What a shame. As someone who is desperately trying to stay neutral in the Kevin Pietersen argument – as I said in my piece last week I have no strong feelings about him either way – I didn’t think the row would become so spiteful so soon. Instead, one seemingly pro-ECB journalist has come out with all guns blazing already. And sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, it’s a gun loaded with cheap shots.
The journalist in question is Paul Newman, who has just written this incredibly provocative piece asking Pietersen a set of loaded questions, many of which are below the belt, on the basis that KP has allegedly refused interviews ahead of his book launch – something Pietersen immediately denied on Twitter.
There are so many things wrong with Newman’s article that I don’t know where to start. The tone is set in the very first paragraph when he asks Pietersen why he fell out with people in South Africa (I thought it was positive discrimination and the quota system, but maybe that’s just me), Nottinghamshire (where he fell out with Jason Gallian, who was sacked as captain the same year KP left), Hampshire (I thought it was something to do with living in London), and finally Surrey.
The last one is news to me. Surrey said a couple of days ago that his contract had simply expired, they’re in talks about another deal, and the fact he’s not on the payroll means the ECB can’t fine Pietersen over the contents of his book. I also remember Alec Stewart praising KP in the media several times this summer. Perhaps I imagined it?!
Newman also suggests that Graham Ford, a personal friend of Pietersen’s, has also become exasperated with him now. Did you know that Moira is the most popular girl’s name in Lithuania? As we’re pulling dodgy facts out of thin air, I thought I’d come up with my own.
Newman’s next question references the PR battle in the media. We’re told that Cook has received support around the grounds – that old chestnut – while KP was booed at T20 finals day.
I’m getting incredibly bored with this argument. As everyone knows, test grounds have been half full this year. The malcontents simply stayed away. Attendances at cricket grounds say a lot more about the state of English cricket than a few morons booing. Ricky Ponting was routinely booed at English grounds. We did it because we respected and feared him.
Anyway, now we move on to textgate – the incident that turned so many against Pietersen (including myself for a lomg time). Pietersen was clearly out of order when he texted players in the opposing team, but what about the broader perspective? Newman obviously ignores this for reasons we can guess.
Textgate came during a summer when KP was in dispute with the ECB over his wish to retire from ODIs, some of his teammates were making fun of him on twitter (remember the unsavoury KP Genius account?) and the person he messaged was a close friend and IPL teammate.
What’s more, no journalist ever saw these messages. The story was leaked to Neil Manthrop (via a telephone call) who then proceeded to tell his mates in the press box.
The fact is that Manthrop himself never saw the texts, and we have no idea how accurate the information Mathrop received was (given that it presumably came from someone in the South African dressing room who had a vested interest in disrupting Engand’s plans).
All of this is ignored in Newman’s piece. Instead he simply asks Pietersen why he failed to show the messages to the ECB. Err, because he’d deleted them, Paul. Wouldn’t you have done the same immediately after doing something boneheaded in the heat of the moment?
Just for the record, I’ve called plenty of people doos (and a lot worse) over the course of a summer. It usually happens when one of them runs me out. I usually apologise and we move on – even if I say it out loud and one of the opposition fielders can hear me.
The other questions in Newman’s article continue on their merry, agenda filled way. Newman asks why KP didn’t give Cook a chance to explain why he was sacked (the story goes that Pietersen walked out of the meeting as soon as he was told the news).
I found this question particularly odd. In what way, in this situation, is the person doing the sacking the victim? One can only assume that Newman himself will be full of sympathy for his editor if he himself is ever sacked for writing articles like this one.
Furthermore, what exactly was there to say in the situation described? Downton told us everything we needed to know when he admitted that the strong leadership (that had kept Pietersen engaged) in previous years no longer existed after the Ashes. What could Cook have said? “I’m sorry, Kevin, but I don’t like being criticised so you’re out?” I’m sure it would have been a very productive meeting.
Of course, Newman’s article makes some decent points. We all know Pietersen was no angel. But it’s the style in which he goes about it, and the selective use of evidence, that gets under my skin.
For example, Newman asks why Pietersen fell out with Strauss, Cook, Flower, Prior and before that, Moores. “Can they all be wrong and you be right”?
However, once again the broader context is ignored. For starters, most senior players wanted Moores removed all those years ago, not just KP. As for Flower, Strauss, Cook and Prior, they’re all good men, but they were all part of the leadership group that had started to lose matches regularly. It could be argued that senior players have a right to voice an opinion when things are going spectacularly wrong.
What is more, after the Ashes debacle, Tremlett, Root and Stokes all said they didn’t have a problem with KP’s behaviour. The former even expressed his delight that Pietersen was joining Surrey. In addition, two men Newman claims were against KP, namely Carberry and Swann, also offered staunch defences of Pietersen’s conduct in Australia. Why doesn’t Newman mention all this?
As someone who has become extremely bored with all the sniping of the last eight months, I had hoped (probably naively) that KP’s book might bring some kind of closure. I was hoping for a little forensic examination of the evidence (whereby wrongs on both sides would be exposed) and then we could all eventually, belated, finally, move on.
This rather childish article by Newman, however, suggests the opposite is set to happen. The name-calling will escalate, the analysis will become ever more personal, and objectivity will become all but impossible.
As I said a few days ago, I’m an Inbetweener when it comes to Pietersen. The issues I have with English cricket at the moment have little or nothing to do with him. I’m quite happy we have Gary Ballance and Joe Root in the middle order rather than Trott and KP. Unbalanced polemics such as this one, however, are pushing my sympathies in the opposite direction than Newman intended.
I’ll leave you with just one final thought. Over the last few months the mainstream media has constantly reminded us that Alastair Cook has endured an unprecedented personal, vitriolic hate campaign directed towards him. Has he? I have read nothing, absolutely nothing, in the mainstream media that is anywhere near as critical of Cook as this unedifying polemic against Pietersen by Newman. Indeed, by resorting to such a tabloid approach, Newman has become (nearly) as bad as the tweeting idiots the media so reviles.
How on earth are we supposed to ‘move on’ when another war is so obviously starting? At least we know who fired the first shot this time. It’s all incredibly sad.