We may no longer be the number one-ranked test team, but English cricket are still world champions at the art of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
As ever, the ECB care far more about showing who’s boss than actually winning cricket matches, which is why they’ve left out our best player from the toughest of all overseas tours.
Let’s unpick exactly why Kevin Pietersen was not included in the squad for India. According to Geoff Miller, KP was not available to them for selection – in other words, the order came down from above not to pick him.
What exactly is the point of having selectors unless they are allowed to pick whoever they wish, on cricketing merit?
Meanwhile, several England players are on record as saying they’d have no problem with having Pietersen back in the team, were he selected. These include Ian Bell, and also James Anderson – who himself does not come well out of this affair. If team unity is so sacrosanct, maybe Anderson should explain why he felt it necessary to form a virulent anti-KP clique in the dressing room with his mates Broad and Swann.
Meanwhile, Alastair Cook has reportedly been involved in the recent KP negotiations and has met him in person. Why would Cook have done that unless he wanted Pietersen in India – otherwise, he could have waited till later.
So if the England captain apparently wants KP in the squad, and the other players have no real problem with that, why isn’t he?
It’s because Giles Clarke and Hugh Morris – the ECB chairman and England team boss, respectively – don’t want to lose face. They are terrified at looking stupid or craven in public – being accused of bringing KP back too soon, or giving in to him. Their sense of public opinion is that Pietersen must be punished, and be seen to be, at any price.
The ECB have put their pride and vanity before the wider interests of the team’s performance, and not for the first time. In January 2009 Hugh Morris sacked Pietersen as England captain purely to spare his own blushes.
There is a deeper issue at the heart of this. In the eyes of English cricket’s top brass, there is no greater crime, since time immemorial, than to rebuke the management. You can have an endless run of poor form, or go on a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa, and eventually all will be forgiven. But if you dare try to defy the powers that be, then like KP, there will be a black mark against your name forever.
The section of the cricket community whose views count for nothing in any of this is us, the supporters. From our point of view, what we care about is that the England test side has the best possible chance of winning in India. We have no sympathy for the failure of a cadre of generously -paid managers to resolve a dispute about IPL availability and a few text messages.
It’s interesting to note, meanwhile that while KP remains in disgrace, Stuart Broad – heavily implicated in wrongdoing – is not only still in the team, but actually England captain in the T20 World Cup.
Another possible twist in the saga is reported today by the Daily Telegraph. Pietersen apparently declined a four month contract which would have seen him travel to Dubai for the pre-India series warm up, but not then play in the tests.
If true, it sounds like the crudest possible arrangement – a deliberate and ham-fisted attempt to humiliate Pietersen through a public display of punishment and contrition.
It’s also claimed the ECB required him to “waive his rights to any future legal action in employment disputes” with the board – an impossible condition for any employee to accept.
But who leaked the details of these negotiations to the press? Maybe KP did. The ECB have been at great pains to stress how this process must be conducted in private. So it couldn’t possibly have been them. I mean, the ECB would be the last people on earth to disclose confidential information about Pietersen to the newspapers, wouldn’t they?