Whitaker’s For The Sack – Comma

Well. Here we go again. Scapegoating by “good journalism” after a defeat. We’ve sure been here before.


I’ll give Paul Newman something. He sure knows how to rouse the media to a story, and he sure has the “sources” to back him up. Naturally, this prima facie case of “good journalism” throws James Whitaker, Mike Newell and Angus Fraser under the bus, keeps Trevor Bayliss on board as the driver who doesn’t quite know his way, and Alastair Cook as the conductor, shouting and barking his words, but being far enough from the action not to be culpable. Meanwhile, stretching this metaphor beyond breaking point, Strauss acts as Bus Inspector Blakey (from On the Buses for you oldies out there) spouting “I hate you Whitaker” and we have, after one defeat, when a player is left out of the team on health grounds, some unhealthy scapegoats to target. Stop me if we’ve been here before.

Oh yes, and if we weren’t perturbed enough already there’s a begging letter from “the greatest England Coach ever” to come back as some all-knowing, all-seeing eye. Funny how that came out on the day Ben Duckett made 163 in a romp for the England Lions.

The Four Journos

Today Selfey and Berry have followed suit with the comments that the current structure is archaic, and that we need a new format for selecting the team. This sort of groupthink, co-ordinated or derived, or both, is the sort we’ve seen for years. Andrew Strauss is still very much in the plus column when it comes to his achievements with Team England, and the Comma Master may well wish to spread his Mindflicking wings and take a good look at a selection process. A process which has had zero scrutiny (in public) once Strauss put it to bed in the immediate aftermath of the I don’t trust KP monologue in May 2015, but out of the blue surfaces when we lose a game quite narrowly, and one of our key players has not played because he was told not to by medical experts – a marginal call some said, but one heeded by the selectors, who were actually doing their jobs.

There’s the rub, and it stinks. Newman tweeted last week, before the test, that Anderson looked fine in the nets, so why wasn’t he in the squad? Former New Zealand bowler Iain O’Brien helpfully pointed out that bowling in the nets was not the same as 20 overs on a flat deck at Lord’s in a test match (in possibly warm weather) and was (maybe temporarily) blocked by Newman on Twitter! (Join the club Iain – but, apparently we are irrelevant and he never reads us, so why he had a fit with me, I don’t know!) My sniffer dog nose for inside tracks was going overboard – why would Newman undermine the selection committee, and medical experts, to the length he’d block a former test bowler for calling him out on it, if there wasn’t more to it? Then it hit you yesterday. This looked like an inside job all right. People running from a decision, and running from their assumptions of a comfortable series win to explain away a surprise defeat. Suddenly Whitaker is in the crosshairs. An inside job.

The same inside job that absolutely looks like has been perpetrated on Nick Compton. Sure, his form merited being dropped, but Newman cites this as another example of the selectors not being fit for purpose. He was “mystified” why Compton was given an extra chance to prove himself at the start of the Sri Lankan series, when that contest against overmatched opposition gave us the chance to blood a new player (ignoring, of course, how successful the blooding of new player James Vince has been) and is now continuing that whispering campaign against Gary Ballance. Both of these are conveniently lumped on top of the non-selection of Anderson in particular as massive errors.

These things do not appear out of the ether. The whispers around Compton was he was a bit of an oddball, a bit intense, a bit “not suited to test cricket”. He fell out with Andy Flower. Rumours were Cook didn’t like opening with him because they were both attritional. Trevor Bayliss never wanted him because he wanted two dashers and a steady one in the top three. Compton was primed to fail. The same whispers about how Ballance refused to change his technique which secured him four test centuries once dropped, which now has him classed as a failure while Hales and Vince await their first. This has all the hallmarks of the impervious inner sanctum of days of yore. You know, the one that there were never leaks from, but plenty of good journalism to go round. You have to wonder who is squawking in the camp, but I don’t think things are as tickety-boo as they were when we were winning overseas series and preparing for a 7-0 summer. For starters, Pakistan were meant to be frail, on the edge, and ready to be steamrollered. Instead, at Lord’s, we got a nasty shock.

The clear inference from Newman, and whoever it is that paints his wagon, is that Whitaker et al took the medical advice that it might be a bit early for Anderson and Stokes, and thought “it’s only Pakistan, Lord’s is a road, let’s save them for next week.” That is now going to be a stick to beat the selectors with, and all of a sudden we have a co-ordinated attack on the make-up of the selection panel. So Selfey comes up with something about camels and drinking brandy with Paul Allott. I’ve not read Scyld. Chris Stocks is on Twitter asking when England’s football team stopped picking by committee. A week ago, no-one was in any rush to condemn the way the England teams are selected. One loss, a player or two missing on medical advice (and remember, Stokes was on a limit of “short spells” this weekend, and Jimmy allowed to play for two days, so there were still doubts), some aspersions cast in James Whitaker’s direction, plenty of people saying “well they looked fine to me” and the selection process isn’t fit for purpose? Pull the effing other one.

Don’t you dare confuse this with me supporting James “GARY BALLANCE” Whitaker. I’ve not been a fan, will never be a fan, and I’m impertinent enough to say he was out of his depth from day one. But he was a useful idiot in the immediate wake of the KP debacle (the car crash interview with Tim Abraham still brings a smile to my face) and then the one later in 2014 with Pat Murphy probably went one better. But he stood there, did his master’s bidding by saying KP was never up for selection and provided a useful bulwark when times got tough. He was certainly less visible than his predecessors, and I’m given to believe he dispensed with the press conferences to announce teams. Probably because he was / would have been rubbish at them. His removal from the position, should it happen, will not be mourned by me. It’s just the way it is being mooted to be changed is classic ECB double-speak.

For Strauss now appears, IF THIS IS TRUE, to want to consolidate power in the Comma. While not quite the same as Ray Illingworth’s legendary One Man Committee, as at this moment in time there are no signs that he wants to be coach as well, the Comma man looks like he wants to become the chief selector if the co-ordinated triumvirate are to be believed. This, I presume, would mean the Comma would need to get out of Lord’s and tour the country watching players. Or, as is being intimated, he watches DVD coverage from around the grounds in the luxury of his office. The selectors do tour the country – if Stocks tries to draw parallels with the England football team, he might remember that the national side does not play at the same time as the Premier League – and get to see players in the flesh, back up what they hear, and maybe get more of a feel for the live situation in a game that sitting in an office doesn’t do. There are good reasons for employing selectors (though two county coaches is probably not the best idea) and not leaving it to a coach who knows naff all about county cricket and a captain who may not have seen all the players (and will have favourites).

We’ve seen Matt Prior’s fall from test cricket. We’ve seen Jimmy’s recent injuries. We’ve seen the mess made of Mark Wood’s recovery. We’ve seen Andy Flower take a litany of unfit or unselectable bowlers to Australia. If a group of selectors take the long view, it is not now a stick to beat them with. For it is the same selectors who picked the winning teams of the last couple of years, and you had little problem with them then. Stop Monday morning quarterbacking, ingratiating yourself with the powers that be, try to rehabilitate Flower, keep Cook’s fingerprints off the weapon, and connect the dots. Because we have here.

Disagree with me? Comment away (I know many of you have). But as someone said on Twitter this morning, there are many reasons to do away with the selection committee, but ignoring medical advice isn’t one of them.

UPDATE – Clive, if I may, I have borrowed your comment on The Guardian BTL:

The thrust of this article is exactly like that of Paul Newman’s in yesterday’s Mail and Scyld Berry’s in today’s Telegraph. I put that down to Sheer Coincidence and the tendency of great minds to think alike, rather than the press having been briefed about the imminent axing of the selection committee and told what view to take.


38 thoughts on “Whitaker’s For The Sack – Comma

  1. Sean B Jul 20, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    Can’t disagree with any of this. The comma has bided his time nicely and now to do away with any of this democracy type thing. Yes we all know Whittaker was way out of his depth, so why not sack him at the start of the comma’s range? Power base I would guess and of course it’s nice to have a lackey to blame when things don’t quite go to plan….

    I wish the political elements of the ECB astounded me, but they don’t, it’s business as normal. And who else do they turn too broadcast this exclusive? Well of course the man (or chief executioner more likely) who is the ECB’s man of course.

    How long until the mood Hoover returns as coach, if he wants it??


  2. hatmallet Jul 20, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    England didn’t bat well enough in the first Test. Anderson for Ball may well have wiped out the deficit, but if England had batted better and won, it would have been declared a wise move.

    We have a ridiculous amount of Test cricket both this year and next. If we want Anderson to make it to the next Ashes tour, decisions like last week’s do need to be taken.

    In terms of the selection set-up, I don’t have a problem with it. You have a full-time person in Whitaker and a couple of part time selectors. The captain and coach have input, as does the Comma. The actual identities of the three selectors is up for debate, Whitaker hasn’t made a great impression on everyone and the two county coaches as selectors idea does have flaws (notably if, like this season, they only see Div 1 cricket).

    It is clearly a concern that the selectors haven’t given the coach/captain the squad they wanted (how big? I think it’s been exaggerated). But I wouldn’t say sacking the selectors was a mature response to this problem – it comes across as a bit whiney. That said, some heads need to be knocked together to make sure everyone knows what’s expected of each other.


  3. hatmallet Jul 20, 2016 / 9:58 pm

    BTW, just a quick point on the journalists. Berry was at the Lions match (as was Whitaker) on Tuesday but curiously has no match report on the Telegraph, at least not online. So talking to those in the know about the selectors?


  4. Mark Jul 20, 2016 / 10:50 pm

    The way the group think of the cricket media has revealed itself on this story is very interesting. Nice, neat sets of homework all stacked up and handed in on the same day. The media group attack of Compton is now laid bare. This was not individual thought, but a campaign of assassination. Whatever you thought of him he didn’t stand an earthly. He would have had to score a hundred every two matches. And even then the back biting would have continued.

    Selveys camel story, and his binge drinking of brandy was a cack handed way of attacking the concept of the committee. A camel is a horse designed by a committee…… so goes the joke. Except it isn’t. It’s its own animal. But we understand what he means. But what is being proposed is not one man rule. The coach, the captain, and Strauss is still a commitee. It’s just another commitee of different people. So what Stocks is talking about I don’t know? The England football team is picked by one man. The manager. He is accountable. Perhaps Strauss would like to be the sole picker of the team? I doubt it though. You leave yourself very exposed if it all goes tits up. You have nowhere to hide. Not his style.

    Finally, I would love to know if James Whitaker or Angus Fraser were consulted about this before the story was leaked to the waiting press pack? Because TRUST! Remember that concept? It was very important a year or so ago.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Clivejw Jul 21, 2016 / 3:36 am

      [quote]Nice, neat sets of homework all stacked up and handed in on the same day. [/quote]

      Perfect description.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dlpthomas Jul 21, 2016 / 2:19 am

    So what would the story have been if the selectors had ignored the medical advice and picked Anderson only for him to break down (and possibly miss the rest of the season)? Who would have got the blame? I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been Anderson, Cook or Bayliss.

    Surely the selection process for a player returning from injury is easy – when the player says he is fit, the medical staff assess him and they (not the player) have the final say. In the case of a player returning from an unusual injury, such as a stress fracture of the shoulder (if that is what it really was), where there is less medical experience to guide the players rehabilitation, I would argue extra caution needs to be taken.

    I wonder if “the powers that be” have had a plan to make changes to the selection process for some time but have been waiting for the right time to implement it. As George Dobell (http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-pakistan-2016/content/story/1037037.html) pointed out England did not loose because James Anderson was not selected but lets not let the facts get in the way of the story that we want to tell.


    • jomesy Jul 21, 2016 / 11:44 am

      From Dobell’s article, for sheer gumption, I loved this story:

      “It’s certainly not a selection fiasco in the grand traditions of English cricket. Take the Major Nigel Bennett episode, for example. Major Bennett popped into The Oval in 1946 to renew his county membership after the war, but was mistaken for Major Leo Bennet – who had represented the British Empire XI during the war – and offered the captaincy. He took up the offer before anyone realised a mistake had been made and went on to lead Surrey to what was, at the time, the worst season in their history. He averaged 16 with the bat.”


  6. Clivejw Jul 21, 2016 / 3:04 am

    The only redeeming feature of Mel Gibson et al. is that they inspire Dmitri to his forensic best. Yes, I think you’ve judged which way the wind is blowing to a T (I’m flattered by the quotation from one of my posts, by the way). Like David Collier and Paul Downton before him, the Comma uses a compliant media to accomplish his purposes. I don’t think the assignment needs to be spelt out in detail — the dutiful hacks are competent enough at writing it up in their own words (even with a trademark anecdote and confused metaphor from Selfie) once the grand design has been revealed to them. So a selection committee whose propriety and competence no one questioned a week or even two days ago is no longer fit for purpose, And no one questions the new orthodox opinion, just as no one questioned the old one. This is exactly how the old Soviet Union worked, if one substitutes the ECB executive director for the Politburo and the obedient cricket correspondents for the dutiful hacks of Pravda and Izvestiya. Yesterday, Comrade Whitaker was a wise administrator exercising his powers for the good of the Party and the victory of the International Proletariat; today, he has been exposed as a right or left deviationist by the ever-vigilant chairman of the Politburo. Tomorrow he will be an unmentionable un-person or referrable to only as an enemy of the working people and pawn of international capitalism….


  7. Clivejw Jul 21, 2016 / 3:44 am

    Finally, I would love to know if James Whitaker or Angus Fraser were consulted about this before the story was leaked to the waiting press pack?

    Somehow I doubt it. Berry’s story in the DT is accompanied by an absolutely gratuitous attack on Gus’s personal appearance:

    Only the personnel has changed [since the national selection committee was first formed in 1899] – and then, in some cases, not very visibly. The first panel included Dr WG Grace, aged 50 and of great girth. The current panel includes Angus Fraser, aged 50 and of increasingly similar physique.

    This is accompanied by a very unflattering picture of Fraser, who has developed a considerable paunch.

    Quite what Gus has done to merit this treatment apart from not supporting the selection decision that Bayliss and ***k wanted, I cannot say, nor why middle-aged spread is inherently detrimental to good thinking (I sincerely hope it is not!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. pktroll (@pktroll) Jul 21, 2016 / 7:23 am

    I have to say that I have no real love for Whittaker and think that it is a potential conflict of interest for two county coaches to have selectorial roles. That said to essentially be humiliated in public by the ECB like that is scandalous. If I were them (the selectors) I would be consulting a good lawyer and indeed resign now and take the c**** to an industrial tribunal. It is one thing to sack them, another to basically degrade the work they do in public by Chinese whispers, aided by a compliant set of hacks.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. LondonWasp Jul 21, 2016 / 9:31 am

    Are the ECB taking tips from Erdogan, or is Erdogan following the Flower playbook?


  10. Nicholas Jul 21, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    We must remember that Paul Newman is ‘only doing [his] job’. That’s what he told me, when I pointed out Compton bias…


  11. nonoxcol Jul 21, 2016 / 1:23 pm

    Barney appears to think this was an article to be proud of, one for the Anthology:

    Dmitri will love the first comment, given that – by an amazing coincidence – the tweeter was writing more or less the same article at the same time.

    And surely we all remember Selvey trying to row back within days, with those tortuous attempts to deny he was referring in any way to something most of us would call an ultimatum.

    Presumably this was another one of those unfortunate darned coincidences:


    You say jump, we say how high. ‘Twas ever thus.


  12. Alec Jul 21, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    At no point, have I heard anyone ask Cook, Bayliss, Strauss et al why, on a pitch where no match has seen all 40 wickets fall inside 4 days, why suddenly nobody could bat on what were probably the best conditions of the whole summer.

    There is no point saying we lost because of Jimmy Anderson’s absence when England bowled Pakistan out for sub-par scores twice and then seemed to forget how to play with a straight bat.

    The worst offender from the press was Michael Vaughan, who said that like Flintoff, Jimmy should be selected even if not fully fit. Andrew Flintoff’s professional career ended at the age of 31. Anderson is a player who will demand to play even if one leg is missing and the other is stuck in a bear trap. This is a laudable trait but part of the reason we have selectors is so that someone is paid to act objectively and rationally. If we lose that, we’ll lose a lot more players like we lost Andrew Flintoff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • nonoxcol Jul 21, 2016 / 7:11 pm

      Fuck’s sake. Where all these plaudits come from is a total mystery to me.

      Barney could make an anthology out of Selvey v Rashid alone.


      • northernlight71 Jul 21, 2016 / 8:49 pm

        The plaudits come from people with a gnawing sense of inadequacy which is only bolstered by feeling like they are on the same team as the great man, and that he in some way will notice them if they fawn enough in their posts.
        It’s just like the popular gang at school. And no, I wasn’t in it either! (Well, not until I was 17….)


      • nonoxcol Jul 21, 2016 / 9:06 pm

        I see you disturbed the woodpecker again…

        Keep up the good work.


      • northernlight71 Jul 21, 2016 / 9:27 pm

        The dear Woodpecker. He reads us on here as well, which is flattering in a way (*waves enthusiastically to all stalkers*)
        It’s nice to feel important. Even when it’s only in the lives of the tiny brained, feathered tree-hugging birds.


      • LordCanisLupus Jul 21, 2016 / 9:55 pm

        I’m reading, for my sins, Comma’s book on the Ashes win in 2010/11. Apart from the England team not being a “lease car” There’s an interesting bit about when they ramp up the bowling machine to crazy stupid to see who coped under true extremes. One player stood out. By miles.

        And it wasn’t Cook.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Mark Jul 21, 2016 / 9:26 pm

    Well if you think Selveys piece is bad, it’s akin to Einstein compared to Newman. According to the ECB’s favourite plumber the first test has been completely written off due to poor selection. Good Pakistan bowling? Poor English Batting? Nope, it’s all down to Jimmy and Ben not playing. Well the big boys are back, and so that means it’s a slam dunk for an England win.

    God help us if Pakistan win this test match becuae I think Newman may become unhinged. There is nothing left to blame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MM Jul 21, 2016 / 9:36 pm

      Amen, bruva Mark. Proper poop versus air conditioning scenario if Pakistan really turn it on this Test.


    • northernlight71 Jul 21, 2016 / 9:38 pm

      Nothing left to blame? Oh ye of little faith . . . they could pick from a range of options…
      The weather
      The umpires
      James Vince
      Alex Hales
      Adil Rashid/Moeen Ali
      Chris Woakes
      Gary Ballance Gary Ballance Gary Ballance
      The alignment of the stars
      The opposition being lucky
      Six inches of carry
      Steely inner core

      I think I just exploded.


    • LordCanisLupus Jul 21, 2016 / 9:51 pm

      Newman, to be fair, does use a similar approach to me. He gets a point and he bangs on about it. And on about it. And on about it.

      Only I’m right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Jul 21, 2016 / 10:00 pm

        Don’t put yourself down mate. Your writing is far superior. It’s also funny, ironic, and laser like at zooming in on the important issue of the day. And you don’t get paid.

        I will stop now because it will only start them off again about how you want their jobs. ZZZZzzzzzz


        • LordCanisLupus Jul 21, 2016 / 10:05 pm

          Just read that article. Oh my God.

          The arrogance about reaching number one is all encompassing. It’s hard to see us winning this winter in India period, because this series was preceded in the UAE last winter by the 2 nil defeat to the same oppo here. Did that series even take place? Have our top class journos wiped it?


        • LordCanisLupus Jul 21, 2016 / 10:36 pm

          Plus Dennis called me a journalist today. Never been so insulted in my life.

          I mean, journalists aren’t irrelevant people who reside in their mother’s basement with tin foil hats on.


      • Rooto Jul 21, 2016 / 10:22 pm

        Am I right that one of these teams is now only two wins away from the number one spot?

        (Clue: begins with ‘P’)


      • Mark Jul 21, 2016 / 10:45 pm

        I’m glad you thought that Newman piece was bad.And yes, arrogant is the right word. They are fixated on this number one status.


    • Clivejw Jul 22, 2016 / 5:59 am

      Newman “might become unhinged”? The hinges came off a long time ago and a howling lunatic of a gale is blowing through the premises.


  14. MM Jul 21, 2016 / 9:34 pm

    I’d love an England player to stand up and say bollox to all this.


    • Benny Jul 21, 2016 / 11:02 pm

      In the fullness of time, there may be some interesting autobiographies


    • northernlight71 Jul 21, 2016 / 11:06 pm

      He did. They sacked him. Nobody else is going to do that again!


  15. Clivejw Jul 22, 2016 / 7:14 am

    If we are going through Selvey’s greatest hits, this is the one that finally got me to vote for him in Dmitri’s worst cricket journalist poll: Kevin Pietersen never really fitted the sporting mantra of no ‘I’ in team

    And for the single worst sentence of his career, from that article, this utterly disingenuous claim:

    Unquestionably, he deserved a better exit than the back door, although I do know that the intention was to have feted him properly when the dust settled.

    There were many great comments BTL on that article, some of which survive despite the titanic efforts of the moderators, but maybe this one is the most prophetic:

    There’s a beautiful irony here. An article that tried to close the book on Kevin Pietersen, instead appears to have sounded the death knell for its author.

    Perhaps the greatest loss, though, was the ashers01 mock obituary for the death of cricket journalism, spiked by the Guardian but eventually tweeted by Pietersen himself. Dmitri undoubtedly has it on file.

    Edit: I found it myself and retweeted it.


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