The questions the hacks must ask Downton


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.


  • I know the list has to be manageable, so not criticising that the points arent covered, but here are a few more…

    Why does it matter that the England captain comes from the right sort of family?

    Is it acceptable for Cook to say that a player (Prior) can have a place for as long as he wants, regardless of form or fitness?

    Why is it selfish for Pietersen to want to score 10,000 Test runs but not for Cook to say he is keeping the captaincy just because he likes it?

  • Great list. Sadly, I think they’d meet with blank refusal to discuss anything to do with KP.

    However, if between them they just asked questions 28, 29 and 30 and really insisted on getting answers, that would be pretty good. (Especially as 30 is actually about five questions!)

    • 26 is an excellent question, which any cricketing journalist should be prepared to ask, even if they are allergic to the name Pietersen.

  • Excellent stuff as always, Maxie – although you’ve forgotten poor old Tredders again in 11.

    Like hatmallet (whose points I support) I understand the need to keep the length manageable but there are some more key areas:
    1) The selection process – did your predecessor sit in on selection meetings? Does this create a process that appears free of political considerations and based purely on merit? Why can’t some of the Sky megabucks be used to pay for two more full-time selectors rather than relying on two county coaches who have a manifest conflict of interest?
    2) International venues – are you happy that there is no Ashes test north of Nottingham next year? Is your vision for the future of English cricket a sport limited to rich southern enclaves?
    3) The international schedule – given substantial evidence of player physical and psychological burn-out how do you defend England’s schedule for the next 18 months, a schedule described by Andrew Strauss as “brutal”? Would you like to take this opportunity to reject the presentation of series against Australia and India as “iconic” whereas other test nations are dismissed as “minnows”? Are you happy that England have played South Africa, ICC top ranked nation and described by you as a “benchmark” in setting standards, in only three home tests since 2008?
    4) Andy Flower – why is he a suitable coach for the England Lions when he manifestly failed to identify and develop young talent when England coach? Why was he appointed without a competitive application process? What are the terms and conditions of his employment? Can you cite other examples of coaches being promoted after a humiliating defeat? Do you acknowledge that results started declining in 2012 and reject a narrative that claims everything was going swimmingly until we hit Hurricane Mitch in Brisbane?
    5) Personal targets – Kevin Pietersen wrote that you said you’d prefer he talked about helping England win matches rather than achieving 10 000 Test runs – do you say this to every England player who sets himself a personal target (like Stuart Broad wanting to play 100 Tests)? How would Kevin Pietersen scoring lots of runs hinder England achieving more victories as you appear to believe?
    6) The IPL – would you say the IPL is a force for good in world cricket and you would like to see more England players taking part in it? Will you change the nonsense rule that players can opt out of whole formats but not individual series? Is the reason you won’t appoint Eoin Morgan ODI captain the likelihood that he will want to play in the IPL in the future?

  • This is excellent Maxie. Well done. Sadly, most of the mainstream journalists do not have the honesty, integrity and courage to ask Downton most of these questions. They are a shameful, disappointing lot and in cahoots with the ECB.

  • Is it just me or do others find this deeply offensive. In the middle of a tour a ‘suit’ is grabbing the microphone and behaving like a faded rock star. By all accounts this is going to be a celebration of his first year in office. Or “I’m a ledgend in my own living room.”

    Apparently the coach is just a dogsbody who can’t do jack s**t without running it past his master. Yesterday, Moores said they would review the situation after this tour has finished. This was too much for the clowns out of ECB Versailles. The word went down to the dogsbody who has been spinning like a top ever since. This is the England cricket team not some sleazy bank.

    Downton is increasingly behaving like the deranged Football chairman who thinks he is the reason people pay their tickets to watch. There was a certain former chairman of Southampton football Club who used to attend training sessions, and turn up with his initials on his track suit.

    Time for some player power me thinks. The Downton’s of this world are two a penny. Great players are much more important .

  • 17, 26 and 28 especially need answers.
    As Mark says, the Downton’s of this world are 2 a penny. Great players are not.

  • I totally agree Downtons of this world are 2 a penny and great players are not. Sadly, England won’t have any great players performing at the world cup.

    To add question 30 something, Sir Ian Botham, cricket legend, and David Lloyd, former England coach, said on Sky that England should pick their best team. Does Downton agree or disagree?

    • Moores claimed in his last interview that that is precisely what the selectors do for every game.

      Which would suggest to any reasonable observer the existence of a Cook shaped reality distortion field… unless, perish the thought, there is another agenda at work.

  • I think before they get to Downton, our lickspittle press have to ask themselves two questions:

    1. Can you name the common elements of journalistic integrity?

    2. Why do you think those elements don’t apply to you?

    The fisrt answer is truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impatiality, fairness and public accountability.

    I don’t think we’ll get an answer to number 2.

  • Thanks for all your feedback.

    More and more further questions keep springing to mind, particularly about the “due diligence” dossier.

    – Was the KP-AF argument after the Melbourne test the true reason for the sacking?

    – You were in Sydney during the period when AF refused to speak to KP. What did you make of that? Was that an appropriate way for the Team Director to conduct himself?

    – Why in January did you specifically ask AF for “his view on whether KP should form part of England team re‐building process”. What led you to ask that question? Did you ask that question of any other player?

    – How did Paul Newman of the Mail come to be in possession of so much detail from that document? What steps have you taken to determine how that information was passed to him from those in possession of it? Was it you who told him?

    I Tweeted the link for this post to John Etheridge, Lawrence Booth, Scyld Berry, Tim Abrahams, Simon Mann, PA sport, and George Dobell. They appear to be the principal journalists who are currently in Sri Lanka. Three have replied so far. Dobell is on leave and not attending the press junket.

    John E said:

    Lawrence B said:

    As I said above, some of the press have been more dogged and curious than others. Overall, though, you can only compare their approach to that taken by the Sunday Times team investigation the Qatar World Cup bid. Through their tenacity and persistence, they have uncovered a great deal of information FIFA would rather have stayed out of the public domain.

    Imagine if some of the less impressive of the cricket press had been assigned to that story? They’d have written something like:

    “Mr Blatter assures us that the process was conducted with due propriety, and frankly I think we should take his word for it, and move on”.

      • My questions would be

        1 Are the selectors free from your interference to pick the best players?

        2 Is the coach free from your interference to pick the best captain?

        3 Do you think England are picking the best 11 players to play ODI cricket? If you answer no , then why not? If you answer yes. You are either lying or are delusional. In either case you should resign.

        4 How many years can a player go on failing before he is dropped?

        5 Would you like to apologise for your insult to those supporters who you accuse of being outside of cricket?

        6 If Giles Clarke is voted out, will you resign?

        • Since you’re not pulling your punches with that list, Mark, I’d change number 6 to “When Giles Clarke is voted out, will you jump before you’re pushed?”

  • I’m not going to read the responses to your tweet, I suspect it wouldn’t be good for my blood pressure. Anyone want to break it to me gently whether JohnE and LawrenceB responded positively or negatively?

    • John said he’d ask about Cook and Pietersen, but that some of the questions had already been answered or were based on a false premise.

      Lawrence replied to reference my rather brusque tone, but with a smiley emoticon.

      • It’s always amusing when JohnE does the “false premise” two step.
        First he says something is based on a false premise, but then when pressed, he rarely produces evidence of why the premise is false.

        And really that’s the problem with how the press has dealt with the ECB since the Ashes Debacle Down Under. A complete refusal to actually get the ECB on the record with evidence to support their allegations.

        And of course, the real elephant in the room.
        We had a Debacle Down Under, but JohnE can’t or won’t press the ECB on what has actually been done or changed as a result… instead we’ll get softball questions about Pietersen and Cook and “personality clashes.”

        • John E still hasn’t can’t be bothered to answer the question about the photo, despite being asked again and again by numerous people.

        • I gave up with John Etheridge when he stated on here the ECB does not leak. Where he thought Paul Newman was getting all that stuff which was in the dodgy dossier. I don’t know.

      • Final thoughts on tone: I liked your tone, but I could see why LB might feel put out by it. The problem is of course, we all spent the beginning of the saga being more moderate in tone and the press ignored us…

      • I’d be very interested if he were to tell us which he thinks have been answered, and which he believes to be false premises.

        Absent that, it’s just a polite brush off.

        • I don’t think *any* of them have been answered – have they? – and most haven’t even been asked.

          Perhaps the most revealing questions are about whether sacking Pietersen was worth it. Would Downton assert that by doing so he solved the problem he believed existed – and would he say that removing Pietersen has made any meaningfully positive difference to the team environment?

          • I don’t think so, either.
            But I’d be interested in hearing which ones JE thinks have been.

            As I said, otherwise, it’s just a polite way of ignoring your points, rather than taking (any of) them on directly.

  • Exactly when and where is this love-in happening – there’s no note of it in the press or ECB website?

  • Dear Mainstream Cricket Journalists,

    Admit that you are clubby gossip-mongers who want to stay friends with the suits in charge of the English game. Then find yourselves jobs that you can actually do. You know, with a modicum of self-respect?
    Until then, blank pages would be preferable to your endless unsubstantiated, unmerited puffery.
    Oh, and the fact you played for England once or twice? It really doesn’t make you an “authority” on the game.

  • Perhaps one question should be:

    How long do you intend to provide this wonderful entertainment for the cricketing public of other cricket nations. Have you considered going on tour. The Aussie’s love you.:-)


    SkyNews have just announced that because Ravi Bopara had his room turned upside down by his teammates then the spirit in the England camp must be good despite losing to Sri Lanka.

    So that’s okay then – is this what Downton is going to tell us??????

    • Isn’t it odd that the “my mates trashed my room. Aren’t we a crazy bunch of bonding close pals” seems fine for a successfully winning team, but for a punch of losers seems like the immature pastime of big kids who should man-up, grow up and just practise the game a bit more?

      Or keep it to themselves. Dickheads.

      Downton doing a great job educating these young men

      • Always been the way. Results are everything.

        I remember when Gooch was captain in 1992 or 1993 in India. England were getting hammered, and the media focused in on the fact Gooch was unshaven. He would turn up to post match press conferences and they would bemoan his scruffy image.

        I used to call it the Graham Gooch stubbily chin syndrome. Funny thing is, when Gooch scored 333 against India at Lords the media had no problem with an unshaven appearance.

  • Dear old Scyld “Alastair-is-still-my-choice” Berry continues to entertain with his imaginative ways of complimenting Cook:
    The third point though is entirely valid. Under Moores, in his second incarnation as England coach, and Cook as captain, an environment has been created in which young players can express themselves…

    That would be an environment in which captain and coach are contributing so little that young players have no option but to fend for themselves…

    …consistent failure is a cunning plan to force responsibility on the youngsters?

    I’m almost convinced.

    • The ‘creating an environment’ became a meme during the summer. What does it actually mean? What have Cook and Moores specifically done which has changed the environment in such a way that it’s directly led to those younger players expressing themselves? Was it a palpable and conscious process – or did the players just happen to get better of their own accord through acquiring more experience and confidence?

      If it’s true that the Likely Lads genuinely have made it easier for new players to thrive , what does it say about the previous environment, under Flower?

    • I am totally bemused by the argument that Moores/Cook are creating a good environment for young players. It’s almost as if a young player never did well for England before. I suppose it was a total aberration that Cook, Trott, Swann etc did so well on debut … under a completely different regime (which included KP in the dressing room).

      What’s more, it’s not even the case that all England’s young players are doing well. Taylor has got runs, as have Ballance & Moeen, but loads of other young players have struggled or had mixed success: Stokes’ form has fallen off a cliff, Finn still looks a shadow of his former self, Jordan is still erratic, Gurney looks out of his depth, and Sam Robson failed badly (he managed the same abysmal tally as his captain). The biggest success has been Root, who had already played plenty of international cricket before Moores turned up.

      Oh, and do I really need to remind everyone that Stokes, Root, Panesar and Bairstow all talked highly about Pietersen after the Ashes, praised his influence on the young players, and talked of the times he spent mentoring them? If you want to help young players, it seems rather counter productive to sack one of the senior players that spent most time with them?

      As I’ve said many times before I’m generally ambivalent about KP, but I recognise illogical nonsense when I see it. I usually quite like Berry as a journalist, so I’m extremely surprised he’s repeating this absurd fallacy. It’s surreal really. I just don’t get it.

    • That is one of the best parody videos ever.

      “I think we should use the porcupine principle”
      “I like the way you think!”

      Thanks, Jim . . .

      Praise the lord for the gift of laughter . . .

  • On the eve of the last ODI in Sri Lanka – Berry in the DT can’t help but comment about KP even though the story is about Jayawardne and Sankakkara – berry has been with the tour and is now as demented as the rest of the England set up – doesn’t appear to take very long to become infected

  • Erm….has Downton spoken yet? Has he graced the airwaves with his long term vision of unbridled success for Team England?
    Have the journo’s asked the forensically incisive questions that the average cricket fan would like answers to?
    Has honesty, transparency, and nay, no small amount of humility been offered to the said cricketing public?
    Short of buying a crystal ball and setting up a tent on Morecambe front, I predict the answers would be…. No, no, and no!

    • More of the same old nonsense

      Here’s the first bite. It’s exactly what we would expect. Nice to see somebody challenged him on Cook’s track record in Australia (one decent series out of how many attempts?)

      Ach, I give up. The man in charge of English Cricket is a moron. And the print journalists who report on it are cut from the same cloth. Short of armed insurrection, there is no hope.

  • Oh well, at least no one has to listen to that sycophant, Derek Pringle, for his opinion. And I do mean “opinion” as DP has never yet been able to serve up an qualified argument. I’m surprised that the DT and DP have not been taken to the cleaners for what DP has spouted for the past year. So that is the upside I suppose. As for other “usual suspects” I guess they will be singing from the same hymn sheet. Well if they can find the same hymn sheet of course, given that Moores seems to have picked up the wrong one and received (IT IS ALLEGED!) a right royal rollicking from his ECB masters. Bring in the Daleks: “exterminate, exterminate, exterminate” and send ’em all packing.

    • If Moores had any integrity he would resign now. All he did on Saturday was to say we will have a review after this series is finished. Seems quite reasonable to me.

      But that is not acceptable under this regime. In over ruling him they have revealed his job to be a sham. He is just the tea boy. Albeit a well paid tea boy.

  • Just wondering if this has been asked before… how might we bring down the ECB in its current incarnation? It looks rotten, smells rotten, sounds rotten… reckon it wouldn’t take many punches.

    • The counties are the answer. English cricket is ultimately run by and for them. Hitherto they’ve shored up Giles Clarke, probably because most of them are broke and they hoped he’d raise some more money for them, but it seems they’re seeing the light. If only they can be persuaded to vote him right out and not let him be President or Duke or whatever he wants to be. Then his ghastly appointees could go too.

  • Downton states “Cook is a natural leader and the whole team is behind him”. Also he will be attending the selection meeting but he does not have a vote or veto. Marks describes him as a man with the confidence “knowing he doesn’t need one”. Nothing of any substance to report yet.

  • Then counties are as corrupt as the ecb. If they cared about anyone but themselves they’d vote these clowns out now. It’s very sad that ‘fans’ have zero say, but it’s also sad that these same fans will moan and yet still buy up
    England tickets !! Fans have to stand up and show their dissatisfaction. Counties rely on tests for income, boycott the tests on 2015-16 and CPU ties will be forced to listen,

    By then it’ll be too late anyway.

  • I challenge is to find a level where corruption won’t be there.. England has it, counties have it (inc all their silly Jnr sideswiped who pick from set clubs, not the best players), minor counties are corrupted as again, they seem to only pick from set clubs/leagues, ecb prem clubs seem to all be about paying players, bringing in as many youth as you can and forcing many out the game by demoralising them)… Where does it stop? The county boards are useless.. Chance to shine is useless.. All these gimmicky schemes just employ more and more people in bed with the ecb (I mean seriously, do the ecb coaching quals actually mean anything!!!)

  • Bopara has a better recent record than Cook – so has been dropped.

    Taylor has scored more ODI 50s this year in 3 matches than Cook in 19 but has been dropped down the order to No.5.

  • The Downton Cook conundrum – sounds like a new episode of the Big Bang Theory – this is not an England cricket team – this is a Downton Cook select XI – no wonder it’s never at full strength ……….

  • Downton’s comments on the KP book were particularly illuminating.

    Apparently he is happy to accept it as post hoc evidence that they were right to sack Pietersen for being ‘disengaged’, but when asked about the bullying allegations, went into ‘nothing to see here’ mode.

    It seems that the principle that “anything you say may be used against you” requires extending to “…and may be used only against you”.

  • […] Sky Sports might argue it’s not their job to hold people to account. They provide the coverage, analysis and entertainment. The newspapers have no such excuse. Which is why Berry’s lament is more than a bit rich. In 2014 the ECB spun a story so full of holes even Geoffrey Boycott’s proverbial grandmother could have told they were lying from fifty paces. But with a small number of exceptions, the hacks lacked the curiosity, independence, and cohones, to ask any difficult questions. […]


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