Trust – 1

What else could I call this post? While my good friend and colleague on here, Vian, aka thelegglance, held the fort so spectacularly this morning, I sat in my room, here in New Jersey, at 6 in the morning wondering what the hell was going on. I couldn’t shout or swear at the screen because didn’t want to wake the beloved or mother-in-law up. I was interested in seeing how the new dawn of Harrison and Strauss looked, and what new ideas they had going forward. I also wondered how prepared and how briefed they were for the KP onslaught.

I sort of owe Stephen Brenkley an apology. Compared to this, Paul Downton and Peter Moores handled their questioning with aplomb last year. I’ve just seen George tweet “Bring Back Downton” and I’m inclined to believe it might not be worse. Downton could have been told to wind his neck in, eat humble pie and go with a selection policy based on merit. If he didn’t like it, he knew where the door was. The ECB needed a scapegoat after the World Cup, Downton inserted mouth and put his foot in it, and eh voila, we had our token sacrifice. But by doing this early enough, one man would still have a vital say in the replacement.

Someone said today, I think it was Harrison, it may have been Strauss, that the decision to axe KP, although he’s not banned (they think they are so effing clever, don’t they) was unanimous at board level, with the names mentioned being Strauss, Harrison, Graves and Giles Clarke. There you have it. That man Clarke. There was absolutely no way he’d countenance a return to the fold for Pietersen, an uppity man who dared challenge his monstrous ego. No way would Clarke allow this. Whether he should have been mentioned is a point for debate. After all. wasn’t he being shunted overseas, out of the way, not to get involved and let Graves run the show. Or is he the ultimate back seat driver? Instead we’ve got into this position. Downton’s early termination by ECB standards may have been part of the plan. They needed a scapegoat and no-one was going to bemoan his departure. By doing so swiftly enough the current Chairman was going to get involved in the selection process. There have been whispers in the press that there was no way he would go quietly. So, how better to construct a false competition, with the illusion of rivals for the post, and then, when one dropped out and one was ignored, we arrived at Strauss. A man with well known views on Kevin Pietersen, made clear in a book (funny how that worked, eh) and on air. Hey, that’s all right, he took time away from the game to do all that. Every man and his dog knew he was biding time before getting back into cricket admin. I think I’ve spent 500 words saying I don’t believe Giles Clarke is going to let go at all. We’ll see.

So to today, and Andrew Strauss. Having woken up appallingly early, I managed to get a Sky Sports News feed, and given no-one else was using much internet at 6am, I got an unbuffered stream. My first surprise was that we weren’t shown the press conference, a la Downton, but that there would be interviews first. OK. I didn’t hold out much hope. Tim Abraham comes off as a good guy, but he’s not Pat Murphy. Now, I’ll have to trust to memory and Vian’s recall here, but the first words out were something along the lines of “we need to have an honest, open discussion about Kevin Pietersen.” I sighed. I couldn’t swear. I sighed. By implication this means you have not been honest in the past about it, and that you’ve not been open at all. You’ve had all night to prepare for this question and you come out with startingly obvious platitudes that those of us who have followed this for 16 months now will see straight through. Andrew, old bean, you threw a fit over text messages and you called him a c—. You are not some impartial, detached honest broker. Don’t hold yourself up to be one.

To his credit, this early gambit didn’t hold, and he didn’t even try. What followed was bilge. Some believe it is those dastardly lawyers, clamming everything up again. That pesky employment law, eh? But what we had was the key element of trust, and Strauss couldn’t make up his mind if the key factor was at corporate level (a unanimous view of the board) or his own (we’ve had serious trust issues and I don’t trust him). There’s the first error, a massive one. He put his own personal beef above English cricket and he never went into detail why. Not that I heard. When even Paul Newman says we needed to read between the lines, you know this was not working. Only a couple of usual pillocks – Selfey, Lovejoy Jr – went hurrah! Here’s his excerpt from the book: Driving Ambition 1So a grudge, eh? Yet again, when it comes to the crunch, Strauss never went into this with an open mind. But we knew this from what he had said before. But many came to the same conclusion – what the hell is he on about? This bloke (KP) was just completing his 355 not out – a special score – and Strauss is still going on about a beef three years ago? What was he talking about? What the hell did it matter? How many runs did “trust” score? Oh, I’ve seen those who liken sports teams to corporations say that you can’t do what he did and return. Pietersen would be the one with the problem, not them. It would be Pietersen ostracised in a dressing room, not them. If KP could go in there and take it, then so should they.

No. I came to a pretty swift thought. This is about Alastair Cook. Again. Cook doesn’t want him back, he never goes into detail why this should be the case, and Cook rules this roost. Once again, another senior management figure gives this man carte blanche. Denials do nothing to convince me otherwise.

Strauss gave it the big one over sacking Moores. Bravo. He wasn’t tactically adept enough at the international level. Well, that’s nice. I suppose all those press boys who fell over themselves last year have recanted their sins on both Moores and the man who appointed him (sound of crickets). There then came all the stuff that Andrew Miller, in his excellent Cricinfo piece, called the “white noise of corporate bullshit”. If you’ve read Driving Ambition, and I have, the bit I most recall was Strauss’ devotion to managment text books, team bonding exercises and military disciplines. People here will know how much I absolutely adore all of that. We try to escape this sort of claptrap in watching sports. I’ll bet Lionel Messi has never read a management text book in his life. I’ll bet Ronaldo doesn’t do team bonding. It’s drivel. We are playing sports, not planning a mission to invade Afghanistan, or to deliver a leveraged buy out. But here they were all trotted out, the most vacuous of them all being the “long-term strategy”.

We had the shock that he was keeping Eoin Morgan as captain of the ODI team – hey, while we’ve just sacked the coach, let’s kick him even harder by saying the World Cup was ALL his fault by keeping the captain (who just happens to be a Middlesex player, but I wouldn’t be that cheap to draw a conclusion based on that). Then there was the promotion of Joe Root to vice-captain, which, who knows, may have been based on the legendary leaked performance on some leadership exercise by Ian Bell to demote him back to the ranks. Then there was the woolly philosophy of separate ODI and Test teams, but under one coach. There would be more of a distinction but we’ll flog a head coach to death to do it. Well, good luck with that.

And that was pretty much it. A trust issue where there was no-one to blame, and I didn’t go into the semantics of the following old shite where he said KP had no future, but he absolutely wasn’t banned. Some contrition for the manner of Moores dismissal, but a dismissal of Moores himself (and how that contrasts with his book which when KP and Moores were having their spat, Strauss almost indicated that “it was nothing to do with me guv”. Driving Ambition 2He certainly worked with him there, didn’t he? (Driving Ambiton, by Andrew Strauss is available from normal sources if you wish to read the full book). Tom Harrison came on and did a speak-your-Downton regime. First of all, his credibility is shot because he looks like Tim Westwood. Secondly, when challenged on the KP front, he then did what all good charlatans do when caught on a weak issue for them, and said, I don’t want to talk about the past, it’s about the future, and then went on about excitement and long-term strategies. I lost the will. He’s dead to me. No more than a Downton in a sharp suit, but with more of an attitude.

Of course, since then, the main copy has been provided by the Pietersen sacking (for that’s what it is, don’t bullshit us) and what KP had or had not been told.

Like last night, I’ll divide the post in to two, and have a real pop in the second part. Because I want my dinner, and I’ve topped 1500 words. I’ll hand it over to thelegglance to take things up.

Also, read The Full Toss (James and Maxie), and Andrew Miller on cricinfo (which also has a link to Switch Hit).

UPDATE – Not really been at it today, even though I seem to have devoted a full day of my holiday for this nonsense. I’m likely going to take a couple of days away from the blog (don’t hold me to it) and I know Vian has something up his sleeve for tomorrow. I feel a bit of my spirit is broken, to be honest. I’ve felt this way before. I get over it, and get on with it. It wasn’t helped by listening to Tuffers and Vaughan, to be honest. If we showed one tenth of the bile for Cook or Strauss that is doled out to Pietersen, we’d be annihilated. We don’t come anywhere near close.

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Aplomb

So. Where were you when you heard the news? Me? I was outside the Shakespeare’s Head pub in Holborn and my good friend had shown up. He was on the phone when I saw the first blog message. Incredulity struck, but it was true. I reacted, then felt a little guilt. Should I be cheering a man’s sacking, when it meant bad news for someone else? I then had what little joy I might have had ebb away to anger. Anger that we’d had to put up with someone so out of his depth for so long. Anger that he’d had that attitude throughout of unchallenged intellectual superiority and his boderline patronising nature. Anger that he’d been seen through after five minutes by many on here. Anger that we’d been sold a pup by the ECB hierarchy and more importantly to me, by the print media. The print media which lambasts this site, and people like me for indulging in “guesswork”, of not being close to the team, of not following them around professionally. They took the you-know-what out of us. Damn them. Damn all those who looked down their noses at us. We were right. He was not up to it. We are right about Moores. We are right about Whitaker. Most importantly of all, we are right about Andy Flower. Yet there he resides.

Now what? The news appears to be that Downton is being moved on and his post has been removed from the ECB hierarchy to be replaced with something called the Director of Cricket. Lord alone knows what that means, but people seem to be indicating that Whitaker is for the chop tomorrow and a whole new structure will replace him. Shed no tears either for the speak your Gary Ballance machine if he goes, as he’s been a laff-a-lympics when he’s had to front up to anything resembling a sentient questioner. I’m not that impressed with this from Harrison if truth be told because the structure is being used as a fig leaf for two utter failures.

So what now? Downton gone leaves a huge hole for me to fill, but there’s plenty more where he came from. The replacement list is full of holes, but I think we need to know what the role is before people are put forward. I’ve not had time to read this exercise in shifting sands.

Here’s what I do know. We handed the keys to the kingdom to Paul Downton. His first major move was to speak to Andy Flower. Before we knew it, Flower had gone as coach and been shunted into a role he appeared to be lobbying for. Then he sacked Pietersen and entered into a ridiculous confidentiality clause, which he broke a few months later. He held a press conference where he came across to me as a buffoon, but to some of the agape media as a latter day seer. If the warning signs weren’t flashing then, they had to be after his Agnew interview. But no. After a period in hiding, he re-surfaced in a Sky hack-piece, and was then hidden under the stairs. We then had to endure his backing of a lame duck captain, especially in the ODI game, and his disastrous intervention in the ODI series in Sri Lanka was the crowning glory. Or so we thought. Because then came his post-World Cup media blitz, which was staggering. By then, most of the media had seen the light. I say most.

Because some still don’t. We know their names, we know why they don’t. Their enemy’s enemy has always been their friend. Pietersen was banished by this man. For many this seems enough. They get to keep stirring the pot, getting the clicks on their website, yet still get to be the offended patron at KP’s misdemeanours. If any of them actually think a man who didn’t have a clue what social media was when he took on the job (his words) is still a fit and proper man to be in charge of our team, well….

I hope Harrison undertakes a review of ALL his key decisions. The appointment of Moores actually being more of a priority than Pietersen. The maintenance of a role for Flower arguably being more than that. To sack a man after a year indicates you have no confidence in him at all. So look at his key decisions and act on them.

In tabloid style let me go through some of Downton’s best moments:

  • Sacking KP. Oh yes. For reasons unclear, but something to do with being disconnected. You make a big decision like that, you need to explain yourself. Constantly avoiding the question makes you look a fool.
  • Outside cricket. Given he used that phrase in a 1985 Q&A for Cricketer’s Who’s Who, it seemed to be something he would have said. Way to get a meme started.
  • Difficult Winter – Oh yes. Losing 12 out of 13 to your main foe is just “difficult”
  • The press conference – Alastair Cook being told that he wasn’t strong enough to captain KP seemed rather amusing. Of course that was our spin. Other saw aplomb.
  • The interview – SO good I got multiple posts out of it. Where do you start? Read this. The read this. Then read this. And then there is this. Once you’ve done that, read my conclusion.
  • Who can forget his interview round in Sri Lanka. Backing the captain, then presiding over his sacking a few days later, all the while refusing to answer any questions on KP. Good lord.
  • Then there was the side to be reckoned with going into the World Cup. That went well.
  • Then the media blitz post elimination which struck all the wrong notes, had him wondering how T20 cricket had impacted, and played “it weren’t my fault” cards all over the place.

There’s enough for this evening. No background research, no looking at other things, just an instant reaction. Have your say, read Maxie over at TFT, read the papers/online news columns, and we’ll reconvene.

Speak tomorrow.

Rumbling

So many of you have picked up on the George Dobell / David Hopps piece on cricinfo. Paul Downton’s future appears in the balance. There are rumblings afoot. It comes as little surprise to me that if this meeting was meant to be held in secrecy that information has come out in advance. As it’s George we’ll call it good journalism.

I’m not going to be dancing any jigs, whooping that I told you so, or any of that. This catastrophe could have been written last year. The warning signs were going off all over the place. When, as an administrator, you are the story, and if you don’t have a “terrific year”, you are going to be in trouble. The ECB made their stance clear about this World Cup. It would present us with a great chance to do well, and from a long way out the decks were cleared. It was a disaster. Much was not in our gift, but a hell of a lot was.

This is a sad time for English cricket. It’s not the time for joy or crowing. It’s the bloody time to unite behind a team we can believe in, and with no petty administrative spats. I’ll only believe this is for real when Andy Flower’s shadow isn’t cast over the proceedings. We do have a lot to thank him for, but just like the presence of Ferguson loomed over Moyes, it isn’t doing anyone any good him remaining on site.

Pietersen has been the symptom, and now, finally, we might be coming to a more realistic diagnosis. We may have a very interesting time to watch this play out, but things look to be moving. Given this is the ECB, don’t expect them to do the expected.

Mob

I am currently in a bit of turmoil. Personal reasons to some degree, also been told I’m moving positions in my work life to a newly created post which I want no part of but have no choice, it seems. So unhappiness is not uncommon in those that have followed my path, and nor are the ups and downs of moods. So it is with this in mind that, other than my rant at Downton the other day, I’ve taken a back seat to watch all those follow the words I said at the start of this wonderful adventure car-crash and that resonated with so many of you.

Downton with aplomb - brenkley

However, let’s do what I used to do, and fisk some load of old twaddle. I’ve selected Brenkley. That should come as no surprise. I don’t know who has been saying he’s seeing the other side because this load of old establishment shite isn’t giving the game away.

England refused yesterday to buckle to the demands of the mob. In many ways, it was an admirable stance, which did not exactly ignore the  evidence but tried to lend it balance and perspective.

We’re off to a flyer. Those that have pointed out the failings at the start of this gruesome twosome are “a mob”. Nice one. And by ignoring those who are being proved right every day this is “admirable”, and by doing so they are showing “balance” and perspective”. Taking the opposite view those of us who have pointed out the failings are contemptible, we are unbalanced and lacking in perspective. Good start. I’m looking forward to the rest of this…. (unless Brenkley is taking the piss, and frankly, if this is satire, it’s good, because I’m not getting it)

In short, it seems that as nobody expected much from the World Cup campaign and despite the fact that it has gone much worse than anybody could possibly have imagined in their most horrific nightmare, everybody can carry on regardless.  No one will be sacked, or asked to resign or pushed conveniently aside.

Downton thought we’d be a bit of a force to be reckoned with, didn’t he? You giving him a free pass? So this it what it comes to. Go in with a defeatist attitude, lose, and it’s all OK. Those who put the structures in place, those who cleared the decks, those who focused on ODI cricket and those who planned our campaign should stay. Because we’ve always been crap. That’s the attitude that gets you to the top of the pile. I do hope Brenkley is taking the michael here.

Because if he is, I’m missing the gag.

A review is being launched….

Do stop it Aggers.

as soon as England return home next week after completing their programme with a fixture against Afghanistan on Friday. But it is seeking reasons for the failure so they will not be repeated – a mantra heard often before – not heads that should roll.

Those reasons will not be the MD who set this course, or the greatest coach of his generation. I see 1999 referred to a lot as our worst ever performance. Let’s remember we beat Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in that competition and finished 4th in the group thanks to a bit of a freak result in the South Africa v Zimbabwe game. Here we are 5th in the group. This is the worst ever. Seek a reason for the worst ever World Cup performance after the worst ever Ashes performance last year when a review was deemed unneccessary other than to fire one of your marquee players and give the old coach a nice domestic number. I don’t trust these people to review a Janet and John book.

The loss of four matches from five in the tournament, which has led to England’s elimination, is a matter for grave disappointment, but no more.

Who is saying this? Brenkley? Is he mad? Or is he doing this in an ECB voice, because it’s bloody hard to tell at this point…. In a sense he is right, it is sport, and that isn’t life and death. But it’s not an old boys club either, and the rest of the world don’t seem to be so matter-of-fact oh-well about it.

Peter Moores was the right man when he was re-appointed as head coach 10 months ago and he remains the right man now.

I’ll let that statement stand for the ridicule it deserves… I’m sure I heard that about Alastair Cook about a billion and one times.

Whether the public will be appeased by that, or whether they expected precisely this sort of return and will put up with anything, will gradually become clear as the summer unfolds.

Public appeasement? Nice. We want to see the best for our team. Very few people believe that is represented by Moores and Downton. I feel a little for having a pop at Moores, but you know, Bunkers, many of your colleagues in the press box (and Etheridge doesn’t hide his views) are in our camp, not some ECB “don’t give in to the great unwashed” camp. Many think Moores needs to go. It is nice to be joined by them after this time, when we haven’t exactly been proved wrong, have we? You carry on, old fruit….

To rely on survival on the grounds that we don’t give a flying one about ODIs is contemptuous, and seems to indicate this mob that is invoked in the early part doesn’t actually exist. Make your mind up.

It would seem certain that England cannot go on losing after performing so poorly in a tournament for which they specifically prepared over a period of five months.

Because, as the mantra goes, we only give a shit about the Ashes.

Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, who calls the shots, was calm and unflustered yesterday when he dealt with a string of questions in a  conference call.

Obsequious. I like that word. Think it applies to both you and Downton. Personally I thought he made himself look even more of an incompetent, out of touch, should never have been appointed imbecile in the interviews I saw, but hey, you make your own mind up.

He was in London, his interrogators were in Sydney. For all we knew he might have been pulling faces into the telephone but much as he might have felt like it, that is not his style.

No. I call it misplaced arrogance. That’s his style. Incompetent buffoonery. More his style. Out of his depth that he’s below fish with lights (thanks Andy), is more his style. You keep kissing his arse.

“I’m not saying everybody’s job is safe and I’m not saying that everybody is going to be sacked,” he said. “It feels as though, from your perspective, there needs to be a scapegoat. There needs to be a target.

Do stop it Aggers.

“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.”

Meaningless business-speak, unmeasurable, aspirational cock-waffle. May I also point you to this tweet by your’s truly on Sunday.

I’m actually worried that I can predict this shit. By the way, regretfully, this was not “all I’m saying” from Downton. When he does appear from the cupboard under the stairs, you can’t stop him.

Downton backed Moores continuing in his role. It would be easy to say that he had to do so considering he was instrumental in his reappointment 10 months ago. But there was something oddly reassuring in his comforting words. This was not a man who would be easily swayed from his course, whatever the accusations of misguidedness.

Because nothing screams “fucking incompetence” like bad appointments prolonged, just to prove how god-damn awful they really are. You, Bunkers, might find that “oddly reassuring”. I call it complete insanity. “Hey, I can’t drive an F1 car, and I’ve just totalled it. I tell you watch, let me drive another one…and for kicks, stick a load of people in the way. I’ll be fine…..”

“The first thing to say is that whilst we’re hugely disappointed with our performance let’s put it into context again,” Downton said. “Peter was appointed only 10 months ago and as I said on TV yesterday whoever was appointed to that position was always going to have a bit of a job.

Well, it was 11 months ago, but I’m being picky. Downton’s as good with numbers as he is picking England coaches. I’d have expected a bit more from the “greatest coach of his generation” than this. I mean, really I would. I’m sure a team to be reckoned with was also on your mind as well Paul, but hey, you cherry pick what the hell you want. It’s transition time (as if he and his appointment had absolutely no influence at all…. all those players they “bigged up”, all the illusory “progress”) and that’s the message. Scoundrels.

“We’re in the middle of a very significant rebuilding phase. We offered six new central contracts during the summer. My first job when I came in here was to try to re-establish a Test side which we made progress with in the summer. The next job was to get to the World Cup with as competitive a side as we could. We always knew we were coming from behind, we haven’t won back-to-back one-day internationals for well over a year now. All I will tell you is that there are no quick fixes in this situation. Look through  history, look at any very  successful side which has broken up, how long it takes sometimes to rebuild again.

India recovered in a fortnight. We have more players returning to a World Cup (6) than India (4) and Australia (5). Beware of false prophets spouting codswallop. Also, who has presided over this lamentable ODI run?

“I am very confident that in a year’s time, in two years’ time this group of players will be battle hardened and will be more competitive.”

Jam tomorrow. Blah blah blah…. They may even be a team to really be reckoned with. Did you let him get away with this unmeasurable cock-rot?

Downton is seeking to buy time. The trouble is that sport demands results and this is the sixth World Cup in succession in which England have played badly.

Oh, we are so picky. They set the quarter-final as a low bar target and they couldn’t even meet that. We don’t have a right to demand something better than that? Really? REALLY? We are so damn unreasonable…. It’s such a trouble that we might expect a bit more bang for our buck. Such a nuisance…. After all, who targeted this tournament or are we supposed to forget this?

For this one, they moved Ashes series, to ensure players were not turning up drained after a tough series against Australia, and concentrated solely on one-day cricket for almost six months. The result was still calamity and worse a side that did not lack skill but was intimidated by the event.

Nothing to do with the coach then? The management who prepare them for this?

If Downton is supported by his own bosses at the England and Wales Cricket Board, and all the indications suggest he has their faith that corners will be turned, it would be presumptuous of him to expect two years. That is an eternity in any walk of life and he should know from his former career in the City  that fortunes can be won and lost five times over in that sort of period.

“all the indications suggest he has their faith”. Well, I’d suggest they check faith at the door and check that uncomfortable thing called evidence. Read HDWLIA. There’s plenty there. Listen to Geek and Friends podcasts, read Twitter feeds, read BTL from those not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Hell, start reading some of the press, even NEWMAN. They should go now. If they don’t, then they are treating the fans with contempt. Even those that don’t think they are. If I cock up my new role in the first year so badly that we lose tons and tons of money, it wouldn’t be another two years, I’d be gone. This bloke has no track record in cricket management at international level and he’s failed. The coach has a failed track record in international cricket, and he’s failed again. I see one trend. You believe in faith, ECB. I know who is probably right. I have evidence, you have hope. That’s worked for Cook’s ODI form, the KP saga et al…

The Ashes this summer will take on a different hue.  England were a laughing stock in Australia and New Zealand yesterday – and more. In two separate appearances on radio programmes in both countries, trying to offer some excuse for the poor beleaguered Poms, the presenters in both cases called England spineless.

That’s ok. No doubt they are a mob too. Damn colonials. You see, they don’t suffer fools down there. We don’t mind them if they are the right kind of bloke, or the right kind of family, or former cricketers employed by JPM.

Moores wants desperately to prove himself as a capable international coach. He would regret it forever if he left now with not only business unfinished but also because he has never quite yet shown he can cut it internationally as he so patently has at county level.

When I was younger, I was desperate to prove that an overweight, asthmatic, low-income clerical worker could convince Elle MacPherson that I was Mr Right. Sadly, I had to look at her calendar instead. Elle, I have unfinished business, but don’t tell my lovely Missus, eh….

Jesus, this sounds like a love letter. He so wanted to succeed, but leaving this business unfinished would be of regret. This is putrid.

“Clearly he said yesterday that as head coach he feels responsible,” Downton said. “We all feel responsible frankly because we feel we have let the country down and nobody wants to do that.

You don’t feel responsible, Downton. Your entire interview round has been to put forward why you aren’t responsible. This, above all, sickens me. He doesn’t feel as if it is his fault at all. Inexperience, transition, programme not set by him, not aware of T20 impact (I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’d sack him on the spot for that shite) etc. It’s excuses as to why it isn’t “their responsibility”. You let him get away with this.

“As far as his ability is concerned I still feel he is a very high quality coach, so, no nothing has changed since we appointed him 10 months ago. You don’t become a bad coach overnight but the scale of the issues we have got to deal with are significant as everybody has seen.”

It took him his next bit to say he (and Moores) weren’t responsible with these pesky “significant issues”. Many of us believe one of these “significant issues” is your serial incompetence, Downton.

Downton somehow brought to mind the daft wisecrack  in a Carry On film from 50 years ago. “You’ve stood on my Indian dress,” said Barbara Windsor. “Sari,” said Kenneth Williams. “Don’t  mention it.” Everybody’s sari and that makes everything  all right.

No? Me neither…. Tell me I totally missed the point of this article. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this is one joke I just didn’t get.

Have a nice evening.

Resign

dootoon

I have just sat through Paul Downton’s appearance on The Verdict.

Now, you know what I think of this clown. Please tell me if I’ve been proved wrong at any step. From the decision, to the outside cricket (which is a phrase he used in his own bio in the Cricketer’s Who’s Who in 1985), to the interview with Jonathan Agnew which blew a coach and horses through the confidentiality agreement, to his silence, to his being buried in the ECB during the summer, to his handling of Alastair Cook both in the summer and then his all-too-late dismissal from the ODI side, to his utterances in the lead up to this competition and then to today. This man is a walking incompetence. If he had one shred of dignity, one shred of personal pride he would resign. His presence is toxic, his pronouncements are teeth-itching and his appearance today, which no doubt will be painted as “bold” in ECB’s Ivory Tower, was as welcome as a jester at a funeral.

But not Downton. The interview wasn’t a mea culpa, it was a shrug of the shoulders. It wasn’t an admission of failings, but a promise of better times. Well, sorry. The Ashes, and a pretty decent England team, were jeopardised and in the case of the latter destroyed for this. The best prepared team (or it was supposd to be) ever had a man complaining that the team they put up to perform was inexperienced (note – England had six players from the 2011 squad – inexperience in World Cups was claimed by one of Moores/Downton – while Australia have five (Warner, Finch, Starc, Maxwell and Faulkner are newbies) and India four). There was focus on things going forward, more jam tomorrow, and what could I have done inheriting an ageing side shrugs. This is beyond the point of rage for me now. It’s coming closer to the point where it’s time to walk away while this buffoon appears unchallenged.

I don’t like doing this. I’d much rather be here today hoping we’d win against Afghanistan and the team might “click”. I make a confession here, in that I feel a bit for Moores, who took on this poison chalice and is now held up as the poster boy for the Flower failings as he does his desperate best not to look out of his depth. He has no credibility really, but he is an honest broker and I don’t like kicking people like him when they are down.

Sure, the players may not be good enough to win, but they are better than this. Much, much better. Downton making excuses for poor performance is a clear attempt to distance himself. There’s a penchant for cheap words, and no buck stopping with him.

There were those who painted this as a dream team. Moores and Downton. Those defenders in high positions need to take a good look at themselves. They need to watch that car crash interview (which I have, and I will burn, and I will keep for posterity) and ask themselves “what did I do?”

Downton must go. Moores probably should. Whittaker should. Saker should. Ramps needs to show some results. Flower must be disconnected asap. A clean house. A vision for the future with hope. Get them to enjoy the sport, not become Waitrose drones.

Repercussions will be long and tough. England need to pick themselves up for 17 test matches in 10 months. They need to do it without Downton. Sadly, he shows no sign of leaving. All you need to know.

Time to scapegoat the man who did the scapegoating.

https://twitter.com/DamianReilly/status/574994424163401728

If you feel up to it, read the Selvey review from WCM last year….

“…it is blindingly obvious that the ECB has found someone with a mass of credentials which could not be matched: successful Test and county cricketer; successful businessman for even longer; lawyer; qualified coach; influential committee man at Middlesex, MCC and ECB; and although not a part of the job description, a thoroughly decent man. There cannot be anyone who has a bad word to say about him.”

and…

“But the ECB has found a man who is just not eminently qualified and intelligent but enthusiastic, determined and discreet. He understands the demands of the game at the highest level and is an excellent empathetic listener who can sift information and make solid judgements.”

There will be more, a lot more…..

Dread

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, in Adelaide, England face the first of up to five win-or-go-home matches. It would be typical of this team to lose this one, but the odds have to be on us winning the next two and meeting India in Melbourne in a quarter-final next week. But this is England, and nothing is certain.

As usual, when we get to this sort of position, I hear and read the usual load of old shite from those who think they know best about those of us not totally enamoured with the way the game is run in this country. Let me put it this way, so it is easy to comprehend. Those of you out there who think that a Bangladesh (or Afghanistan) win is the only way we’ll get the root and branch examination of the game, its structures and its ruling body that has been overdue for nearly 14 months now, I have sympathy for you. I understand precisely where you are coming from. I am almost totally on board with that.

Those of you who slag those people off as being “unpatriotic” or some such other load of old crap, I understand why you want England to win. I do too. But I don’t feel it an either / or equation, and like most things in life, there is nuance. A win today, and it’s on to tomorrow. A win against Afghanistan, and it’s on to India. A win there and we are in the Semis. This would all have been worth it, then, in many eyes. The pain, the agony, the division, the spite, the nastiness, the despair. Semis is better than anything since 1992 (when our group defeats have been a damn sight worse).

That’s what pisses me off. If we do fluke this, somehow, those who have ruined the last 12 months will be vindicated. “So what”, say those England till I die merchants “it’s improvement”. I say it will be bad in the long run. But I want England to win, still. I just don’t care as much, which is obvious to anyone who has read my rantings over the last 13 months.

I’m in my mid-40s. I get the fanaticism of wanting your team to win regardless of the long-term. I was a fanatic of a football team. For 15 years I went home and away, saw their only ever game in a European competition abroad, saw them in their only two years in the top division, saw their glory day in the Cup Final (the biggest anti-climax ever) and saw two particularly legendary players in their developmental days (one English, one Australian). Three seasons ago, I walked away. I’ve been to one game in three years. We are going down this season. We survived by the skin of our teeth in the last two seasons. I don’t see a sport any more, I see businesses. I see the soul taken out of the game by over-coached, over-priced, under-enthused players, who don’t have an affinity with your club (how can they when you get loan players making up so much of the team) and a lack of hope. I still want them to win, I just don’t care as much. I feel the same about our national football team. I am beginning to feel this way with my cricket team.

I get devotion and fanaticism and I also see how those in charge use it to hold you over a barrel. You criticise those in the authority, those in management, and you are undermining your national team. How dare  you. You traitor. What does it matter who runs the game, it’s those out on the field that matter? Why are you bothered?

Well, as you know, I’m not one of those. Those in authority with “successful business careers” often have a lot to answer for. In my experience many of them suffer from some sort of superiority complex. Often, they have no substance. To a person, I believe they are over-rated. They over think, they project manage, they make a living out of making the bleeding obvious bleeding complicated. One is to hope that Colin Graves and Tom Harrison are not two such individuals, but it is early days and that think-piece paper does not augur well.

The other thing these people do is to latch on to success, any success, and sing it louder than an opera diva. Yes, we are guilty of talking down any achievements, but good grief, you’d never guess we’d beaten India at home, would you? The Sri Lankan defeats, in all formats, were much more a pointer to our World Cup fortunes than beating an Indian team that packed in the series after the first two days at Southampton. A quarter-final place, for all that we cleared the decks for this, will be seen as that expected during a transition phase (so how did we get to a transition phase in a World Cup year should not be asked) and these lot can carry on. Success will be measured in whether this allows the top brass to keep their jobs.

It’s comments like this, interpreted by George Dobell, that mean I don’t care as much..

While it is understood that Graves and Pietersen have spoken in recent days, it increasingly appears as if the ECB’s chairmen is regarded by others as having exceeded his authority and spoken out of turn and that his views are not those of his executive team.

They speak as if they are in a position of strength, not as abject failures in one of our key measurable objectives thus far. As if their decision making deserves no scrutiny. They’ve been abject and yet the “executive team” are getting prissy over someone having a word about a policy they decided upon. I admire their chutzpah.

Because thus far this coaching of our World Cup campaign has been wretched. People like Warner, Maxwell, Finch, McCullum, Sangakkara, Williamson, Dilshan, DeVilliers, Kohli et al are playing a different game. Meanwhile we are settling for 309 in an ODI, and it shows how we are just not on the same wave length as the others. We don’t seem to know how to maximise our potential, which is a damning indictment on our coaching staff. But still, we have the same old, same old. We’ve blown a chance to give Hales a go, we’ve gone to the old ways, we over-praise Root and Moeen, we under utilise Buttler, we mess Taylor about. It’s awful. It’s truly mind-blowing. Don’t even get me started on the bowling – hey, let’s play two blokes just over major injuries, and with little white ball form in the big tournaments and see what could possibly go wrong…

So far I’d barely five this coaching staff 1/10, and the back-room boys and officials even less. But, as is always said, we have a chance, still. Starting tonight in Adelaide.

It’s a feeling of dread all right. I dread the recriminations should it go wrong. I dread the justifications if we somehow fluke it. Dread. No wonder I’m not a fanatic any more.

#RIPDoug

Other House News:

You may be pleased to know that the old archive on the old site is up. The old blog has a new URL, which can be accessed by clicking the link on the right in the Blogroll section. Somehow the head picture disappeared. The old link DOES NOT WORK. I will be staying on this site as the host from now on.

As always, thanks for the comments on the games and other things. Not been as busy on this as I should have been (lots on, not being too chipper) but rest assured, we’ll see more activity if England goes downhill.

Reporting

Ah, with that off my chest, let us turn to the latest by Dmitri #1 George Dobell:

England have lost 16 of their last 21 ODIs against Full Members. The last four of those have been thrashings. In the last five-and-a-half World Cups they have won five and lost 17 matches against Full Member nations. They have not won an ODI series for a year; when Ashley Giles was coach, Stuart Broad was captain and Michael Lumb made a century on debut. They have dropped several chances in recent games, including Aaron Finch before he had scored in Melbourne and Lahiru Thirimanne on 2 in Wellington. Both went on to make centuries. Sunday’s result was not an aberration.

Root, of course, was in an impossible position.

Joe Root was put up as the interview person for the day or so after the loss to Sri Lanka. Many are questioning why Moores wasn’t fronting up. I made many of those same accusations in Sri Lanka (how he came out when we won a game, then didn’t speak until we’d lost the series) and was told I was being unfair. OK. But come on. Root was emotional after the game. This can’t be right, can it?

The man who, at 24, had just become England’s youngest World Cup centurion deserved a better fate than being wheeled out to explain the team’s latest calamity. The ECB might as well have thrown out a piece of meat.

I concur, George.. now to the pay-off.

But their logic was simple. They no longer trust some of those in management to defuse situations – Paul Downton was originally pencilled in to take this press conference and every time Colin Graves speaks he undermines his executive team – and they hoped that, by producing one of the few men who has performed well in recent days, they might distract attention from the wretched performance of England’s most senior cricketers in the field.

Well I never. That’s just so out of character. A trait we were mentioning, what, a week into his tenure?

That’s “guesswork”.

It was a desperate ploy. The ECB knew full well that a report leading with Joe Root’s century would be like leading a report into the sinking of Titanic by noting that the band played beautifully.

It’s why we like you George. You tell us things we don’t know, and you do it as if you are our eyes and ears.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr Mike Walters

Downton has been pottering around in New Zealand scolding accomplished ex-England captains with “agendas” to lay off Moores and get behind the boys, which only goes to prove he hasn’t got a clue.

Win a few cricket matches, and the hounds will be kept on a leash. But don’t expect the travelling media corps to stage a line dance in grass skirts and pom-poms as cheerleaders for garbage, mate.

Read more here….

Sounds just like him, doesn’t it?

But Mike is coming in off the long run…

You cheerfully sacrificed England’s record scorer in all forms of the game, Mr Downton, and you appointed this bloke as coach. The day of reckoning is near when you will have to justify your abject leadership.

To date, your regime has produced a home Test series defeat by Sri Lanka when England should have won 2-0; an atrocious performance at Lord’s against India (when Alastair Cook’s bowlers squandered first use of a pitch greener than a stag night hangover); a fine comeback to win the series 3-1, although the Indians played like a side who couldn’t have cared less at Old Trafford and The Oval; firing your one-day captain days after publicly promising to stand by him; and this nuclear blow-out at the World Cup.

Don’t forget, the England and Wales Cricket Board drove a coach and horses through the fixture schedule, and heaped back-to-back Ashes series on their players, to accommodate six months of build-up to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It’s worked out well, hasn’t it?

Killing Puritans

Ah yes. Always going to throw in an Armand van Helden reference where I can. If you thought not, well, you don’t even know me.

But the main reason for invoking the above album name is because of George Dobell. Those of you who have not listened to his podcast with Peter Miller, aka The Cricket Geek, should. End of. Those of you who think the “campaign” I’ve run here and on my previous incarnation, and that The Full Toss has been on too, is one based on bile and rancour need to listen to it. You have to. Choose not to believe George when he mentions when the ECB deliberately leaked misinformation on an individual, and instead believe Selfey with his “anal about leaks” comment. Choose not to believe George when he said that individual items on the dodgy dossier were leaked to journalists, and that when the full document became public property the ECB tried to sue, and instead believe the mainstream media who believe their work is good journalism rather than the beneficiary of crumbs from the table from above.

This podcast has so much to recommend it. Readers of the previous incarnation will not be surprised at my “bigging up” of George Dobell, and also Peter does a superb job of keeping the fires burning. The podcast leaves you wanting more, almost as if you’d just like to go down the pub with the bloke and get the lowdown as he sees it. There is definitely a “I know a lot of what is going on, but can’t tell you” but the fact is, he lets you know a lot more than the ECB line.

The podcast is also good on the current England set-up. From Dobell’s standpoint it is clear to him that Andy Flower remains a key influence in the England firmament. There is some even more damning stuff around the fall of the Flower Empire, which I’ve not seen or heard in such graphic detail, and the story arounf Boyd Rankin, for instance, really needs to be examined if he was told to play with what was a pretty bad shoulder injury. Flower seems to be the sort of bloke Downton is in awe of, and this is worrying. Dobell clearly initmates that it is Flower pulling many of the strings. Maybe, just maybe, we are getting some clarity on the KP exile that the ECB don’t want to admit.

I’ve got a bit of sympathy for the Moores stuff. As you know, I’m not one who wants to plunge the knife into him, but it is inescapable that this team set the 2015 World Cup as a goal, and the preparation was farcical, the late switch of plans a hint of indecision and the current performances are lamentable. Moores is going to be in the firing line, big time, if this doesn’t turn around. The narrative, set by a friendly media last summer, was that he had created a good environment, and that young talent was thriving under him. People ignored the dodgy start against Sri Lanka, leaped on the turnaround of the India series, and put the late season ODI collapse down to end of season blues. Moores had a friendly press after their initial scepticism.

Moores, as Dobell says, doesn’t do himself any favours in press conferences. He does always seem a decent bloke trying his best to me, and if that sounds slightly patronising it isn’t meant to be. Moores was handed a horrible bed of nails to lie on, and he’s starting to show the marks. The latest interviews seem to indicate that the plans are right but the execution is at fault. Fair enough, but the players look shit scared when they go out there. The problem, and I know it is extraordinarily simplistic, is that our lot go out there as if this is a job of work. Many of us who do jobs don’t love what we do, and hence we don’t perform to our best. Some respond to the threat of the Sword of Damocles, and others retrench and play it safe. How many of this lot actually look like they are enjoying playing the game out there? I felt a little bit of that once we turned it around against India, but it needs the team to grasp the nettle before we get into winning positions. Given what we’ve been told about the regime that ended in Australia last winter, it seems fun was well down the agenda. Was it really true that players were asked not to celebrate birthdays because it could disrupt the team? This is sport, not a war. It’s meant to be enjoyable, not a torture. I perform better when I’m enjoying it, not when it is a matter of fear. I have been told of players snapping at journalists for daring to suggest there may be alternatives to them in the team, as if some believe they have a right not to be questioned. They may be a likeable bunch, according to George, but that message isn’t getting through here.

There are so many nuggets in that podcast, that I urge you all to listen to it. So, before this evening’s entertainment, let me leave you with a quote from Nick Hoult’s article…

Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood, Cook and now Morgan all found run making difficult while Moores was the head coach. The only one who did not struggle was Pietersen, partly because his tenure was brief, and he probably did not listen to Moores anyway.

But, never forget, KP was the problem. The real problem. The thing that needed to be dealt with.

My thanks to Mr Miller and Mr Dobell. Do it again soon.

On other parish news, here is where a friend of mine has been recently and mailed to me today…

Galle

Wise People Learn When They Can; Fools Learn When They Must

It seems appropriate after a defeat in Wellington to quote the great Duke. It seems to sum up the position of our cricket team at this time. This is a team that looks on its knees, knowing it must “learn lessons” and fast.

I tweeted earlier that I’m not giving up on this team. I’m not basing this on any logic, any analysis, any particular confidence, but this is clearly an underperforming unit at this stage and it can, and probably will get better. Let’s review the team at the end of the competition when the knife can well and truly be stuck in. But clearly this is not going well. I can deal in understatement with the best of them!

Am I angry? Does it matter if I am? No-one has paid a jot of notice of the “refusenik” anger for the past 12 months so what does it matter if we go crazy now. AndyInBrum summed up so much of the pent up fury in his BTL piece on The Guardian that I’m not even going to attempt to outdo him:

Remember last year when Giles Clarke said england weren’t at a massively low ebb? He was right.

I’m gutted we got thrashed & good players are getting a tonking, but I would be lying if I’m not feeling smug about it at the same time.

I told you so, I told you that the leadership Omnishambles at the top of english cricket would lead to this, I told you sacking KP was a mistake, not just for spurious form reasons, but for the utterly incompetent, vindictive, spiteful way it was carried out.
I told you that Paul Downton was an incompetent so far out of his depth that fish with lights were above him.
I told you the signing of Moores was a disaster, I told you the failure to address the myriad failures of the ashes series would be a disaster, I told you the continuation of Cook as captain would be a disaster, & now his removal was too late, but better than nothing. We told you the bowling coach was doing it wrong, that the bowlers were bowling repeated utter dross, & that bowlers bowling well, fast & dangerously in County Cricket were coming to team england and regressing horribly

We outside cricket, told you this would come to pass, & we’ve been ignored, moderated or dismissed as irrelevant KP blow yards.

Well we told you so & it happened, so stuff you & the horse you rode in on

But let me tell you what grates at me. Like the nails down a blackboard, like a Downton interview, like a westcorkthinktank patronising…. it’s this:

We’ve never been any good at one day international cricket.

Or

We only care about test matches.

This make my blood boil. Australia seem to be able to switch between the two with no difficulty whatsoever. South Africa are the world’s number 1 test team, yet they always fill their big ODI games, and certainly prioritise both forms of the game. Why in the name of hell do we think we are so damn special that a form of the game at which an undisputed World Champion will be appointed in a competition that is held every four years is beneath us. That we shouldn’t care? I’ve read this defeatism, and it makes me livid. It’s not as if we performed well in our holy grail of Ashes test cricket the last time we did it. We used to sell out our ODIs with ease, so it isn’t a lack of public interest. Or it wasn’t.

The ECB, for all we slag them off for their stupidity, cleared the decks to prepare for this competition. They got us to play a somewhat daft ODI series in Sri Lanka as a warm-up, and then got a Tri Series gig in the Big Three Cup. They’ve lined this tournament up. I actually don’t want to throw them under the bus for this bit. Where we cocked it up is we decided, 12 months before the competition, to do what we did. We know what that was, and for me I lay the complete farce this has been so far squarely at the door of my bete noire, Paul Downton. It was he who was the man behind the now infamous dismissal of Pietersen. It was he who was the man behind the selection of Peter Moores as the coach. It was he who was the man behind the unequivocal backing of Alastair Cook as captain in both tests and ODIs. It was he who was the man behind the maintenance of Cook as that captain for ODIs because he deserved chance after chance (and hoping he would come good). It was he who was the man behind the public backing of Cook in Sri Lanka, and then was part of the decision team that sacked him, at practically the last possible moment. I love Andy’s line about him being so far out of his depth that he’s below fish with lights! I wonder what needs to happen for this man to vacate his post…..

But you know that’s what I think. Those of you (that’s probably 99% of my visitors) that frequented my previous place will also note I’ve been pretty quiet on the Peter Moores front. While I wasn’t exactly decking the bunting at his appointment, I want to be as even-handed as I can about his performance, but my patience is wearing thin.

Last year I said this:

Appointment of Moores – I don’t believe it to be a conspiracy, borne out of Flower’s removal and then the need to have KP out of the way for him to be brought in. However, I won’t be admonishing those that think that given a large amount of circumstantial evidence to suggest this could be the case (Selvey pumping him, the “greatest coach of his generation” twaddle, his closeness to Flower etc.). I think the job was Giles’s to lose, and Giles lost it.

and this:

I have absolutely no hope for the future. Good luck Peter Moores. Good luck Alastair Cook. This is your bed, prepared using the sharpest nails by the ECB. Go lie in it.

Moores has not impressed. James at TFT points out on a regular basis that he has never won a one day trophy as a coach, but he’s still the outstanding coach of his generation. Moores comes across to me as a genuinely decent bloke. I fear that the culture among major sporting teams in this country is that we seem somewhat resistant to home-produced coaches, seeing them as ordinary compared to an exotic overseas appointment. I think he also had the obvious issues from the first time around that weigh him down no matter how much people deny it. The smell test is that this is not working, no matter how hard he is trying. The selection of Ballance at number 3, and then dropping Taylor down to six on the day of the first game of the World Cup has panic written all over it, even if it is a rational decision in his eyes. I felt his justification, and subsequent comments smacked of “not my fault” after the Australia game, and to a degree, it isn’t his fault if batsmen play crap shots. But this is a team, whenever you listen to them in that management drone drivel they specialise in , that talk incessantly about “getting the right plans”, “doing the basics” and “executing our skills”. It is said a good coach can be reflected in on field demeanour and fielding quality. These seem not to have improved no matter how much we are told about the dream pairing of Cook and Moores “are creating a good environment”.

Moores knows that the attention is starting to move his way. With Cook out the way, and Downton seemingly impervious to the hatred his presence ensures, it is Peter Moores who is in the hot-seat. Saker is on his way out, Paul Farbrace seems to have become the invisible man, and the layers of protection are being stripped away. It’s not looking good. We’ve entrusted a World Cup to this man, and it seems the last line of defence is the old defeatist one that I stated above. “We’ve never been any good at it”. That doesn’t wash.

If this tournament ends in abject failure, heads have to roll. We cleared the decks for this. We supposedly prepared for this. We ruined the Ashes in many peoples eyes for this. We have a brutal 2015/6 for this. To then rely on lazy presumptions that the fans don’t care, and an Ashes win will satisfy us, are taking the punters, as usual, for fools. This is not either/or. It never has been for teams that aspire to be great. I presume that’s what we want. After all, we won a World Title at the shortest form of the game, so that canard of being no good at this sort of game for some endemic reason is absolute shite. It’s a crutch for those who can’t face the fact that the people that made THAT decision are, in fact, charlatans. Because to admit that would be to admit you-know-who had a point. I saw someone today, who I know has encountered KP, say he’s rather have B*llock cancer than have him back in the team. That’s the sort of thinking I adore.

I’m not going to bother with these players. What’s the point? They got us into this mess, they need to get us out of it. By any means necessary. If they don’t, then eyes need to be cast in the direction of the likes of Stuart Broad, Eoin Morgan and Ian Bell in particular, as well as Jimmy Anderson who disappoints me more and more in this format. There’s a lot of talking, and not a lot of doing.

Oh well. 1500+ words of ranting, and I’ve only scratched the surface. There’s plenty more out there, so read them as well. TFT, Peter Miller et al. Eviscerating stuff showing the disappointment we feel. We care. We really care. Why people think we don’t is beyond me. Utterly beyond me.