I love an anniversary. I’m into that sort of nonsense.
You have to admire the timing of the latest nonsense. Eoin Morgan exclusively reveals to the Daily Mail that the door is shut on Kevin Pietersen. We knew it was, of course we did. For to say it isn’t would mean answering many, many questions more than reinstating him would. To reinstate him wouldn’t placate us, and would only enrage those who so “loyally” follow the team, and we can’t have them upset too. And, most importantly, it would require the authorities to say they were wrong. They might even have to profer a little apology. We’ve waited two years for that. We’ve waited two years for someone to tell us – you know us, the cricket fans who actually liked watching him play, who thought England teams on merit. Two years? Yes, two years today….. when those in charge told us truly what they felt.
It was a Sunday evening two years ago when the ECB and the PCA (and my God we must never forget that the PCA were co-authors of this press release. Never forget that) issued that infamous press release that gave the game away…
It is still there. On line. No remorse, no regret….
It has been a matter of great frustration that until now the England and Wales Cricket Board has been unable to respond to the unwarranted and unpleasant criticism of England players and the ECB itself, which has provided an unwelcome backdrop to the recent negotiations to release Kevin Pietersen from his central contract.
Those negotiations have been successfully concluded and whilst both parties remain bound by confidentiality provisions the ECB would like to make the following comments.
The ECB recognises the significant contribution Kevin has made to England teams over the last decade. He has played some of the finest innings ever produced by an England batsman.
However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.
Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.
Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.
Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.
These are men who care deeply about the fortunes of the England team and its image, and it is ironic that they were the people who led the reintegration of Kevin Pietersen into the England squad in 2012.
It is just a work of art. The Canaletto of condescension. Read it again and again, and the eyes still focus, laser like, not on their pathetic efforts to nudge-nudge, wink-wink their accusations against Pietersen, but on that phrase “some from people outside cricket”.
As usual, we will be accused by our critics of saying “well, you know they meant Piers Morgan so why do you get upset?” but that spectacularly misses the point. They cast the phrase “outside cricket” to mean anyone outside the playing, running and reporting of the game. Pure and simple. Morgan plays the game, watches the game and is a fan of the game. They knew that. Oh no. Don’t sell me that twaddle because I’m not buying. You can’t just pass off high-handedness that easily. We’ll have the usual eye rollers, the usual discounting of the views, pissed off less at the comments being made, more that we’re still making them.
I love that press release. It’s the petrol in my engine. Whenever I feel doubts as to why I write, I read this. The author, because, as we’ve seen from some little background research that the outside cricket phrase had been used by this key player, was spectacularly bad at his job and was removed (we’ll wait and see if the compo package appears in this year’s annual accounts, as David Collier’s appeared to be stated in the last one). We remember how those “inside cricket” said he had aplomb, was impressive, was helpful behind the scenes, while those outside were a little more careful in jumping to such lengths of adoration.
But what I’ve found in the last two years as that we’re no more inside cricket now than we were two years ago. The ECB felt a successful England team would be the antidote to the rage and fury, but it really hasn’t. Indeed, it is the ECB that leaves people less than keen on the team’s progress. The ECB of the Big Three stitch-up, something no-one should be interested in according to their man on the ICC top table. The ECB who thinks “trust” is a viable selection criterion. I’ll give them one thing – they’ve cured most of the leaking, which is nice, but I’m wondering if that is coincidence as it seemed to dry up a lot more once Clarke was shunted off to the ICC.
But there is hope. The ICC might be coming to their senses, and India may be a more receptive figure to change, which rather casts the remaining head honcho of the Big Three still there in a different, more challenging light. Death of a Gentleman played a small part in saying what many “outside cricket” fear – test cricket is dying, the game is run as a closed shop, and fans are there “to be monetised” (and never have a say). The journalists now feel a bit more reinforced now the test team has stabilised and won a couple of impressive series, but they still preach to us as mere neophytes, rather than lengthy watchers of the game, just like them.
So much made over two words. Oh yes. Because they spoke volumes. After all, you lot are still here after two years. It meant something. It still does. We are outside. We are not welcome. We are the irrelevant ones.
Two years on, it applies every bit as much as it did then. My thanks to Paul Downton. A legacy for a lifetime. Oh. And don’t forget the PCA. They agreed it. That’s important.