D.A.D. – Downton Appreciation / Assassination Day
Note – there is another post published last night below this on county cricket so read that if interested too.
Today is Downton Assassination Day. On 8 April 2015, Tom Harrison announced a restructuring of the ECB top brass and our man Downton was gone. Assassination sounds too harsh. I kind of appreciated him. Without Rupe, I wouldn’t have had much to write. Without Rupe, we wouldn’t have a title for this blog. We owe him much.
It is worth sparing a thought for the man, a great appointment, full of aplomb, and a titan in an era when we needed one. Lauded as “great behind the scenes” at the start of his wondrous reign, we will all remember the wondrous interview with Aggers (winding up with me getting a threatening Tweet from an Aggers fanboy), the “something must be done” stuff with Cook and Warne and then the will he be skipper stuff in Sri Lanka. Then came our favourite interview when he tried to get ahead of the World Cup elimination.
On this sad day let us be reminded of an article that bade him farewell. From the man who anointed him with aplomb on the day of his first public announcements..
Despite his 30 Test caps, his part in an Ashes-winning campaign and durable playing career, as well as being a thoroughly affable chap, Paul Downton will go down in cricket history for one thing. He is The Man Who Sacked Kevin Pietersen.
“A thoroughly affable chap”. There you have it peeps. That’s what it takes.
That will be his legacy as it was his curse during his short time as managing director of England cricket. He took what was a brave, perhaps necessary, decision within days of officially starting in the job last year and it came to stalk him wherever he went and whatever he did.
Because he never explained why. Lawyers or something. Disconnected or something. 10000 runs as an ambition or something. Fielding at fine leg or something.
Perhaps it came to affect his own outlook. Downton could barely emerge from his office without being asked about Pietersen and was never quite able to offer definitive reasons. On the occasion he did, he was lambasted for breaching confidentiality agreements.
It really is / was reprehensible for the paying public to demand an answer. Especially when the media weren’t exactly falling over themselves to find out.
As the months wore on, it became increasingly clear that Downton, while he had a deep love for the game, was out of touch with its modern version. He recognised that England were playing an outdated brand of one-day cricket but never quite detailed how he might change it.
It took a genius, after that World Cup, and that build up to recognise change was needed. Also he had a deep love for the game is a baseline requirement, not some special trait.
In his last public utterances, he was confident and measured until the name of Pietersen was mentioned, when he virtually seized up. It is not without irony that he should have said: “I’m not saying everybody’s job is safe and I’m not saying that everybody is going to be sacked. It feels as though, from your perspective [the media’s], there needs to be a scapegoat. There needs to be a target.
Said the man who scapegoated someone after an Ashes whitewash. I wonder why he had to go.
“All I’m saying is we’re in a position where we’re a transitioning side and that will take time. We have to take the right decisions to ensure we do that as quickly and smoothly as we can. But it’s too early to say yet in terms of any definitives: he’s going or he’s not going.”
Confident and measured said the scribe. I’d say this indicates a frazzled mind and someone without a clue.
The article went on. The link is at the end.
Downton provided this blog with a ton of ammunition because he was out of his depth from Day One. We said it here and on HDWLIA. The press didn’t. Remember that. Some of the press were incredibly sceptical of the appointment of Moores, so at that point they might have been thinking there were doubts with the man making the decision, but they didn’t show it. Far more important to them was the grandiose decision, the “taking the bull by the horns” act of scapegoating Pietersen and yes, it did define him. In the process the ECB showed contempt for the fans, and the press showed contempt for their audience. They hoped they’d get away with it, and they probably have. But Downton is the main symbol of their approach. Sure, it’s a little unfair to pile it all on Downton, but he was their lightning rod, and he got the strikes. He was the first one truly jettisoned, and yet he did the ECB proud in disposing with you-know-who.
Now we await the ECB accounts to see how much he was paid off. For failure. They are due soon.