The Blame Game

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It’s been less than a week since what can only be described as a disastrous Test match for England. This coupled with the fact that England have now lost 6 of their last 8 Test Matches has seen the once compliant media turn into circling vultures around the team. Dmitri came in off his long run on Tuesday and covered many of these points with deadly precision, so naturally I don’t want to cover old ground; however once the dust has settled and people have regained their decorum, it does need to be examined why England are in a continuous cycle of mediocrity.

As we have covered in previous posts, the condemnation came quick and fast, after all this is no longer an Alastair Cook team so it’s game on for the hacks, but the two that particularly caught my eye were the reactions of Nasser Hussain and George Dobell, with 2 thoughts on completely different sides of the spectrum.

Hussain was quick to put the boot into county cricket, which is not too much of a surprise considering he probably rarely watches it, stating:

The lads that are coming in aren’t doing anything for them – they won at Lord’s because of Joe Root, not Jennings, Dawson or Ballance.

“You name some lads who have come in – [James] Vince, [Ben] Duckett, [Gareth] Batty, [Zafar] Ansari, [Alex] Hales, Ballance – there is no-one coming in and doing well. “It is a sad indictment in county cricket that they are getting runs there and not for England.” 

Dobell took another line and was keen to understand what Bayliss was actually doing to address these problems:

Bayliss has clearly pushed an ‘aggressive’ mindset (remember his comments about wanting two “attacking-style batters in the top three”?) but, without knowing the red-ball ability of his options – he admits he has never seen Mark Stoneman, outstanding candidate for top-order promotion, bat in the flesh – he has instead tried to turn limited-overs talents into Test players. Jos Buttler was recalled to the Test team despite having played one first-class game in a year and, as a result, being given no chance to correct the faults that led to him being dropped; Alex Hales was promoted to Test opener and Liam Dawson has been selected largely on the grounds of being a ‘good bloke’. By such criteria, Nelson Mandela would have opened the batting for South Africa for 50 years.

Bayliss isn’t much of a technical coach, either. The players refer to him as “a man of few words” who leaves the technical work to others and is more interested in creating a positive, settled environment in which the players are able to perform to their optimum.

That’s important, of course. But if he doesn’t have much say in selection and he doesn’t have much say in coaching, it does rather beg the question: what does he do? If he’s just creating a relaxed environment, he could be replaced by a couple of scented candles, a yucca plant and a CD of ambient whale noises.

 It’s not that I wholly disagree with either of these quotes, it’s just that I think they fail to see the long term issues that England have glaringly had and have been swept under the carpet for so long now. It is easy to have a knee jerk reaction after another England collapse, but it’s far more positive to take a step back at properly look at the underlying causes rather than throwing mud at anybody not named Alastair Cook.

If I look at Hussain’s comments around County Cricket, I feel that he has taken the easy route of assigning blame without doing much research. We all know that County Cricket isn’t perfect, but then show me any national set up that has the quality of domestic league to keep churning out Test quality players (the Australian Shield Cricket in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was the exception rather than the rule). We are also in an era where cricket has become a marginal sport, so to try and find circa 540 professional players across the counties who all play at a high level is mission impossible. Of course it could be argued that by merging counties or introducing 3 divisions (the latter of which I’m actually in favour of) to increase the quality on offer is a nice idea, but even the counties aren’t stupid enough to vote themselves out of existence. This is verging on Mission Impossible. Hussain also argues that players coming through the counties should have had their techniques honed by playing County Cricket, and whilst it is a lovely idea, it is not exactly practical. The County coaches are under as much pressure to win as with any other professional game, so they’re not exactly going to take Ballance or Vince aside when they are plundering county attacks to work on their technique on the off chance that they may get recalled. It would be lovely if they did, but that is purely a pipe dream. It is also worth remembering that the counties often work on a shoestring budget, so they’re not exactly in a place to be able to employ the best coaches in the system and if they did so, then they would probably have to sacrifice players, robbing Peter to pay Paul in other words. Whilst we can all agree that County Cricket isn’t without fault, to lay the full blame on it’s doorstep is lazy journalism in my opinion.

The same could be said about laying the blame fully at the door of England’s coaches; after all they can only work with those who have been selected to play for England. Whilst of course there can be a portion of blame assigned to Bayliss, who fully admits that he doesn’t have a working knowledge of County Cricket (though that doesn’t mean that he can’t watch videos of every English player) and appears to foster a culture whereby there is a lack of accountability amongst the players; it would be foolhardy to hump the blame completely onto his back. Could Bayliss be more forthright, yes certainly and could he stop using phrases such as ‘positive brand of cricket’ (up there with ‘difficult winter’) absolutely yes, but it does feel slightly that his Australian upbringing has upset one or two of the media corp. There are questions around his backroom staff, which Dmitri pointed out in his last post, such as what does Farbrace actually do and why would you employ a batting coach, who was known to freeze in the Test Cricket arena? These are valid questions, but my view is that the England coaches should only be there to tweak techniques and mindsets and not have to start from scratch with players who aren’t either ready or good enough for Test Cricket. My question would be why are we having to pick players with poor technique or subject temperament in the first place? Surely there is a failsafe within the system to guard against this? Yes is the answer; however it is failing in its very basic goal:

According to the Lords website:

Loughborough University has a long tradition and is world renowned for its role in the development of sporting excellence. It is a key site for the new English Institute of Sport – and the ECB’s National Academy. The MCCU allows additional support to be invested in a squad of elite young cricketers, who benefit from Loughborough’s expertise and provision for the development of sports performance.

The Cricket-specific facilities and services are reinforced by access to Loughborough’s wider provision of high-performance sport support services, including fitness testing and development, technical analysis of skill acquisition, physiological and biomechanical analysis, sports nutrition, sports psychology, and sports medicine services.

Loughborough has been a failure on an immense scale. It is the place where aspiring fast bowlers and batsmen go to have their technique ripped apart and changed to what the ECB coaching manual dictates and to be turned from exciting young cricketers into ECB corporate drones. After all, we know that as long as you say the right things and suck up to Mr. Flower, then a Test place is all but guaranteed (more on him a little later). The crux of the matter is that we are not producing enough players of a high enough quality to play Test Cricket; we’re not drilling into them the mindset of protecting your wicket, batting time or bowling line and length instead of promoting the so-called so-called ‘X Factor cricket’. The basics seemed to have been replaced with how fast can you bowl the ball and how far can you clear the boundary by, which is nice for hit and giggle cricket but leaves players totally ill-equipped for the longer form of the game; hence the phrase positive brand of cricket now being bandied about, which roughly translates as our batsman have no clue on how to defend against quality bowling.

So then we dig a little deeper and shine the light on the two individuals who have the keys to the England Development Programme, Andy Flower and David Parsons. There has been very little written about David Parsons, England’s National Spin Bowling Coach, and that’s just probably the way that he likes it. Parsons has been England’s spin coach since 2006 and how many international class spinners have we produced since that time, yes you guessed it, a big fat zero (Swann was playing County Cricket long before Parsons was appointed). This is a clear example about how the ECB rewards those that are ‘inside cricket’ irrespective of the aptitude of said individual. If I had been in a job where I had one task but failed to deliver on it, then I would have been out of a job an awfully long time ago, but there Parson’s is, clinging onto his position for 11 years whilst contributing virtually nothing during this time, no doubt he’ll be knighted soon. My thoughts on Andy Flower are well known, I wrote a piece last year about his tenure with the Lions – https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2016/11/23/englands-missing-lions/comment-page-1/ and very little has changed since then. Flower has never had a particular aptitude of bringing through young cricketers, with only Steven Finn bought into the England set up under the age of 27 (Trott and Bresnan were extremely experienced county operators by this time) and clearly values good personality rather than talent. England are still criminally under utilising the Lions in the red ball format, which is madness, considering this should be the very vehicle where England’s aspiring Test players iron out their techniques, test out their temperaments and play against high quality players. It would naturally be impossible to mimic the England set up, but surely it’s not past the administrators to organise 4/5 red ball games a year for those that have been identified as next off the cab rank?? Surely Director Comma understands that the very definition of madness is doing the same things again and expecting a different outcome? The fact that we have consistently seen white ball cricket favoured over red ball cricket constantly rankles with me but it appears that this decision has come from the top.

We could also easily blame the selectors, whom many of us believe should have been sacked straight after the India tour and some even before that. There have been too many selections where they have tried to put round objects into square holes or have completely misjudged an individual’s readiness for the Test arena. The balance of the side has looked completely wrong for a while now and they continue to jettison those who don’t fit their mould as personified by the media luvvies (see Rashid, Carberry, Compton etc). The fact that James Whitaker still has a job is like the ECB is playing one massive practical joke on the rest of England, hell I’d rather have John Whitaker making the selections.

It is clear that many elements could be blamed for England’s consistently poor decision making and massive inconsistency in the Test arena (though one could argue that losing 6 out of 8 Tests isn’t inconsistency and just the sign of a poor side); however there does seem to be one constant running through all of these gripes. Yes, our purported savior, the Director, England Cricket.

Now many might say that it is unfair to put the blame squarely at Strauss’ door and some will even go further and say that I am purporting an agenda against Strauss, and whilst it’s true that I have little time for Strauss, the one common element is that all roads lead to him. Graves is being kept in a cupboard under the stairs, only allowed out to wine and dine the County chairmen, Empty Suit is too concerned with the TV deals and the Cockroach is still trying to infiltrate the ICC, so that really only leaves us with Director Comma. When appointed, Strauss’ supposed remit was:

Strauss, will will be responsible for “the long-term strategy of the England men’s cricket team” and for developing “the right coaching and management structure to support it”.

Strauss knew that Bayliss was more of a white ball specialist when he appointed him and that he had very little knowledge of county cricket; however it still seems that the key to Strauss’ appointment was to push the white ball game and to ensure a certain South African born player wasn’t picked. If Strauss didn’t know that Bayliss was a hands-off coach, then that is a damning indictment of his research and judgment. Strauss is also in charge of the selectors, so why has there been no accountability with bust after bust coming from Whitaker and co? Any fool could see they’re not up to the job, hell I would make Peter Moores chief selector, he might not be able to coach at International level, but he was the most successful in bringing young cricketers through to the England set up. I would certainly remove Flower from any formal or informal position on the panel, a conflict of interest there most certainly is, but whether Director Comma actually has the cohones to do it, is another matter.

Another damning aspect of all this has been Strauss’ insistence that white ball cricket was more of a focus across all of the age groups, very much at the detriment to the red ball game. We can of course question the mindset and attitude of England’s Test batsmen, but when they and the next generation are not being given proper exposure to the red ball game early in their career against high quality players, then of course we leave ourselves open to being undercooked at this level. It is astoundingly incompetent to have the Lions playing 6 red ball games over a 3-year period, with an England Test line up crying out for new talent. Whilst it would be unfair to directly apportion blame to Strauss for Loughborough’s consistent failure, it doesn’t appear that he is too keen to do much about it, after all that’s Mr. Flowers remit and one doesn’t go about sticking his nose into Darth Mood Hoover’s ‘oeuvre d’art’.

So what have England actually achieved in Director Comma’s tenure, we have a white ball team that is better than it was but still hasn’t won anything, a Test team with the same glaring holes and lack of talent in the system as we had in 2014, which makes it impossible to make England a constantly competitive Test Team, oh and a new domestic T20 competition that nobody wants. It wouldn’t be unfair to surmise in my opinion, that in the three years since Strauss took over as Director, England Cricket, English cricket hasn’t moved forward an iota and that for me is the most damning statistic of them all.

 

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Whitaker’s For The Sack – Comma

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

Whitaker

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.

Battle

As if we are surprised, the battle lines remain drawn. Those who think that the exclusion of Kevin Pietersen is the single most important thing in the game, and those that think that those who did it have been proven catastrophically wrong.

Jim Holden’s laughable piece, brilliantly picked apart by D’Arthez on here, has received backing from Simon Hughes and Paul Newman on Twitter. Both of these have been completely out of their prams whenever Pietersen’s name is mentioned. One is a massive supporter of Alastair Cook, another played a great deal of his county cricket alongside Paul Downton. Their support for the piece has been laughed at by many, with Tickers having a good old go on Twitter.

It seems as though little has changed in 12 or so months. However, there are journalists now prepared to countenance change – Nick Hoult may or may not have changed due to the paper hiring Pietersen, but the exit stage left of Pringle shows much of their editorial approach has changed. In addition Ali Martin is being far more even-handed than a Mike Selfey might have been. These are little acorns compared to the mighty ancient jokes in the media forest who put personal animosity over the real problem. That is an organisation that treats its real lifeblood with contempt. I’m not naming names, but you know who they are.

With Graves about to enact something or other, and former Derbyshire all-rounder Tom Harrison seemingly taking control of things, there is uncertainty. Ridiculous cat calls that Graves doesn’t start his role until May are especially hilarious given what Downton was up to before he took up his post last year and for which received no similar rebuke. Graves may be all things to all men at the moment, but what he is is a threat to the current flawed, and more importantly ridiculed hierarchy of Giles, Downton, Whitaker and Moores. Propping up Cook props up this lot, even with Cook’s mildest of hissy fits.

The same old battle lines, the same old nonsense, the same old resistance to admitting backing the wrong horse in a one horse race. Those not with the change programmes are being left behind. There’s a new chief coming along and he’s not listening to you, like Downton did when he asked you lot what you thought about Pietersen. Supporting those who prop this edifice up, the Cook captaincy, laughed at by most; the Downton follies; the Moores Matrices and the Whitaker Waffles all stupefying in their incompetence, all making us a laughing stock, is not taking us forward. It is holding us back.

Have a good week, folks.

Voices

A Chinese proverb states ” One who is tripped by the foot can get up again. One who is tripped by the tongue may not.”

It remains to be seen whether the two subjects of today’s blog will be able to recover from their verbal trips, or whether this is the sign of the end of an empire. If it is the end, this will not go down meekly.

Let’s take Alastair Cook. Now we all know that when it comes to admirers of his captaincy I stand somewhere near the back of the queue. You also know that I think he was cowardly in his approach post-Ashes, got one of the softest rides one could imagine in the summer, culminating in grown press men almost weeping for joy when he made that scratchy old 95 at the Rose Bowl that was greeted by the hordes as one for the ages. He was then given a wonderful ride through a one-day series at home as at every turn we asked to remember the test series win. When he was finally put out of his and our agony of the ODI captain, deep down we knew we’d burned what slim chance we had of doing well at the altar of the Cult of the Cook. Indulging Chef, messing about with our openers, messing about with our middle order, set a bad sign. You’d think he’d know that. You think he’d accept that. But, according to how his words have been reported, that hasn’t happened…

Cook’s no novice. He’s uttered polished word after measured line to take, augmented by bland words and boyish charm. He knows if he wanders off the reservation there will be a reaction. What he needs to realise now is that sympathy for him has left town. To stay on the side of Downton and Moores would be to nail your colours to the mast of failure. To stray onto the other side will cause him to miss out on records, lose his support in high places and then some other stuff comes along with it….. horses heads, that sort of thing. So he’s tried to straddle the middle ground. Be mildly critical, but not so that he burns his bridges. He’s been successful with neither. By saying this in Abu Dhabi on the day a test squad, which in my view he has no right to be in on form, is announced, he’s picked his moment. He comes across as feeling sorry for himself, professing to surprise while saying he had no divine right, and then the hindsight part. Oh, and at the end he tries to put the boot in KP, just to curry favour with his masters in case they thought he’d gone completely off the reservation.

Cook seems to believe there are boundless reservoirs of goodwill out there for him, and true, many still do like him. But a lot more dislike him now than they did in November 2013. However, we see a lack of self-awareness:

I don’t know what’s gone on on that tour, and I can only speak from watching a little bit from afar, but it did look like the lads were shell-shocked from the first two games. That’s when you need real leadership to help steer you through that.

He has to be kidding me. Or does he really believe it was his wonderful leadership that turned around the India series? We don’t have to go too far back to see how Cook’s leadership galvanised a shell-shocked squad.

Most are nailing him for this paragraph..

“I can’t speak about what’s gone on there in depth, but you always back yourself, and I would have loved to have had the opportunity that was taken away from me. The selectors made that decision because they thought it was the best for English cricket. Hindsight has probably proved them wrong, but now it’s very easy to say that.”

I don’t like the “opportunity that was taken away from me”. That entitlement permeates more than anything that I’ve heard from Pietersen (who is markedly more media savvy). As for the last part about being proved wrong dispensing of his services, you wonder what planet he is on. Even KP hasn’t bragged like that. Yes, that comes across as a brag. Please feel free to tell me how that’s been taken out of context.

“[The Test team] was in a good place. I wouldn’t say all of it [confidence] has been [broken], but a hell of a lot of it has been. You have to remember that it is a different format and you get a change, but all teams are grouped under the same English cricket umbrella, and we can’t be naive enough to think that it’s not,” he admitted.

Dear God. You wonder if this “backing yourself” isn’t ECB speak for wiping all inconvenient memories and only analysing the positive data. It’s off the reservation this stuff. This India series win is the stuff of cricketing legend. A mighty foe, slain by a young hungry team, under the tutelage of a mighty sage fighting his own demons, but creating a good environment. It’s a ton of horse manure and most sane people know it.

Gary Ballance.

Sorry for the random name-check.

But if you want fun, listen to Pat Murphy and James Whitaker. Proper questions, prevarication and avoidance, and then forcing out the KP point. And you wonder why there is hesitation in KP signing for Surrey. I know a little about how much some were paid in Surrey a few years ago, and KP would earn that for a few weeks in Hyderabad. He should do that in my view. He’s not getting a place out of this lot unless they go. Top to bottom. They are all invested in this crock of nonsense, and none can save face now. It has to start with Flower moving on, Downton being packed off and a new chairman of selectors. The coach would be untenable at this point, and the selectors would also have little chance. Can you see that happening? I can’t.

But Whitaker is that special kind of cretin. The sort who thinks he’s being so damn ultra smart, so utterly professional by avoiding a question, a straight question put to him.

I’ll paraphrase:

PM : “KP’s going to try to make a go of it to get back into the England team, what do you make of that?

JW: “Good luck with that”

PM: “So does he have a chance?”

JW: “Developing a team, Ballance. Promising. Good luck getting in KP?”

PM: “You think they are better than Pietersen”

JW: “Gary Ballance. We developed Ian Bell. Gary Ballance. Upside. Upside. Not in plans.”

And so on. All about future and no plans. It’s media speak, and while I berate Cook for speaking his mind, it at least says what he feels. This is pre-computed, line to take, cobblers. Just sod off out of it, you damn empty suit Whitaker. Who the hell do you think you are, patronising those who might want to see everyone given a chance to make it? Standing there. All smug, self-satisfied, full of his own importance. So smart. If he were an ice cream, he’d lick himself.

Don’t humour them KP. Just don’t.

As for the test team, well. Jonathan Trott, great. Adam Lyth, good luck. Adil Rashid, I sense players being plucked from the air, Mark Wood, wish him well. But please. James Tredwell couldn’t get into a second division team last summer, and now he’s arguably our number one test spinner. It takes that kind of thought that takes your breath away. No wonder KP is no longer in their plans with thinking like that.

Have faith. Gary Ballance. Have hope. Gary Ballance. Be not afraid…..

I’ll get to the press shortly. It’s been a ‘mare, ain’t it?