pietersen’s, that he had gone out drinking in Adelaide before the second test. He was accompanied that evening by Stuart Broad. Have you also compiled a dossier on Stuart Broad, and does it contain a similar indictment for that incident?
16. It also mentions a “terrible shot” by Pietersen, which led to one of his dismissals at Melbourne. What did you think of this stroke?
17. Do you think Matt Prior and Alastair Cook acted correctly in telling Andy Flower what Pietersen had said about him in the private Melbourne team meeting?
18. Why did you attach importance to these other two claims in the document:
“Following KP’s second innings dismissal, KP whistled casually on his way back to the pavilion, before coming into the dressing room. In team meetings during the tour, KP would often be deliberately disengaged (e.g. looking out of the window, looking at his watch etc whilst AF and others were talking to the team)”.
19. Do any members of the current team look out of the window during meetings? What action would you take in the event of a future occurrence of someone looking out of the window?
20. Why did you use the phrase “outside cricket” in the press release of 9th February? How would you define who is “inside” or “outside” cricket? To what extent, in your opinion, are those “outside” cricket entitled to express their views?
21. In the same press release you said: “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”. Ten months later, to what extent do you think firing Pietersen has improved the culture of the side, the side’s performance and results, and Alastair Cook’s own performance as captain?
22. You also said that “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”. Given that considerable detail emerged about Pietersen’s alleged conduct in the dressing room, both prior to that press release and subsequently, can you confirm that you have severely reprimanded those responsible for the leaks?
23. On 4th February, you proclaimed your desire to “rebuild…[the] team ethic and philosophy”. How would you compare the team ethic and philosophy now to its condition on 3rd February? How has Pietersen’s absence changed the ethic and philosophy?
24. What action have you taken to investigate Kevin Pietersen’s claims that bullying was rife within the England dressing room?
25. Given Pietersen’s claims about Andy Flower, are you entirely comfortable that the latter continues to coach within the ECB international set-up?
26. Do you think that the England team environment, both now and during Andy Flower’s tenure, is one in which players are encouraged to think independently, air views honestly, and raise concerns about captaincy and coaching?
27. In your search for a coach to replace Andy Flower, why did you hire head-hunters and spend three months on “due diligence”, only to end up re-hiring a coach who’d already been fired from the job in the past?
28. What action did you take to investigate the causes of England’s calamitous 2013/14 Ashes tour?
29. Why have you started to sit in on selection meetings?
30. Why is Alastair Cook still England captain, in both test and ODI formats? Did you talk him out of resigning, and if so, why? Do you accept that if Cook were to relinquish the role, it would be personally embarrassing for you? Would you categorically deny that politics alone keeps Cook in the job?
So, my dear hacks, that should be enough to get you started. Of course you won’t get to ask all of those questions, but just try to get as many in as you can. What’s he going to do – walk out of the room? You’re not scared of him, are you? What’s Andy Walpole going to do to you?
You will ask these questions, won’t you? You realise you won’t get another chance. It’s now or never.