Upstairs

The day after the Downton Dismissal and the chaos of yesterday already seems somewhat distant. Few journalists seem to be drawing the dots, with the trail leading up the line to Clarke so obvious it almost appears in neon lights. Clarke was a major player in the appointment of his MD, and yet today he leaves the ECB not to enable him to prosper more fully in his ventures in Colombia and Paraguay, but, er, wait a minute…… he’s been made President!

We knew this stitch up ages ago, but there is something even more unpalatable about it now, the day after his cataclysmic decision to appoint Paul Downton had been shown to be the abject disaster that it was. People who make appointments like that don’t stay long. People don’t generally beg those sort of people to remain on the ledger. Instead they are shunted aside, sometimes with an added gong to keep their mouths shut, and then we can pick apart their legacy at will.

To me, retaining this buffoon as Chairman is a stain on our organisation in this country. You cannot truly clean house, have a fresh start, if you merely move the dead rat from the living room and shut him away in the attic. It’ll still stink. His ICC role is even more of an insult, as the incident at the Wisden dinner appears to show. This man does not seem to be able to hold back when he has been criticised, or even mildly questioned. This isn’t Clarke’s team. This isn’t even Clarke’s organisation. I think Dean Wilson probably summed it up best:

But along the way he has ruled the game as if it were one of his personal businesses and he is a ruthless businessman.

His success in that part of his life has largely come about by doing what he thinks is best. By calling the shots, making the decisions and swatting away anyone who gets in his way. It works in business and for a time it worked in cricket, but the England cricket team and the ECB does not belong to him, and he doesn’t always make the right call, just ask Allen Stanford.

When it comes to sport and to cricket, you can’t just tell people what they want and what they are supposed to like. You can’t tell them that because you like one person over another, they must feel the same way.

You can’t endorse an England captain because he comes from the right sort of family.

That sort of outlook is what makes our great game exclusive when it should be inclusive. It is what shuts people out and makes them angry, so when you next ask them to dip into their pockets and buy a ticket to your show, they will turn their backs and look elsewhere.

I was beginning to worry about Dean, but this hits a nail on the head more than many of his other colleagues have. Instead of making it about KP, which is a major point, yes, but only one, he captures the essence of why I despise Clarke. The arrogance which comes from some sort of superiority that only a weapons grade pig can pull off. Every interview, every appearance and every word I heard from this individual brought one word to mind. No, not that one. The word is “unpleasant”.

Now many may laugh that a blog (and blogger) described as unpleasant by more than one member of the media should get on his high horse. But just like Newman, if you meet me, I’m really, most of the time, pretty nice. I like people who like me, and want people to. Clarke’s one of those I don’t get. He seems to get off on being loathed. Why the ECB couldn’t tell him to shove off, because all words seemed to indicate he was going to lose an election, I won’t know. While they made that decision, there will always be a stain.

I’d also like to approach one other point this evening, and it is the sudden reduction in the role and scope of Paul Downton’s role over night. To this, I’ll pick up on Jonathan Agnew’s piece on the BBC:

Downton had a difficult time of it. He was briefed that his first job must be to get rid of Pietersen. He took responsibility for that, but it was not 100% his call – it was a broader decision.

So perhaps he was an easy person to target with regards to KP. He has taken a lot of flak for that. And likewise he was not directly hands-on with the England team.

You have to question how much responsibility he actually had on England team matters.

Downton is moved from the key man in matters of England international cricket, to a sock puppet who danced to his master’s tune. So it wasn’t his decision to sack KP, but someone else. That someone else is either Andy Flower or Giles Clarke (OK, it could have been David Collier, but he was so far off the radar, he was in deep space). Both pose crucial questions to the future of English cricket. If it was the former, it appears as though we threw a drowning man, one who had been in charge of a team that imploded on the spot, a life raft. KP’s description in his “nasty” book of a man adept at managing upstairs seems appropriate. I am not an anti-Flower blogger. At this time I’m converting a lot of my Ashes DVDs from 2010/11 and enjoy the way we dismantled that team. We were a really decent team. But he’d lost it. That was clear. If it was Clarke, then we were sold the mightiest of pups by our friends rushing out of the door that spring day when Moores was appointed, to crown Downton with aplomb. Both the people who pulled the puppet strings are still employed at the ECB. That’s not symbolic, that’s insulting.

He was an easy target, Jonathan, because he made himself the target. He hid. Pure and simple, after the announcement. Not a peep in a live setting for a couple of months. I knew, as much as I could, then we had a problem. We call it, in our game, red flags. This was so red, it had a Liverpool season ticket. Read the stuff on the other blog. You’ll see what I meant from those early posts. The hilarity when Downton actually spoke for the first time, on a Waitrose ad. The difficult winter and all that….

I don’t want to pick on Aggers, but I’ve seen this theme more and more today. Except for one glorious exception which had me rolling about with laughter.

FEBRUARY 2014

After the Ashes whitewash, Kevin Pietersen and head coach Andy Flower are sacked. After days of silence, the official line on Pietersen’s dismissal is that the ECB wanted to ‘create a culture’ in which captain Alastair Cook had ‘the full support of all players’.

From one he was a puppet master, from another he was upholding Flower’s contention that he sack KP. From this article, he actually sacked Andy Flower. He didn’t. He resigned. That author should know the difference between a sacking (KP) and something not quite the same (Flower – resigned, and moved to a job he courted). I don’t think disingenuous quite covers it.
I’ve gone over a 1000 words, and it is late. More reaction including a look at two of our favourite journo’s work (Brenkers and Selfey) to follow. Good night, and thanks for the support.

32 thoughts on “Upstairs

  1. Rohan Apr 9, 2015 / 10:01 pm

    Cracking read Dmitri. I have just read Scyld Berry’s article about the Wisden dinner, on the telegraph website. Giles Clarke sounds, according to the account of events, like a loathsome and truly odious man. I must admit, that until very recently I had not paid much attention to the man, however, the past few weeks have been a real ‘eye opener’. What I am appalled by, is how did Ckarke ever end up in such an influential role in the ECB, just plain terrible.

    I know you may not agree, but after reading the majority of the MSM reports on events of the past 24hours, I have developed some sympathy for Downton. I feel sorry for him that it appears, he was a good man, hoodwinked by his pals on the inside and Flower etc. and did not really know enough about the modern game to make his own informed decisions based on sound evidence and credible information. Equally, however, as an intelligent (supposedly) and well educated man he should have realised and made it his mission to make properly informed decisions and not just blindly trust those who he thought knew about the game. In short he should have realised he needed to look into things far more deeply!

    Like

    • BoerInAustria Apr 11, 2015 / 7:41 am

      A great post as always.

      As we approach the first test against the Windies, and with the expected return of Jonathan Trott, I cannot but wonder about the very different handling of Trott to a number of other players that fell by the wayside over the last year (KP, Compton, Monty etc.). I remain still to be convinced that he has put all the issues behind him (although I would love it to happen – top bloke), and even if he puts in a decent performance against the Windies, the Anzac challenges waiting are daunting.

      What does seem at first glance as an exemplar “duty of care” and investment in an employee, might have other interests at heart. I cannot help this nagging feeling that his return (nurtured by Flower) has been in order to buy his silence. I remember Dobell had an “exclusive” on a player that would have spilled the beans that suddenly did not materialize.

      Trott, if faced with no prospect of return to the Test team would have reached the end of his Eng-land career, and would have had nothing to lose by giving his view on events around the Ashes fail-ure, training regimes, bullying culture, the bowling clique, the myth of the dressing room etc. By opening up the possibility (now a reality) would have gained control of him. (Many of the other players, Monty, Compton etc. are younger and must still nurture a belief that they could still return).

      For me it all points to the Flower Power still in place behind the scenes, influencing the running the ship in his autocratic ways (the reaction of Cook or Clarke to criticism is one manifestation of this culture, the player’s media speak another, and lest we forget the dossier….). I hope that the Glas-nost has started, but Downton is only the start.

      PS – This is in no way a reproach to Trott, who is merely trying to resurrect his career, and per-sonally I wish he succeeds.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH Apr 11, 2015 / 8:01 am

        One could also, as they did on Switch Hit, point to the treatment of Lyth. At the airport press conference they were quick to use Lyth. Moores said it was a pity all the questions were about Pietersen and not players like him. Cook told the tale of him crying on the phone. Clearly they had very little intention of playing Lyth in the Tests. He may well not play again on tour.

        Although there may well be something in the ‘buying silence’ angle there is a lot of Cook about this. Cook repeatedly shows too much trust in players who were successful in the past. Players who he feels ‘comfortable’ with (what a ghastly phrase – is international sport meant to be ‘comfortable’?). It feels like Cook (and his media cheerleaders) are trying to live in an eternal 2011.

        (Like Boer, I’m not getting at Trott – or Lyth – here).

        Like

      • thebogfather Apr 11, 2015 / 8:32 am

        I completely agree. As I commented on ‘Dark Lord’ post on TFT the other day, until Flowerpot goes (and Clarke drowns in his own grease in Dubai), there can be no real improvement in the ECB set up for management of the team.

        Like

  2. Arron Wright Apr 9, 2015 / 10:18 pm

    The single greatest moment of Lawrence Booth’s Wisden editorship (so far) came in 2014, when he followed a dozen pages of Gideon Haigh’s forensic analysis of the ICC stitch-up with two or three pages of superficial, venal, wretched self-justification from Giles Clarke. As juxtapositions go, it was like following All The President’s Men with the unexpurgated Nixon tapes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Zephirine Apr 9, 2015 / 10:49 pm

    We should, perhaps, remember that at the time when Downton was appointed, England were still doing pretty well. It probably looked as if his main job with the national team would be to encourage a few new players and politely ease some old ones out. Then he could be nice around women’s and disability cricket, and apply a bit of organisational experience to the expansion at Loughborough. All reasonably emollient tasks that he might have been quite good at.

    He didn’t realise the national side was about to implode. Perhaps he wouldn’t have taken the job if he’d known. If he’d done his homework he might have had an inkling, but it seems to have taken him completely by surprise – the perfect storm of injuries, breakdowns, feuds and Ashes humiliation must have thrown him into a panic. And then he just proceeded to get everything wrong.

    Ali Martin said Downton sacked KP ‘at the behest of his employer’. Several of the journalists seem to be taking this line. So, whose behest, exactly? Had Flower told Clarke that KP must go? Of course, Downton could have said “That sounds like a poor idea to me, Giles, are you sure?” but if he was the sort of man to say that he would probably never have been appointed.

    Wrong man, wrong job. Sad really.

    Like

    • paule Apr 10, 2015 / 9:20 am

      The ‘behest’ line could and probably is an example of journalistic revisionism, it wasn’t the line taken at the time. I remain sceptical, Scyld Berry:

      Paul Downton was out of the game for 23 years before he was selected by Giles Clarke as England’s managing director. If he had been closely involved in the sport after his retirement from playing in 1991, instead of banking, he might not have set off on the wrong foot.
      When Downton attended the Sydney Test in January 2014, shortly before formally taking over, he decided that Pietersen was “disengaged” and “disconnected from the team”. Reports of insubordination, like Pietersen whistling when dismissed or looking out of the window during team meetings, then padded out his case for Pietersen to be banned from the England team for all formats.
      But Pietersen in the field during that Sydney Test, in the eyes of those who had watched his England career rather than several Tests like Downton, was little or no different from usual – given the circumstances that all the England players were hurting badly after losing the first four Tests against Australia by crushing margins.
      Pietersen fielded competently, as always, at third man and even enjoyed a rare bowl. With the bat he failed in both innings, and could not be said to have sold his wicket dearly, but then he was far from alone.
      It was therefore something of a leap for Downton, based on this initial premise, to terminate Pietersen’s international career. He did it with the best of intentions, to build a new England team with a fresh culture. But Downton had missed something while in the air to Sydney: the Melbourne Test, in which Pietersen had batted with a new responsibility.

      Like

    • waikatoguy Apr 12, 2015 / 3:09 am

      I think he did get conned a bit by those around him. Why get drawn into the whole KP thing anyway? He could quite easily have just left it to the selectors to decide and announce who was in the side, and whether KP was dropped or not; it was after all what they get paid to do. Why on earth did he decide to embark on this whole “dropped from the England side forever” saga?

      Like

  4. Maggie Apr 9, 2015 / 11:03 pm

    The ECB culture – holding on to ways of doing things because that’s how its always been done, riven with internal politics, jobs for the boys, and a resistance to outsiders – is probably familiar to a lot of people who’ve worked in dysfunctional organisations. Good people try to effect change, but gave up because of the sheer bloody mindedness of those who are, frankly, on a cushy billet. Pet projects are enabled and jealously guarded, and factions rule.

    It tends to be that change only comes about as a result of near total disaster, and that’s pretty much where they are now. There’s a window of opportunity where the reform minded can use the momentum of the crash to actually get real change. Whilst Graves has come through the system, I’m prepared to reserve judgement as he’s clearly of an independent bent and isn’t afraid to suggest the offing a few sacred cows. It will be interesting to see who else leaves/is eased out over the coming months, and how many roles are made redundant.

    It may be that shifting Clarke upstairs was the cost of doing business at the time. It was unlucky timing that the deal was done before the world cup, which would have weakened his bargaining position, but such is life. Some of the tweets from associate members when England were knocked out made it pretty obvious they found the whole thing hilarious, and the Clarkes of this world tend not to like being laughed at. Whatever status he had has certainly been diminished, and status is clearly something that matters to him. I would not be entirely surprised if there was a presidential flounce at some slight from a lesser, and the role was quietly abandoned.

    Like

    • waikatoguy Apr 12, 2015 / 3:11 am

      another problem with working in dysfunctional organisations is that the good people leave, or never arrive in the first place. Sound familar?

      Like

  5. Phil Apr 9, 2015 / 11:16 pm

    Upstairs. Fitting title. RIP Richie Benaud. I wouldn’t be loving my cricket if it wasn’t for that man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dvyk Apr 10, 2015 / 8:38 am

      My favourite line from Richie Benaud — when asked his opinion about Boycott’s suggestion for 4 day tests “to make test cricket more exciting” — “Well who made it boring?”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ZeroBullshit Apr 9, 2015 / 11:54 pm

    Richie Benaud gone. A very sad day for me. He kindly gave me his autograph when I was a boy.

    Best leg spinner in his day. Best Australian captain I ever saw. Best TV commentator and one of the best cricket writers. Rest in peace Sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arron Wright Apr 10, 2015 / 7:33 am

      Just to follow up my previous post: juxtaposing the latest activities of Giles Clarke with the death of Richie Benaud is rather like putting the unexpurgated Nixon tapes next to the Gettysburg address.

      The lowest and highest of which our beloved sport is capable.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ZeroBullshit Apr 10, 2015 / 10:26 am

        Indeed Arron.

        Like

  7. @pktroll Apr 10, 2015 / 7:37 am

    A very perceptive article. It really does seem that those on high brought in someone “who wouldn’t rock the boat” rather than someone who had both the business experience and understanding of modern cricket to make the job work.

    I can only add on here my sadness at the passing of Richie Benaud. My love of the game was forced on me at a very young age by a cricket mad dad. My understanding and appreciation only grew in childhood with the perceptive voice of someone of his standing.

    Like

  8. Tom Apr 10, 2015 / 8:42 am

    Such a sad day. Forget Downton, good riddance, but the passing of Richie Benaud, a true legend of the game, makes me feel completely empty. As a child I couldn’t wait for his first words on the goggle box in the early summer when the first ODIs were played between England and the current touring team. You knew summer had arrived and test match cricket would be on the TV for the next few months.

    Marvelous.

    Thank you, Richie, for bringing this great game into our living rooms. There will never be anyone quite like you again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SimonH Apr 10, 2015 / 9:00 am

    Lovely tribute from Russell Jackson at the Guardian. Says everything I wanted to say about Richie – only much better than I could ever say it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Marge Apr 10, 2015 / 9:30 am

    What is it about the Brits that we can’t just simply get rid of people who do a rotten job? Time and again, people are shunted upstairs, moved sideways, given a handsome payoff when they deserve nothing. Fred the Shred comes to mind. Now we hear that the ECB meeting spent a lot of time paying tributes to Downton, right man, wrong time etc when he quite clearly wasn’t the right man. And on top of that, the truly ghastly Clarke gets given the role of President. Did it exist before? If not, why create it for him of all people? Why can’t we call a spade a spade and just say time you moved on, sunshine? Are other countries quite so stupid?

    RIP Richie, remember watching him play as a kid, and fabulous commentator.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Mark Apr 10, 2015 / 10:18 am

    ” there is a man down there but he would have to be 9 foot tall to stop that one.”

    ” that’s gone into the confectionery store and right out again”

    ” he just swats them away as if they were a giant fly’, plays then very well.” (On Bothams 100 1981)

    ” he pushes one here and one there’ and you don’t think he has done anything much, and then you look up at the score board, and the great man has gone to 30″ (on Viv Richards)

    “Shooooooottttttt” ( no other words needed)

    ” bowleeeed himmmmm” (no other words needed)

    A truly great man has departed. I grew up with him. Summers were spend listening to that voice and then doing impersonations of his sayings at cricket matches with fellow team mates. He also gave Gravitas to being an Australian. The English tended to look down their noses at Australians before Richie. RIP

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Grenville Apr 10, 2015 / 10:33 am

    Hi all,

    Damn, Benaud is dead.

    I put this over at the full toss, but I’ll make the same point here. The problem isn’t just the incompetent muppets in charge, it’s the fact that the ECB runs cricket in this country in its own interest. It pretends to be the legitamate controlling body of the game in this country, and thus running the game in the interests of all. They don’t. They represent the counties and the MCC. We are outside cricket and until we kick the door down, then we just have to hope that the top brass are enlightened enough to see that their interest is well served by not pissing on the public.

    I missed you all, and hope you wintered well.

    Like

  13. "IronBalls" McGinty Apr 10, 2015 / 11:39 am

    Its one of the greatest paradoxes in our beloved game, that we can have gentlemen like dear old Richie, who graced the game and honoured us with his commentary and knowledge and ibued a love of the game to myself and countless others.
    On the other hand, it is infested with the scurrilous skullduggery and obscene pursuit of filthy lucre and aggrandisement that is the odious Giles Clarke, a monumental epitaph to disservices to cricket!

    Like

  14. Andy Apr 10, 2015 / 11:59 am

    for one final time – G’day to Richie – one of the reasons I love cricket.

    In other musings.

    Having failed to find decent, up to speed info on the Eng v Eng v Eng match I’ve only just checked the final scorecard.

    So… Cook took more deliveries than any other recognised batsman (86) and scored less than all barr Trott (22). The (limited) report on the Beeb seems to suggest that Cook was ‘Looking good’ before retiring to let other people have a go.

    Is anyone actually filled with belief that the Cook of old has/is returning or is it just waffle. I find it a bit worrying that Eng (real Eng) were all out for 222 while chasing over 300 and having 90 overs to do it in!!

    Like

    • Arron Wright Apr 10, 2015 / 3:06 pm

      £169 and £299???? Lowest?????

      Jeez, I feel like Graeme Swann here. That is legitimately obscene.

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus Apr 10, 2015 / 3:06 pm

      That last bit is bullshit. They’ve gone on a ticket site. Prices are expensive but this gives the impression that the first prices were at that level.

      Like

      • SimonH Apr 10, 2015 / 3:09 pm

        What is the correct figure?

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus Apr 10, 2015 / 3:17 pm

          I think the “cheap” seats at the oval were between 70 and 80 quid. They were 66 in 2013

          Like

        • LordCanisLupus Apr 10, 2015 / 3:21 pm

          You can get a seat in block 19 for day 5 for £25. Just been on the site now. Absolute rubbish.

          Like

  15. SimonH Apr 10, 2015 / 2:59 pm

    Switch Hit’s back! (No George or Butch unfortunately)

    Like

  16. MM Apr 10, 2015 / 6:26 pm

    “a weapons grade pig”… wonderful choice. Possibly only improved by putting an apostrophe, an s, and the word arse after it.

    Like

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