The twists and turns of KP-gate

To say that no one comes out of this well is an understatement.

The failings and mistakes of Kevin Pietersen himself have been well documented, and as this saga continues to unfold, the malign ineptness of the ECB’s handling of events has rightly attracted increasing attention.

As we suggested a few days ago, the role of the managers is to manage. The well-resourced ECB is stuffed to the gills with professional managers, who are supposed to bring the acumen of their MBAs and human resources techniques to bear in a situation like this. And they’ve made a total balls-up of it

In the words of blogger The Old Batsman, “it is not their job to be as confused as Kevin”.

As Piers Morgan, Cricket 365, and the Daily Mirror’s Mike Walters, have pointed out, the ECB have been guilty not just of cack-handed ness and arrogance, but plain hypocrisy.

Last year, Graeme Swann criticised Pietersen in his autobiography. No action was taken. But when KP made a fairly tepid criticism of Nick Knight on Twitter, he was fined £3,000.

And now he’s been dropped from the team for allegedly sending some private text messages, the recipients and content of which are unknown. How do his actions, and the consequences, compare to those of his team-mates?

On Saturday, James Anderson laid into Pietersen in his Daily Mail column. His – very public – criticisms lay behind a thin veil of carefully impersonal language, but were explicit nonetheless.

He has not been reprimanded, and neither have Swann or Stuart Broad, who’ve also discussed the issue in their own columns. None of what they’ve written has helped promote the ECB’s precious “unity of purpose and trust”.

Andrew Strauss yesterday said: “I’m a big believer in not airing dirty laundry in public. What goes on in the dressing room stays in the dressing room. Any time anyone has fallen foul of that they have been disciplined”. Well, up to a point. It depends whether or not your name is Kevin Pietersen.

The Swann-Broad-Anderson triumvirate keep popping up in all this. It’s interesting that neither Anderson nor Swann were bought in February’s IPL auction. If they’d ended up on lucrative deals – like KP – rather than looking on empty handed from the sidelines, then maybe the dynamic of the England dressing room of late would have been different.

If this trio particularly cared about team “unity”, they probably wouldn’t have become party to the infamous spoof KP Twitter account.

You might say it’s rather petty of me to bring up something so trivial, but don’t blame me – it was the ECB who decided that texts and tweets were a matter of cricketing life and death.

Stuart Broad – who is an England captain – has been accused of collusion in generating the KP Genius Tweets. He is a friend of its creator, Richard Bailey.

Broad yesterday released a very carefully worded statement in which he denied involvement in the “creation” of the account. The way it reads, to my eye at least, doesn’t rule out Broad being involved with the account at a later stage.

I wonder why the account was closed down so quickly after the row blew up last week. As Derek Pringle says in the Telegraph today:

“Why would Bailey, a self-confessed showman, close the parody account unless there were others involved, perhaps in more sensitive positions? Unless an account like that is forced to close, its creator would surely bask in the notoriety.”

The more we drill down, the more we wonder how and why Pietersen became estranged from the greater part of the England dressing room.

If he’s ever done or said anything dreadful, we’ve never heard about it. And I can’t imagine that the IPL/contract dispute is really what’s fired up emotions.

Here’s my hypothesis. KP is insular, a bit weird, an outsider, and in no way one of the lads. He has little sense of humour.

Broad, Anderson and Swann are macho and slightly boorish roisterers. KP is an easy target for them; they start taking the piss out of him, or perhaps worse; and he takes it much more to heart than they ever envisaged. If these guys were at school – and they’re behaving like they are – you could imagine Broad flushing Pietersen’s head down the bog.

But just as plausible is that KP has dreamed up most of this abuse, or at least exaggerated it, dwelling on trivial occurrences and letting them build up in his head. He is a bit mad, after all, and probably rather paranoid.

The England players are, in the main, quite young men, as prone to human folly and mischief as the rest of us. They are not politicians or statesmen, who carefully regulate their behaviour in all situations. My guess is that the dressing room has been struck by a dose of  laddish exuberance which has now turned very sour.

For all the rebukes of Pietersen for alienating himself from the rest of the squad, I’d argue that there is a collective responsibility for every player to do their bit for team harmony. Unless KP has done something genuinely terrible, the other players need to grow up, accept him for who he is, and leave him be, not bully the weirdo in the corner.

Meanwhile, the ECB could have taken a leaf out of the Australian board’s book. Shane Warne publicly criticised coach John Buchanan at great length in the 200os, without meaningful censure, and stayed in the team, because they would have been crazy to leave him out.

Instead, the England management hoped that by dropping Pietersen, they would take the heat out of the situation, and remove an unwelcome distraction before the crucial Lord’s test. This strategy has spectacularly backfired: the story has become 1,000 times bigger.

Hugh Morris, the England team MD, could have fronted up, like a man, and appeared in public to explain what’s going on. But with typical cowardice he’s hidden in a cupboard for the last week, and sent poor Tim Bresnan into press conferences to deal with the media onslaught. As Morris chickened out of answering any questions about KP’s sacking as captain in January 2009, this has not come as a huge surprise.

Another problem of the ECB’s own creation is the disrupting influence of money. Pietersen has been accused of greed – he wants to miss the New Zealand series to line his pockets. It’s worth remembering that only England players, unlike the Aussies and Saffers, face a clash between the IPL and their home season.

But who exactly institutionalised the pursuit of cash in English cricket? If the ECB are so ill-disposed to the IPL, why did they kowtow to the BCCI’s demand that players aligning with the rival ICL be banned? If it’s wrong to put money first, why consort with Allen Stanford, or sell the public down the river in return for Sky’s TV dosh?


To change tack, Piers Morgan has attracted a vast amount of abuse and flack for wading into the row and supporting Pietersen. Personally, I think it’s refreshing to have a complete outsider ruffle feathers and shed new light on the saga.

The regular cricket commentariat is an incestuous beast: the majority of pundits and correspondents are too close to the establishment, or hidebound by how things worked in their own playing days, to see things with fresh eyes. Morgan is not part of that establishment, and in this context probably cares little what the cricket authorities think of him. He’s successfully embarrassed the ECB, and put them on the back foot.

In the last twelve hours, there has of course been a major new development. Pietersen has reportedly apologised, in a fashion, via his agent. And there are already rumours that this may even be enough to restore his place in the side tomorrow.

Whether he plays or not, and whether we win the match or not, the result will inevitably be attributed to KP-gate. If we do win, the selectors will be praised for their wisdom. And wouldn’t it be ironic if both Taylor and Bairstow score centuries?

Maxie Allen


  • This all sounds very convincing, especially the exposure of ECB hypocrisy and your comparison of Broad et al to schoolyard bullies. But if you are agreeing with Piers Morgan on any topic, then by definition you are in the wrong.

    • “To change tack, Piers Morgan has attracted a vast amount of abuse and flack for wading into the row and supporting Pietersen. Personally, I think it’s refreshing to have a complete outsider ruffle feathers and shed new light on the saga”

      But he isn’t a “complete outsider” is he? Aside from being one of the few people on this planet with abosolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever, he claims to be a friend of Pietersen – you might have noticed, Moron does like to namedrop. Furthermore, aside from this, what does he actually know about cricket?

  • Morgsie here. I haven’t really commented on this much as I really don’t know what to make of it all. I agree with Maxie that KP is a little bit mad. I’ve always been struck by the strange way he contextualises things. His perspective certainly isn’t one of a man who thinks like an ordinary person. He went on and on about the heat in Sri Lanka for example, even though he didn’t have to bowl in it! He walked off to the dressing room at tea during his ton at Headlingley having a good laugh with the Saffers, whilst totally ignoring his batting partner on debut (little James Taylor, who had done well to survive a torrid start to his innings).

    However, there is no doubt that he ECB is a totally incompetent organisation. Always has been, and probably always will. Their stance on ‘you must play both T20 and ODIs or neither’ is a total joke. They pick completely different squads for different formats, and they were quite happy for Strauss to miss T20 cricket altogether when he was ODI captain. Meanwhile, their scheduling of matches is pathetic – they never learn. Is it any wonder players want to retire from certain formats given the ECB’s propensity to schedule meaningless 7 match ODI series at the end of 4 months Ashes tour to Australia?! They also handled to whole Moores / KP debacle in depressing fashion (and ended up sacking both coach and captain). Whilst they seem completely unable to handle matters in house themselves (they’ve leaked details of KP’s negotiations) they discipline KP for making public comments they don’t like. Get a grip chumps!

    Having said all that, KP hasn’t exactly endeared himself to cricket fans recently. He does seem to care just as much about money as he does playing for England – if you watch his YouTube video, this much is pretty clear (despite his claims to the contrary). I’m also getting tired of his random comments to the media, which seem totally unnecessary.

    Maxie’s view above isn’t one I totally agree with, but I think he makes the case as eloquently as anyone. There’s just one thing he forgets. He’s right when he says Swann and Broad didn’t get fat IPL contracts, but there is another factor that puts them at odds with KP. Broad and Swann are also the only England players who, like KP, play in all three formats (plus possibly Bresnan). Therefore they’re probably the least sympathetic to Pietersen’s moaning about the schedule etc. To be honest, I think this is more likely to be the root cause of the animosity rather than money. I reckon Swann and Broad do ok financially, and the latter still has most of his career ahead of him to cash in.

    • Good point about Swann, Broad and Anderson also playing all 3 formats.

      For me the most damning evidence of ECB incompetence is that they once appointed Kevin Pietersen England captain.

    • I think mentioning Strauss not playing T20 is a bit off the mark. The reason Strauss was not expected to play T20 is the same reason Cook does not, they are seen whether correct as not as not being suited to that format of the game and so it was not so much a case of Strauss not making himself available for T20 as him not being in the frame for selection at all. I might be wrong but I think Stauss doesn’t even play T20 for Middlesex much if at all and he is certainly seems one of the least likely England players to play iin the IPL rather than early season county cricket.

  • couldnt they take your other pet subject here maxie?not play bairstow and have 5 bowlers-might need them on a flat wicket.

  • I agree the ECB have been cack-handed and can’t manage their way out of a paper bag. I can’t however agree that KP is some kind of sensitive flower who needs protection from the dressing room bully boys. Right from the start of his career he’s been brash, arrogant and selfish, and this has been particularly evident in his blatantly putting making money from the IPL ahead of playing for England. He is just as guilty as the management for the mess they all find themselves in. As for Piers Morgan, would he have made such a public intervention on behalf of a player who wasn’t a “celebrity”?

  • watching cricinfo just now.. i tell you what – this inexperienced new line-up is so much more exciting! Bell and Bairstow batting now.. Bell with long-standing questions of how well he does when the pressures on.. Bairstow nearly new..

    it reminds me of something of the thrill of following cricket in the 80s-90s, when they trawled the counties to put a new 11 together for every match.. and you’d hope against all experience that this new all-rounder; aging re-tread; or slightly paunchy middle order biffa could really show something.. and then there was the best bit of all where you thought: “well, his bowling didn’t go too well.. maybe, maybe he can save us with the bat! – C’mon son!” it was actually exciting to be rubbish. a feeling i’ve not known for a long time, something that the absence of Pieterson can only help with.

    – Paul


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