A Chinese proverb states ” One who is tripped by the foot can get up again. One who is tripped by the tongue may not.”
It remains to be seen whether the two subjects of today’s blog will be able to recover from their verbal trips, or whether this is the sign of the end of an empire. If it is the end, this will not go down meekly.
Let’s take Alastair Cook. Now we all know that when it comes to admirers of his captaincy I stand somewhere near the back of the queue. You also know that I think he was cowardly in his approach post-Ashes, got one of the softest rides one could imagine in the summer, culminating in grown press men almost weeping for joy when he made that scratchy old 95 at the Rose Bowl that was greeted by the hordes as one for the ages. He was then given a wonderful ride through a one-day series at home as at every turn we asked to remember the test series win. When he was finally put out of his and our agony of the ODI captain, deep down we knew we’d burned what slim chance we had of doing well at the altar of the Cult of the Cook. Indulging Chef, messing about with our openers, messing about with our middle order, set a bad sign. You’d think he’d know that. You think he’d accept that. But, according to how his words have been reported, that hasn’t happened…
Cook’s no novice. He’s uttered polished word after measured line to take, augmented by bland words and boyish charm. He knows if he wanders off the reservation there will be a reaction. What he needs to realise now is that sympathy for him has left town. To stay on the side of Downton and Moores would be to nail your colours to the mast of failure. To stray onto the other side will cause him to miss out on records, lose his support in high places and then some other stuff comes along with it….. horses heads, that sort of thing. So he’s tried to straddle the middle ground. Be mildly critical, but not so that he burns his bridges. He’s been successful with neither. By saying this in Abu Dhabi on the day a test squad, which in my view he has no right to be in on form, is announced, he’s picked his moment. He comes across as feeling sorry for himself, professing to surprise while saying he had no divine right, and then the hindsight part. Oh, and at the end he tries to put the boot in KP, just to curry favour with his masters in case they thought he’d gone completely off the reservation.
Cook seems to believe there are boundless reservoirs of goodwill out there for him, and true, many still do like him. But a lot more dislike him now than they did in November 2013. However, we see a lack of self-awareness:
I don’t know what’s gone on on that tour, and I can only speak from watching a little bit from afar, but it did look like the lads were shell-shocked from the first two games. That’s when you need real leadership to help steer you through that.
He has to be kidding me. Or does he really believe it was his wonderful leadership that turned around the India series? We don’t have to go too far back to see how Cook’s leadership galvanised a shell-shocked squad.
Most are nailing him for this paragraph..
“I can’t speak about what’s gone on there in depth, but you always back yourself, and I would have loved to have had the opportunity that was taken away from me. The selectors made that decision because they thought it was the best for English cricket. Hindsight has probably proved them wrong, but now it’s very easy to say that.”
I don’t like the “opportunity that was taken away from me”. That entitlement permeates more than anything that I’ve heard from Pietersen (who is markedly more media savvy). As for the last part about being proved wrong dispensing of his services, you wonder what planet he is on. Even KP hasn’t bragged like that. Yes, that comes across as a brag. Please feel free to tell me how that’s been taken out of context.
“[The Test team] was in a good place. I wouldn’t say all of it [confidence] has been [broken], but a hell of a lot of it has been. You have to remember that it is a different format and you get a change, but all teams are grouped under the same English cricket umbrella, and we can’t be naive enough to think that it’s not,” he admitted.
Dear God. You wonder if this “backing yourself” isn’t ECB speak for wiping all inconvenient memories and only analysing the positive data. It’s off the reservation this stuff. This India series win is the stuff of cricketing legend. A mighty foe, slain by a young hungry team, under the tutelage of a mighty sage fighting his own demons, but creating a good environment. It’s a ton of horse manure and most sane people know it.
Sorry for the random name-check.
But if you want fun, listen to Pat Murphy and James Whitaker. Proper questions, prevarication and avoidance, and then forcing out the KP point. And you wonder why there is hesitation in KP signing for Surrey. I know a little about how much some were paid in Surrey a few years ago, and KP would earn that for a few weeks in Hyderabad. He should do that in my view. He’s not getting a place out of this lot unless they go. Top to bottom. They are all invested in this crock of nonsense, and none can save face now. It has to start with Flower moving on, Downton being packed off and a new chairman of selectors. The coach would be untenable at this point, and the selectors would also have little chance. Can you see that happening? I can’t.
But Whitaker is that special kind of cretin. The sort who thinks he’s being so damn ultra smart, so utterly professional by avoiding a question, a straight question put to him.
PM : “KP’s going to try to make a go of it to get back into the England team, what do you make of that?
JW: “Good luck with that”
PM: “So does he have a chance?”
JW: “Developing a team, Ballance. Promising. Good luck getting in KP?”
PM: “You think they are better than Pietersen”
JW: “Gary Ballance. We developed Ian Bell. Gary Ballance. Upside. Upside. Not in plans.”
And so on. All about future and no plans. It’s media speak, and while I berate Cook for speaking his mind, it at least says what he feels. This is pre-computed, line to take, cobblers. Just sod off out of it, you damn empty suit Whitaker. Who the hell do you think you are, patronising those who might want to see everyone given a chance to make it? Standing there. All smug, self-satisfied, full of his own importance. So smart. If he were an ice cream, he’d lick himself.
Don’t humour them KP. Just don’t.
As for the test team, well. Jonathan Trott, great. Adam Lyth, good luck. Adil Rashid, I sense players being plucked from the air, Mark Wood, wish him well. But please. James Tredwell couldn’t get into a second division team last summer, and now he’s arguably our number one test spinner. It takes that kind of thought that takes your breath away. No wonder KP is no longer in their plans with thinking like that.
Have faith. Gary Ballance. Have hope. Gary Ballance. Be not afraid…..
I’ll get to the press shortly. It’s been a ‘mare, ain’t it?