Thank you for all the nice comments on the Infamy post. I actually wanted to start a discussion on some of the points raised in the piece in Wisden rather than go for all that praise stuff. I don’t do this for praise.
Since I wrote it I’ve had a piece in my mind about the press and blogs. I am under no illusions. The vast majority of journos who read this blog, and I know a few do, probably think I am what Andrew Strauss called Kevin Pietersen. I get that. I’m not exactly coming to them in an attitude of peace and tranquility. I want to try to hold them to account. Believe me, I know many of the issues that confronts them, I’m not daft. The modern press is also, in many ways, a completely different animal to even 10 years ago. Everyone is a critic, everyone has a voice, and the digital age means clicks and hits drive a lot of the reporting, and time pressures mean deadlines and holding stories back is much more difficult. It’s a modern world, and even I can’t keep up.
The modern media includes podcasts, discussions and analysis of output. To that end, let’s take a look at the podcast on the Lord’s site that some of you pointed me to. I want to refer to it to set up some of the issues for later in the piece.
I’ve listened to a good deal of the Lord’s podcast where Strauss, in my mind, proves his complete unsuitability for the new role in the England line-up. No, it’s not about KP, but it’s about the line about “building towards the 2019 Ashes”. There’s a bloody World Cup in the intervening period, at home. There’s a World T20 in India (?) and a Champions Trophy in England. There’s also other exciting test series against the likes of mercurial Pakistan, difficult South Africa and other such match-ups. We concentrate on the Ashes?
A tweeter on my LCL feed pointed out in response to my “how did building go this winter” pointing out that we did not play test cricket. Of course, I meant how did building to this World Cup, by agreeing to mess the Ashes series about, clearing the decks of test cricket and playing ODIs almost exclusively since the end of August go in building to that aim? I couldn’t get that in 140 characters, so did it here. And that’s the point, just because you have some nebulous concept of “building” towards something, doesn’t mean we will do it. I recall a podcast on 5 Live before we went to Australia in 2013 and Flower was most assuredly building towards that. This is a vacuuous concept, one I want no part of. There are far too many good teams, far too much cricket to be played, rightly or wrongly, to try to get away with saying its OK to lose, and OK to exclude KP, as long as it is in the greater good to winning the Ashes in 2019. What a load of old baloney.
I’ve gone off on a little bit of a tangent, but stick with me. Strauss said that building line, ostensibly to justify not recalling KP post this summer. He earlier said the way to end the KP business was “winning games”. With all due respect Andrew, I’m calling baloney on that too. First of all, building towards something indicates winning in the present is not as high a priority as winning in the future, yet there’s a need to win matches now. I have no idea how those two aims aren’t opposed. And you see, Andrew, we’ve been there. The press told us this after we won against India, with a great comeback, runs for Cook, the bowling looking good, and the new players looking the part. But it hasn’t stuck. Because while you and your ilk are concentrating on this being all about KP, you miss the point. You always miss the point.
Outside cricket? No apology. Full explanation for not picking a team on merit and excluding a talented player? Not forthcoming. Communication with supporters who might be disgruntled at this lack of decency towards them? Pipe down, move on, not at a low ebb. Giles Clarke showed this week how he approaches those who dared criticise and that attitude permeated down the ECB and whether the press cared, had the appetite, or the need to fight on our behalf while also putting the case for termination of KP is for them to tell us. We did not see it.
Here comes that line in Brian’s piece about not being as understanding of the press position:
But the press coverage reflected, in part, the vulnerabilities of cricket journalists, who have a symbiotic relationship with administrators and players: the administrators grant access to the players, who provide interviews and quotes. Most bloggers have no such privileges, yet this very freedom from professional dependence means they can shoot from the hip.
Brian makes our point. The journalists may not have agreed with what was going on, but they didn’t want to risk not getting access (Mark makes this point in the comments too). I’m well aware of this. I know journalists are sick to death of the sponsored interview, and I know the player/press relationship is always a fraught one. So when we take the next logical step that some of them were showing rather too much glee at the dismissal of KP and by extension adopting a selection policy on something other than form or ability, that they had become extensions of the organisation we were so angry at, were we really out of line? Perception is important. The big beast appearances on the Agnew press round up, or on Cricket Writers, became an exercise on putting out the ECB line more often than not. The rush out of press conference to proclaim the KP matter closed, the ability of the empty suit in front of them, or the inevitability of Cook’s return to form was peeled back in an instant. They now sit there thinking KP’s PR team has won the battle, and in the same breath say his book was a disaster. They miss the point totally.
What has, I think, made them really uncomfortable isn’t the lack of access should they side with the great unwashed, but that the great unwashed simply aren’t listening and WILL NOT BE TOLD. I’ve said many times that KP isn’t the issue now, it really isn’t. It’s the ECB and pretty much always has been. It’s the way the press have leaned their way, by and large, and certainly in the immediate aftermath, that’s the issue too. Sure, I would like to see KP play for England again. What I want to see most is a team picked on merit and form. That would mean that England’s openers on Monday should probably be Lyth and Trott out of that squad, and not Cook. This makes me anti-Cook because I’m pro-KP. I’m anti a test opening bat who hasn’t made a test hundred in nearly two years, and has looked all at sea. A century or two in the West Indies does not prove the opposite. It merely proves that some people are picked for memories, not on evidence. Some people are picked because they are from the right kind of family. We did not see that challenged enough. As I said, in some cases, there was a little too much glee.
To me the acid test has been the attitude towards Andy Flower. I see very few pieces bemoaning his overwhelming presence still. I see little questioning his role in the collapse of 2013/14. I see very few pieces questioning if this is of great benefit. Instead it is the greatest coach stuff, world number 1, world T20 winners. Dobell gets it, and his back-seat driver quote last Spring was quite good in capturing the fear. But the press just said it was a good thing, we couldn’t lose his massive skills, and even called impertinent when questioning why he was talking to the Chairman of Selectors. This doesn’t require an understanding of the role of the journalist. It is asking questions that might need to be asked. Flower’s choice to remain silent has never been portrayed as anything other than “dignified”. I feel a little short changed. He played a massive role in what went wrong, it appears he sealed Pietersen’s fate, and then got a job he lobbied for. I think he needed to speak, don’t you?
I’ve done my usual old long-winded piece, and I’m not sure it went anywhere. That’s my prerogative, of course. A journalist has to tighten up, show skills in brevity, be able to convey things in a rapid way. He also has access, he has contacts (and she, of course, because there are very good female journalists out there) and he has a job many of us would love. I think they take this too personally at times. Yes, I’m pretty scathing, but I am because I am angry, and so are you. A faint heart never won a fair maiden and all that.
So while Strauss can babble on about winning shutting us up, he is wrong. The rate of anger went up when we beat India, not down. It seemed to be a reason to brush Sri Lanka under the carpet, and dispose of Pietersen, and it wasn’t fooling me. If Strauss can’t figure out why that win didn’t have us piping down, then he’s not worthy to be Director of Cricket. You aren’t dealing with stupid people here, and we have a voice. A small one, but one that seems to get noticed.
Have a great evening.