Another Heart In A Different Scene

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About as high a point as I got to in my Ashes tours

Having said on Monday that it’s “all about the Ashes” in a less than happy way, I have to confront my own position. Now the home test series are over, the next task is the Ashes, and we know, still, it just about has some form of pull on the cricket world, and here. While we feel the general sense of disillusionment with all the game brings with it, it is going to be the proper 2 ½ years between the two old foes going at it, so allow me to get a little bit enthused. For me, and I suspect some others, this is test cricket’s last throw of the dice. If this is a poor quality, poor test series, I don’t honestly know where we go from here. Down to the T20 pier I fear. A new love is hard to find, after all.

After the test summer, we need to look at who might be going, and who might not. I’m not going to dissect the selection quandaries, rather make some observations. It was interesting to read the comments of some of the journalists regarding the selection for the upcoming Ashes. Interesting in that Bayliss has said that if he has anything to do with it, there will be no “flyers” from outside the squad or the playing pool from the last 18 months. This is an admirable approach so it seems, but where is it coming from?

Why would  you shut down other options at this stage? What if one of those mentioned in dispatches suddenly strings together a run of excellent scores at the end of the season? For example, if Liam Livingstone ran off a couple of big tons after his double a week or so ago, why would he be more a risky selection than Tom Westley or Dawid Malan who have not pulled up any trees against an opposition bowling line-up that won’t be in Australia’s league? What if Nick Browne outperformed his Essex colleague in the final games to get Essex over the line? How about if Sam Robson batted Middlesex to safety having been out of the England order since 2014? Ben Duckett could be considered due to this logic, but Sam Northeast, who consistently seems to score runs, reprises his role of the younger generation’s James Hildreth. Sam is averaging 55, yes in Division 2, but this is no spring chicken. Maybe someone has seen something in the past.

I’m not lobbying for Northeast, but the fact that Bayliss seems unwilling to work with what he doesn’t know, just because it is the Ashes, doesn’t compute to me. Australia blew up their batting line-up after Hobart last year, and came across Renshaw and Handscomb. This against a tough South African bowling line-up, albeit a little on the downward curve after clinching the series. Both are now ensconced having made runs. We will be playing three players who have had a few tests each and not really, in truth, looked like nailing it down at all. Westley played a few nice shots early on, a number of the media fell in love quicker than a repressed teenager, only to have their ardour thrown back in their face in what should now be called Hameed Syndrome.

Oh, and on to young Hameed. Again, I have to say this, I really, really want to see the kid succeed. Nothing would give me more pleasure. But agonising over every painstaking, woefully out of nick, half century isn’t going to do it. It’s like revisiting the woes of Ben Hollioake all over again. Let him get on in peace, get himself back to form, and become a player in his own time. In his recent piece Newman insists that “Hameed has to be on the plane” which defies all logic. You want to take a player along who has made two (is it) half centuries all season? Why? Magic beans based on a competent debut against India? Take his age out of it – is he selectable in a way that, say Steven Finn wasn’t despite also proving his test class time and again? I simply don’t know why HH has got them all giddy. I saw one commenter on the Guardian say, within two lines, that Rashid could not be picked for England because of his poor summer, but that HH should go as the third opener!

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12 months ago…just a name on a page. Now so much more.

Newman is nailing his colours to the Alex Hales mast. I am not actually as rabidly against that per se, but he did have his chance over quite a period of time and didn’t take it. That was opening, and it may be he thrives down the order.

On the bowling front, the debate is pretty settled. Clearly Broad, Anderson, Woakes and TRJ will be going (to drop TRJ would be incredible given his start). Moeen is the one spinner, and probably Crane will be the other (Aussie state experience and the fact that Adil is persona non grata). There might be room for another – Wood or Ball given we can’t go outside the last 18 months – and Finn hasn’t exactly staked a claim for recall. This leaves the excitement to a back-up keeper. Why we would choose anyone other than Jos Buttler, despite not pulling up any trees, given the constraints on selection I don’t know.

There remains a sneaking suspicion, though, that to go for a wild card, one of those hunch selections that sometimes come off in Ashes tours down under (but more frequently don’t), might infer weakness or incompetence. The selectors have not pulled a batting rabbit out of the hutch since Gary Ballance, and he soon succumbed to cricketing myxomatosis when he stopped scoring runs, and possibly as more of an indicator, siren voices mentioned technical flaws and GB’s unwillingness to countenance changing them. Ballance suffered from having a batting style only his mother and James Whitaker could love, and while racking up 6 tons in 103 test innings has you a stalwart of the side, 4 centuries in your first 10 tests doesn’t prevent you from getting the axe. So given Ballance is rabbit stew now, the rest of the batting hopes haven’t been as good as him. To punt for someone else may lead people to believe our selectors don’t know what they are doing. Perish the thought.

For me, and I know some of our other scribes, the position of Trevor Bayliss seems rather odd. He’s actively, or maybe passively, made it clear he knows little about county cricket. He seems a little resistant to get out there, like the old school, and run the rule over players. He seemed reticent over Mark Stoneman, but then when he has worked with him, made comments about how he likes him as an unfussy, organised cricketer. Bayliss, and Farbrace the Untouchable, have presided over a maddeningly inconsistent England team. Their fielding has fallen off a cliff. They can play matches of unutterable nonsense, lose the plot every bit as much as the Moores teams of yore. There seems, though, barely a murmur from the media about him. It’s as if his invisible man nature is a virtue. No-one is writing Flower-like eulogies for him in the press. No-one seems to think that he’s a liability either. Maybe people don’t care as much. I’m really not sure.

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The 2017/18 Ashes are going to pit two floored teams together. Who will survive? I think England will lose, potentially heavily depending on how fit the Aussie bowling attack will be. The team is too flawed, and the talent pipeline is drying up. Newman can say we have a world class spine, but the problem with this team, frequently, is when it is behind it has no backbone. Blaming that on three players making their way is one thing. But look at some of the established players, and their inconsistency and you have the nub of the issue. However, we will be watching on BT Sport, and not Sky, which brings me on to my next piece in the next day or so.

TV coverage (don’t worry Bogfather, you can have your go soon as well!)

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Got to find a way….
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The Wanderer Returns…

Sort of….

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I have to confess that in the last three weeks or so blogging has had to take a back seat. It’s the nature of the beast, as both Sean and Chris can attest, that we aren’t in the privileged position of being able to sit around all day watching and writing about cricket. We have jobs that require our time, and while the workload of mine has waxed and waned over the past few years, I’m in the “it’s so damn crazy it is off the charts” phase. You know I’ve been to Rio, yesterday I was in Helsinki, this week I’ve been interviewing, the previous week I was drowning while suffering from another bloody toothache. This coincided with times when Chris was away and Sean was also busy. So there has been a lack of regular content – long-standing readers know how this blog works and recognise this is what happens.

I was on a plane – or at least waiting for one at the bloody expensive Helsinki Airport – yesterday when the Bangladesh game finished. I had one thought other than wasn’t it nice to see Rashid ram the critics words right back at them, and that was “how would Newman segue in a snide reference to Eoin Morgan” into his write-up. Newman is out there for the ODI phase and is not going to let the uppity Irishman’s decision rest. And, so it was, with some trepidation, that I opened up the Mail Online and read the great man’s piece. And I didn’t have long to wait…

And the most satisfied member of the England side was surely stand-in captain Jos Buttler, who followed his impressive leadership in the first week of a tour dominated by safety concerns with a match-winning all-round display. A penny for the thoughts of Eoin Morgan?

In the absence of a telling contribution by one of his potential replacements – Vince and Bairstow didn’t perform, and Duckett’s 60 was not the compelling hundred the punditerati truly wanted – it had to turn to the leadership issue. Jos Buttler offers a few platitudes, presumably enhancing how much he might get under the new contracts, and that’s “impressive leadership”. Jesus, they are easily impressed. I’m accused, regularly, of having an agenda. I’ve nothing on these people.

Newman isn’t one to let an agenda lie, and it was how he signed his piece off that sums him up:

And it was one that provided food for thought for England’s refuseniks in Morgan and Alex Hales.

I bet it doesn’t Paul. It’s another ODI, in another country, which will be forgotten by most within a couple of weeks, save those who might face the 5 wickets in an ODI debut trivia question in a few years time. Your desperation for them to express regret speaks volumes.

England’s win, plucking one from the jaws of defeat, was a really good one. Good that Ben Stokes played a solid innings in a winning cause and posting his first ODI ton. Jos, once again, showed his incredible ability to smack balls with nothing more than an amazing power from those wrists. It’s hard to write something about wrist power without invoking the old Finbarr Saunders from Viz, but he plays shots I’ve never seen before. There has to be a way to harness this for test cricket, doesn’t there?

I’ll confess I’ve not seen the bowling performance yet. Jake Ball does look to have something, given a more than capable debut in tests, and it does remain to be seen if he is another string we have to our one day bow now that it appears to me as though Mark Wood is going to need to have his workload excessively managed if we are ever going to get him performing. Adil Rashid does what he does on occasions in ODIs – he takes wickets, doesn’t get truly collared, and has snarky comments made about him by certain sections of the media (one of them employed now by TalkShite Two). Newman lived down to this…

Yet ultimately they were indebted to the unlikely figures of Ball, who ended up with the best figures by an English one-day debutant, and Rashid, coming into this series under something of a cloud, for turning the tables.

If you ain’t in the in-crowd, then you are out. Presumably this will be reflected in less money in his central contract. You have to be a “good egg” and we’ll have lots of “good journalism” telling us what is being one of those and what isn’t.

I’m running off a load of cricket from the Tivo onto computer and have the India v New Zealand series on. When I left on Thursday I was being advised that Thakur of BCCI, a new tinpot general who thinks being good at business means he’s top dollar to run a sport, was threatening to cancel the whole series. In the World Baseball Classic there is a “mercy rule” if you are getting thumped too heavily, and with India romping this series on result wickets, and with Ashwin posting figures that pur him up with the all-time champions, then I first thought that Thakur’s sporting instincts for a contest were kicking in. Not really. But what happened since then? I genuinely don’t know other than I’ve had to set the recorder to pick up the highlights in the early hours of the morning because there’s a game on and Kohli’s made a hundred. Given I’ve slept most of the day I’ve not been able to catch up on all the toing and froing, so grateful for a steer. Did Lodhi give him a kick up the arse? Are we going to have India over for the Chumpions Trophy, or as it should be known the “win it and Comma gets a CBE Trophy”?

Sean excoriated the ECB over the Durham fiasco earlier this week and rightly so. Those anti-KP sorts who think we cried and cried purely over the ECB casting out of “our hero” are still welcome to speak now they’ve seen the true nastiness of those in charge. The county that has brought us Paul Collingwood, Steve Harmison, Graeme Onions, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood will now be severely hamstrung in nurturing any further north-east talent because the ECB felt the need to “punish them” as some sort of ludicrous “pour encourager les autres” meme. This is less Battle of Minorca, and more the rattled of Lord’s, who know deep down that all the counties, more or less, are in a dreadful state. I had a look at Yorkshire’s finances, and it’s amazing to look at their debt structure:

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Yorkshire’s turnover in 2015 was £8m. Its staff costs (and other cricket expenses) in 2015 was £3.1m. The cost of providing cricket in 2015 – admin, catering etc. –  was just under £2m. Other overheads were £2.6m. This means EBITDA – your operating profit in crude terms, is £500k. So if you owed nothing, you made half a million quid. Which is, at least a profit. But you can work out that not only is there £25m of debt there, that hasn’t been obtained by popping down to DFS to take advantage of interest free credit for four years. There’s interest to pay.

And that interest is £648k. Their EBITDA doesn’t even cover their interest payments. In finanical analysis terms, this is not particularly indicative of a very secure going concern. Yorkshire announced a profit overall because of an “Exceptional Item” of £781k. The thing with Exceptional Items is that they are meant to be “Exceptional”. I’ve had to study accounts where that term is stretched to breaking point to indicate that a company is healthy. This one is quite interesting.

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I’m not party to the discussions, but Yorkshire posted a profit in 2015 because they got the local HSBC to reduce the repayment, and in return the bank now has a first charge over one of their facilities. What I’m indicating here is that the cricket club that is held up as a paragon of excellence on the cricket field functions because the head of the ECB has put up his own money – yet still holds the whip hand given it owes him £20 odd million – to save his club. If he had taken the approach of the Durham creditors and said “right, no more to keep you out of the shit”, what would have happened to Yorkshire? I mean, if you really can’t see how there’s potential conflict of interest, you must have a dose of SelfeyRashiditis. Note how that loan from Graves is due to be paid out in the next two to five years. It won’t. It can’t be given Yorkshire’s turnover. Graves will just roll it over.

I’m picking on Yorkshire because, to their credit, they publish their accounts on their website. I saw Ashley Giles having a word or two about Durham’s financial ineptitude but I tried for a while, using my sources of information, and found the only way I could see Lancashire’s accounts was to stump up £12. I love you all, but I won’t do that.

That’s the offence. One that every county’s cricket operations mimics – it doesn’t take a lot of sense to see county attendances will never match the wages needed to pay players – yet Durham need to be punished because their creditors took a much tougher line than Sugar Daddy Graves and his ilk. Before people throw Surrey at me, it has often been said that Surrey is a conference facility running a cricket team. So Durham need to be punished, and so it is that they have been relegated. And deducted points in all three competitions. And been stripped of their test match ground status. One wonders what they might do to a Northamptonshire should they need a bail-out. Would it require them to play Minor Counties cricket? Deduct them 100 points and thus make any game against a team with nothing to play for meaningless and thus destroying what credibility the Second Division has? Again, Sean did his piece, and his pieces at it, and I’ll return to the theme in the coming days or so. But just think through the logical consequences of the decision, of how cricket operates in this country, and what could happen in the future. The ECB have been a disgrace. Don’t worry, I’ll come to Bransgrove in the near future as well.

I have gone off a little on this, and thus not covered some of the other ground I intended to at the start of this piece. That’s fine. I can write some more later. Until then, thanks for sticking with us.

Whitaker’s For The Sack – Comma

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

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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.

The Post With No Game

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Newman – 12 May 2015

Well, it has been an interesting old week. Today is the 12th May and it marks the one year anniversary of the “Trust” press conference / media event which many now congratulate Strauss on for providing clarity and a clear message going forward.

Relive the joy through the threads on the day. Chris live blogged a press conference:

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2015/05/12/strauss-press-conference-live-blog/

“Strauss has effectively acted as judge in his own divorce case, awarded himself the house, then asked his ex to advise on the redecorating.”

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2015/05/12/trust-1/

Standing O for Andrew Miller….

But no matter how passionately they expressed their platitudes, or how multi-layered they made their appeals for a reassessment of the team’s priorities, the white noise of corporate bullshit was precisely the last thing that we, the working media, and by extension, them, the disenfranchised masses so odiously dismissed by the previous regime as being “outside cricket”, needed to hear.

There’s a lot of this sort of management mumbo jumbo coming out in the ending of the career of Charlotte Edwards, where it is clear the individual wanted to carry on, but also clear that the management did not. Now if this is down purely to playing matters – i.e. whether a player is the best taking into account all facets of the game – is less clear. Indeed, there is some indication that this might have been done with that hoary old chestnut of “developing for the future” coming to the fore. While media gurus sniped at women’s cricket lacking “athletes”, the drop off in performance of our world beating team of a few years ago is disappointing. Mark Robinson is out of the ECB School of Coaching, and this looked like a typical move. It seems a nice contrast to see Pakistan’s men team coming over with a 40+ captain this summer. Age is quite often used against players – see the drip drip drip about Ian Bell’s “eyes going”. I thought it was an interesting day watching the dancing around the issues. Robinson has made his bed and will now have to lay in it. Edwards has made it known that this wasn’t a decision of her choosing, but the inevitable decision she had to make once she saw the writing on the wall. All quintessentially English.

I’m not a keen follower of the female game as some on here – simply not enough time – but it has to be said I am judging this through the “ECB of the last couple of years” prism. I’m also more than wary of the men judging the women’s game through men’s standards – sub-consciously or not. I don’t often hear anyone on the T20 circuit, for instance, complain about Chris Gayle’s lack of athleticism. An extreme example (and when he’s not scoring runs in the IPL, like he is now, a cogent one) maybe, but Edwards is that taliswomanic (I love making words up) figure for the English team. Robinson may be trying to show he’s made of the stuff in making tough decisions. I hope the decision hasn’t been made to appear tough.

I can’t help but reflect on the death of Tony Cozier. For me he was the voice of West Indian cricket. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him on TV. It was on Newsnight, in 1984, with a dazzling white suit jacket on, explaining in the wake of the 340-odd run chase at Lord’s how the West Indies were so great. And of course, without knowing, the response was “he’s white?”. However, the main reasons we cared so much about his passing have been gone into in great detail on here in the comments, in articles, on Twitter etc. He was part of our cricket education. In an era when educative commentary is buried behind “well how many caps did you get” drivel, Cozier educated you on the rise, and fall, of West Indian cricket. He’s one part of the reason that the West Indies have a special place in my heart. His love of the game, and his determination to speak what he believed, shone through. I’m sure he had his faults, we all do, but to finish his life virtually ostracised by the WICB, casting aspersions on his fitness to commentate on the game when he’s surrounded often by braying morons, saddens me. I had the chance to pay a visit to The Wanderers Club in Barbados in October 2005. Before I went I did not know it was his club. Instead I went on a pilgrimage, at first, to Kensington (then being demolished) and then to Holders Hill. But when we visited Wanderers his presence as club behemoth lent it an aura I’ll never quite forget. RIP Tony. You gave much to me, and I know many others.

I won’t comment much on the England selection, which saw the outlandish predictions of a few weeks ago row back into yesterday’s limited changes. Congratulations to Jake Ball for his rapid rise, no doubt helped by being on TV a couple of weeks ago, and also to James Vince who will make his debut, I would imagine, as a straight replacement for the sadly retired James Taylor. Now Vince has undoubtedly benefited from being a client of a prominent management group and a vocal ex-England player, and his initial international performances can be filed under “encouraging” rather than “devastating”, so he has a lot to prove. I hope the hype is matched by performance. The selection of Compton also was interesting. I would have had no problem if he’d been dropped. Provided this dropping was based on his performance on the field and the notion that there is someone more suited for his number 3 slot. Instead what I’ve been reading and hearing is a whispering campaign about being “fidgety” “overwrought” “nervous” “too intense” “bad body language”. Barely a piece goes by that does not allude to Compton’s mental state. In one sense the media individuals spouting this amateur psycho-babble claptrap must be pleased he’s been picked because they can go on about it again. I’ve never seen a player briefed about in this way since, perhaps, Mark Ramprakash. Good luck Nick, I hope you prove the doubters wrong.

Some House News. Both TLG and myself will be off premises for a few weeks at end of May, beginning of June. For me that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to post, but it might not be that regular (depends on how the holiday is going). That said, I won’t be able to watch any of the second or third tests. I can set up posts, and perhaps read some from others, but commenting on the action will be difficult. We’d love one or two of you to write up reports on the day’s play if you have the time (I know you’ll do lots of it in the comments) and if you wish to volunteer, please let me or Chris know. Otherwise, I’ll make do and mend.

Finally, I was journeying home from another leaving do last night when I came across the frankly astounding interaction between Tregaskis and Paul Newman. I want, believe it or not, to be fair to the Mail journo, but good grief he makes it hard for you. There is no doubting that getting an interview with Andy Flower was a “scoop”. Well done. To then allow that interview to appear to be a job application form, and a puff piece with little delving into things he clearly doesn’t want to talk about (like the Difficult Winter), Newman, in my view, let us down again. There’s clearly a desire to hear Flower’s side of the story from the horse’s mouth (and not unattributable “Sportsmail understands” nonsense), but instead there’s a dance around it. The result was an interview so lacking in substance that it’s little surprise that there has not been a lot of re-reporting of it that I’ve seen. Then to get prissy with Tregaskis, who clearly has got under his skin before if that was anything to go by, and start doing that “let me explain journalism to you” claptrap that I have had in spades from others, seemed out of character. Newman blocked me 2 years ago. I can still read his stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever directly tweeted him so blocking me is absolutely spurious, but he blocked Tregaskis who is rather confused by it all.

A message to you good folk of the dead tree press. Speaking for myself. I don’t want to be a journalist. I have never wanted to be a journalist. I just like to write on things that I care about, and cricket is my niche at the moment. I don’t want to know the horrors of your job, or understand access and such like. I’m sure you work very hard doing something you love. But your responsibilities are now to hits and churn and not to getting to the bottom of the story. Flower may have said no questions on KP, but you then go out of your way to praise his dignity rather belies any sort of meaningful approach. We are now all aware that if we are ever going to get the definitive counter-view on that Difficult Winter, it’s going to be through Alastair Cook or Andy Flower’s autobiographies. We’ve long since given up on the dead tree press getting it. So while I received a comment last night, one of a few in the past year, to let these things lie because I can’t change them, it still means a lot to me that these issues, in their own way, aren’t out of the visibility. In our own small way, Flower’s reticence still resonates. Because we, and others, won’t let it go. That’s the issue, not a KP comeback.

That should get you through the next day or so. Chris has promised at least one piece, so we look forward to that.

And from this month’s Cricketer it is a battle of good versus evil!!!!

20160512_200927-1.jpg

The Anatomy Of Plants

So here I was, watching the golf from Quail Hollow and reminding myself that I was in the States this time last year, when Innocent Bystander, a Tweeter you should follow if you don’t already, alerted me to the Andy Flower article in the Mail. Now we are semi-joking, well I am, when I talk about an Essex Mafia in the media, but coming on top of Derek Pringle singing the praises of Tom Westley, and Newman bringing Nick Browne into the debate too, an interview with Flower that would disgrace Hello! Magazine is too much.

Both on HDWLIA and here we’ve had our fill with our cricket journalists. There is a major story to be told, yet it isn’t being told in anything other than small pieces, and with key parts deliberately excluded. When Pietersen told his side of it, the ECB leaked a dossier, a not totally irrelevant point when reading yesterday’s puff piece, which actually painted their own management staff as being a bunch of paranoid oddballs. When the scapegoat was being lined up and measured for assassination, the dignity shown by the management team (and judging in hindsight and at the time, there were a few of them at it) was to leak. Remember the harrumphing of the media at KP breaching the sanctity of the dressing room, while all and sundry were “good journalisming” aided and abetted by people clearly with an axe to grind.

Just to refresh your memories…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-2535242/Its-KP-England-coach-Flower-resign-Pietersen-isnt-dropped-team.html

Yeah! He kept silent all right.

It is a gamble by the hugely principled Flower, particularly as England are likely to be a weaker team in the short-term without Pietersen, but it is one he is fully prepared to take and he will walk away with his head held high if the ECB decide their loyal support for him cannot be extended now.

I wrote this on HDWLIA:

Someone all over that story, as an apparent vehicle for Leak City was the Daily Mail’s cricket correspondent Paul Newman. Just as he was the useful vehicle at that time, so, back in the immediate aftermath of the 5-0 whitewash did he become the main focal point for the public release of the official England anti-KP sentiment.

To wit:

Jamuary 7 – 15:08 – Its-KP-England-coach-Flower-resign-Pietersen-isnt-dropped-team

January 7 – 22:06 – Flower Driven To The Edge

January 8 – 12:00 – Time For KP To Go

The case is set up. The quotes are leaked. Paul Newman makes the cry for the parting of the ways.

No, what. The ECB, Andy Flower or players had nothing to do with this co-ordinated attack? They wouldn’t desecrate the inner sanctum, would they:

Such has been the deterioration in the relationship between the two that Flower has suggested to England’s new managing director Paul Downton that Pietersen must go before the rebuilding programme can begin after the abject low of their 5-0 thrashing by Australia.

How did he know that?

but now the team director is adamant that there should be no place for their most talented batsman in this ‘new era.’

Who told him that?

Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that Pietersen’s international future was in jeopardy but now it has emerged that the situation has already reached breaking point, with Flower deciding that he cannot carry on if Pietersen is reprieved

Oh yes, it came out of the ether. It emerged like Excalibur….

Flower has been fully backed by the ECB in the aftermath of the Ashes horror show. And while the coach denied he had delivered a direct ultimatum, but for Flower to effectively say ‘it’s him or me’ makes it clear his relationship with Pietersen is at breaking point.

Shane Warne wasn’t the only spinner in attendance at the SCG that day.

Sportsmail understands Flower believes Pietersen to be a divisive influence in a dressing room that will need to be united behind captain Alastair Cook in what the coach admitted will be a ‘painful’ transitional period. So bad has it become that Flower is risking his own position to bring the matter to a head.

“Sportsmail UNDERSTANDS” = Someone told them. All that understanding, and how remarkable that the United Behind Cook meme was floated back in January! I understand when someone is being briefed…

There has been anger at Pietersen’s attitude to warm-up games, which neared contempt here in Sydney ahead of the first Test, the manner of many of his dismissals in the Test series and what Flower sees as the undermining of Cook.

Sounds like someone breaching the inner sanctum to me.

The problem has been so serious, in Flower’s mind, that disciplinary action has been considered by England but they held back until after the final Test so as to try to seek damage limitation in the series before fully assessing the situation

This is making Piers Morgan look like a mute. Who is telling Newman this stuff? Given what has happened, this clearly wasn’t a figment of his imagination.

If the relationship between Flower and Pietersen has never really recovered from that point there had been a truce between the pair for the good of the side until the text scandal of 2012, revealed by Sportsmail, when the South African-born player sent ‘provocative’ phone messages to South African players about England captain Andrew Strauss during the Test series between the two.

Someone leaked that out of the inner sanctum as well….

Pietersen, who is very publicity conscious, attempted to get his retaliation in first after Sportsmail reported that his international career was in jeopardy by tweeting that he remains committed to England and wants to help them win back the Ashes in 2015. Clearly, if Flower wants him out then he is going to make it as difficult as possible for him and England

The publicity conscious KP. That one again. Yes he is. He also knows a bloody stitch up when he sees it. What should he do? Keep letting Newman talk to the flower in his garden without responding? He hardly got his retaliation in first when the paper leaked he was on the way out. Newman having it the Daily Mail way, that is both ways.

England want all their players to earn their Test places again with performances in county cricket, and will want Pietersen to play for Surrey under his old mentor Ford rather than cash in on India. If a deal is already in place for Pietersen to play for Delhi, as he was due to last year before injury forced him out, then clearly the situation is untenable. It is that piece of ammunition which Flower, who this week called the IPL ‘a tricky situation’ will want to use most keenly in what has become a hostile battle with Pietersen.

Which is not acceptable when it is KP, but it is for Ian Bell and Stuart Broad (my apologies, Stuart Broad wasn’t put forward for the auction. Other potential international cricketers were, though, including, amazingly, Jade Dernbach)…. Again, Newman seems to know a lot about what Flower is thinking.

There will be outrage from his high profile supporters like Shane Warne and Piers Morgan and he will make sure he acts the victim but it would be both a huge surprise and mistake if the ECB did not fully back Flower now.

Newman rather underestimated the outrage, underestimated Flower being backed to stay on when he clearly intended to, and the game is/was given away by how much of this came from sources within the inner sanctum.

It’s just hilarious. Because in his own views, Newman just about gives the game away…

Yes, for the record, there were times during this Ashes when Flower considered disciplining Pietersen for poor behaviour and, yes, patience is wearing thin about his attitude towards practice matches and his general attitude in the dressing room, where he can set a bad example.

For the record. Then some pretty assertive statements for the record. Leaving you no doubt someone wanted it on the record. Someone who would never defile the sanctity of the inner sanctum.

I give Paul Newman his due. He never sat on the fence. He did some reporting. He may have an agenda, but he didn’t hide behind nonsense. It’s pretty clear he had sources in the dressing room telling him stuff. He did what a journalist is supposed to do. Fine. Just don’t throw that accusation back at Pietersen when he does it. That’s rank hypocrisy and everyone with a brain can see through it. Newman tries to re-write history regarding his role in the Moores nonsense – with friends like him, who needed enemies – but is putting a view out there and not hiding. The rest seem to just want to hide.

Yesterday’s article was just another of those pieces.

Andy Flower is taking his place among the sprinkling of supporters at an early season county match happy to remain anonymous as he sizes up one of the next generation of England cricketers.

‘We’re sitting here at the Oval watching Somerset and Tom Abell is batting with Marcus Trescothick,’ said England’s most successful coach. ‘The biggest compliment you can pay Tom is that both look like international batsmen.

‘There are some very good young batters around and Tom is one of them. We just have to keep pushing the boundaries and find out how good they can be.’

Just to remind you that when Flower left the England job he moved into one he was actively lobbying for. Remember how there were unattributed comments on his workload, the Radio 5 special on his modus operandi, the almost unanimous praise for his coaching. Still Flower got the job he wanted and in the eyes of the press and, if I recall, Swann, good on him. This is to remind you….

Two and a bit years on from the Ashes disaster that brought his distinguished reign at the head of the England team to a crashing halt and Flower is reveling in his role as coach to the England Performance Programme and the Lions.

A job he wanted. I thought I’d remind you. The point made to me last night was compare the last days of Fletcher with those of Flower. People were actually calling out Fletcher’s mental health after that dismissal. There was no love lost between the press and him. The way Flower managed his press relationships paid off. He walked out with no rancour from them, and into an important job, and gets to be called distinguished. Flower was a very good England coach. But he lost 5-0 to an Aussie side that doesn’t compare with the greats of the past. He can revel in a new role. Nice.

‘This is an excellent match to be at,’ says Flower as we watch one of the four county games he took in within four days last week assessing young talent.

‘Tom Curran and Mark Footitt opening the bowling for Surrey is great competition for Tom. He may not have scored many here but you can see his potential. 

Hello! magazine stuff.

‘We’ve got some very exciting young players and I think English cricket should feel very optimistic about the resources we have.’

Players as resources. Teeth itch.

Flower is finally optimistic himself now after emerging with his dignity intact from the fall-out of the 5-0 Ashes thrashing that saw one of the best of all England teams unexpectedly disintegrate spectacularly and then bitterly.

Now this is where the Looking Glass stuff starts. Dignity? Issuing a him or me ultimatum? Saying he wanted to stay before resigning/being asked to leave? Presiding over a team imploding on itself, losing 5-0, putting up a shocking display at Sydney, players falling by the wayside, debutants having disasters? That’s dignity intact? Words can’t express what I feel about that nonsense. Newman himself can’t quite buy it. How can one of the “best of all England teams” lose 5-0 AND have their coach remain with dignity intact?

The man who coached England to three Ashes victories, the No 1 Test ranking and a World Twenty20 triumph disappeared into the background to lick his wounds while the mud-slinging and recriminations swirled around him.

As you can see with the post I reproduced above, he didn’t go silently, and threw a fair bit of mud. That it wasn’t reported as coming directly from him fooled nobody. Please don’t insult our intelligence.

Even now he will not respond to the assassination of his character by Kevin Pietersen in the saga’s aftermath and instead is content to still be playing his part in the betterment of English cricket away from the spotlight he never relished.

Kevin Pietersen’s character was assassinated by unattributed leaks, journalistic innuendo, and the maintenance of flat out lies (the texting how to dismiss Strauss is still regularly spotted). That went on from mid-December 2013 until KP released THAT book in October 2014. That doesn’t seem to matter. No. KP said what he thought and suddenly we need to be concerned about an ex-coach’s reputation. Flower doesn’t have to say anything in public. You lot, and especially Newman and Selvey, did it for him.

‘It fell apart very quickly and much quicker than I hoped,’ reflected Flower on those tumultuous times in Australia. 

‘Regardless of whether I moved on I would like to have seen a healthier transition where some senior players stayed and there was a drip-feed of younger ones rather than a complete makeover.

Don’t worry Andy. Mission accomplished. The journos kept reminding us of the good times and laying all the blame on KP and the dastardly Mitchell Johnson. No-one could have done any more. SimonH in his comment buries the transition myth as well.

‘Sometimes life doesn’t work out perfectly and that’s an example of that but England have made a great recovery.

‘Peter Moores put some really good foundations in place and had some tough situations to deal with and I think Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace have reaped some rewards for the work he did during that transitional period for English cricket.

We live in a world where we praise Peter Moores contribution as coach over KP’s contribution to a world-beating XI. Peter Moores was done badly by the ECB, but lets not pretend that his reign was anything other than a failure. Let’s also not take away the credit from the current management team, who, of course, are not linked to Flower in any way. Moores brought Flower into the England set-up, lest we forget.

‘It’s such a shame it didn’t work out twice for Peter because he’s an outstanding coach, and man, and Trevor has acknowledged that which is good because he didn’t need to do that,’ says Flower in his first major interview since the Ashes meltdown that cost him his job.

Newman’s odd, quaint reminder, in case you’ve forgotten that Flower has been a mute in the last two years is out of place. As is an homage to Peter Moores.Likeable, dignified man, but not an international coach. All this praising of Moores comes across as some sort of defence mechanism for a decision made in Spring 2014 that was a mistake. They want to say it is an honest mistake. There was a large school of thought that the key man pumping Moores tyres was Flower.

‘Trevor is a very experienced coach and he’s bringing a lot of knowledge to English cricket. He may give the impression he’s a simple guy from the bush in New South Wales but he has a cricketing wisdom about him and about people and teams. 

‘He’s making that count for English cricket. I still don’t know Trevor that well but I’m looking forward to knowing him better.’

Hang about! The England Lions coach and Trevor Bayliss don’t know each other that well. Do they talk at all? What’s going on here? Are there two fiefdoms in operation?

It is an enormous shame that it all ended so badly for Flower after he did so much, along with his captain Andrew Strauss, to lift England to unprecedented levels after taking over in the wake of another Pietersen fall-out in 2009.

He deserves the praise when we win and none of the blame when we lose. This is Essex Mafia in full effect. See also A.Cook. I don’t remember the enormous shame articles after Fletcher left. And he inherited a far greater mess than Andy Flower, who did a very good job for most of his tenure I must say, did. If you want me to feel sorry for Flower, you aren’t going about this the right way.

He deserves to be remembered for the highs of that rare away Ashes success in 2010-11, climaxing with innings victories in Melbourne and Sydney, and another win against Australia in the final of the 2010 World Twenty20, rather than when the world of English cricket came tumbling down around him.

And airbrush out the bad bits. Remember the great bits, forget the humiliation. Wow. Journalism in full cry. Should we remember how he jacked in the limited overs stuff?

‘There were hard times during that tour of Australia and some testing times for me and a few others afterwards,’ he reflects now. ‘So I don’t have good memories of it but having said that it was still fascinating to be part of.

Very fascinating. How to get out of that with “dignity intact” seemed to be the important aspect. Nothing like some nice press and managing upwards to enhance future job prospects. But to sum up the tour as “some hard times during” it and “some testing times for me and others afterwards” is a whitewash. You might not have good memories Andy, but stick around and Newman et al will airbrush them out. “You will always be our #1 Andy”.

‘It was interesting to try to find a way of halting the slide even though we weren’t able to do it. It was fascinating to watch how people were dealing with what we went through and how I dealt with it myself. 

‘Coming out the other side and evaluating why things happened. Hopefully I’m stronger and wiser for it.

‘If we’d won that Ashes I would have wanted to carry on, no question. There was talk of me going even if we’d won but I would have wanted to stay because I was really enjoying the job and it’s one of the best you can have. Why wouldn’t you carry on when you’re winning?’

It was interesting to try to find a way of halting the slide. Hilarious. I had a ton of respect for Flower – read my blog properly if you don’t think I do – but what is he trying to do here? We know his attempts were laughable. It was team in a death spiral. You also didn’t want the whole job – you’d packed in the limited over stuff and had more than one journo telling us you hated the constant travelling as you had a young family. Now you want to change that. I’m confused

Alastair Cook did, of course, carry on while England moved on without the likes of highly successful players like Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior and, controversially, Pietersen. 

And the way his second captain has emerged from the dark times himself gives Flower enormous satisfaction.

‘Cooky has done amazingly well,’ says Flower. ‘He’s got genuine resilience and strength. He was under a lot of pressure in that post-Ashes period. He took a lot of the brunt of the Pietersen fall-out and has always been a stubborn b****r which is one of his great qualities.

‘He was stubborn enough not to back down personally from the challenge in front of him as England captain and I’ll always respect him for that. 

‘He came through it like a champion and hopefully he’s got a few years of heavy scoring in front of him. And not just heavy scoring but also contributing as a leader.

‘One of the things I’ve most enjoyed over the last 18 months or so is watching him change as a captain. I think he’s evolved as a leader.

Not going down the Saint Alastair of Bedford route. But “the brunt of the Pietersen fall-out” was a creation of his own device. He was reported to be in agreement with the sacking, he was reported to be opposed to any rapprochement. He went two years without a hundred. Stubbornness backed by a board who needed him.

As for the last point. A skilled observer might note that Cook developed as a leader once free of the shackles of the Flower/Moores management axis. But that wouldn’t fit the narrative, would it Paul?

‘He’s become stronger, more certain of his views and he’s learnt from watching. The example set by Brendon McCullum and New Zealand, I think, was very important to him.

‘Some of that stubbornness sometimes meant he didn’t learn as quickly as some but I think because he was going through such a hard time he watched and looked and listened during that period and he’s come out with much clearer views on his leadership and the tactics he’s going to employ in Test cricket.

‘It’s a really tough job at any stage and we tend to think as soon as we give someone the captaincy they become all knowing on tactics, leadership and selection and how people develop.

‘It’s a crazy thing to expect young guys to become great leaders straightaway but part of my job is to create environments in which we can give opportunities to these players to lead in different ways. 

‘And through that they can make mistakes, learn about themselves and learn what leadership means in their context. That’s quite a chunky responsibility we’ve got at our level.’

Again, a studious avoidance of the influence of Bayliss and Farbrace and an exoneration of his own methods. The attribution to this of Cook’s youth is staggering and we can’t let them get away with it. He was 29 when Flower was sacked/resigned. He had brought up his 100th test on that tour hadn’t he (at Perth)? He’d been an international cricketer for 8 years. Good grief. He wasn’t a young guy. Is Joe Root going to get that? Michael Vaughan was 28 when he assumed the captaincy, with a lot less international experience. I don’t recall anyone ever calling him young.

All the indications I hear is that Bayliss is letting Cook be the leader. Maybe Flower should worry less about his chunky responsibilities and look and see how he has reacted once out of the control of Moores and Flower.

It is a responsibility Flower is relishing in a far more significant role than his initial job as director of elite coaching that the ECB gave him after he finally decided he could not possibly survive that 5-0 humiliation and resigned.

‘It’s very different to being England coach but I’ve really enjoyed doing it for the last two winters,’ says Flower.

We never will know what went on after that tour. The truth never will out. The thing is, when he was appointed technical director of elite coaching his role was described as..

His new role will be based at the national cricket performance centre in Loughborough.

“Not only will Andy work with both players and coaches but he will also look to enhance the relationship between the county coaches and the England set-up,” added Downton.

“He will also work with Level 3 and 4 coaches in the ECB coaching structures.

“Andy will also build on the highly-successful ECB coach and talent development programmes which have seen players such as Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, to name a few, graduate to England senior teams as well as work with a number of coaches from first-class counties who have been involved with the England Lions.”

Flower said: “I am particularly excited about the chance to build and mould a leadership course which is not simply about captaincy but much more.

“This role offers me a chance to make a real contribution to the ability and character of England players and coaches in the years to come.”

So now he just works in the winter, or am I reading this wrong – indeed the article seems to indicate he’s acting as some sort of talent mentor at home. His role has never quite been defined in public and I’m finding this reporting strange.

‘You’re still working with very talented players, ones who are hungry to play international cricket and have this dream of fulfilling their talent.

‘You are away from media scrutiny and it’s quite nice to take a break from that after seven years with England. It’s a lovely role to have, I’m still trying to make a positive influence for English cricket and that’s really nice.

‘I was very committed as England coach to the cause and I’m lucky to have this job, still be involved and still doing my best for the English game.’

He talks with real enthusiasm about his charges among the second string, for example a batsman who appears set for his Test debut against Sri Lanka in the first international of the summer at Headingley on May 19.

‘James Vince has captained the Lions the last two winters and he’s been outstanding,’ says Flower.

Great. I hope he does a brilliant job with them. He’s not had a huge hit rate thus far, but it is early days. James Vince is carrying a lot of hopes. Also, James Vince seems to be an assured pick as well, which is interesting. Has he links to Essex as Pringle has been bigging him up too.

I’ve skipped the bit on the Currans…so on to the finale…

Flower himself is thoroughly enjoying the way the new vibrant young England team are playing now, a team that have emerged from the ashes of those troubled times to reach the brink of greatness now themselves.

‘It’s a really exciting England team and they’ve selected exciting players,’ says Flower. ‘Players with plenty of power and it’s a young, developing group too.

‘One thing I like is that they obviously like playing with each other. It’s nice to watch players having fun together and in a fun environment you learn quickly.

‘You don’t quite have the emotional involvement and commitment as when you’re coach but I’ve loved what I’ve seen over the last year. We were huge underdogs in that Ashes last year and for the England side to come through as they did was magnificent.

‘Then to go to South Africa and win was a great achievement. We went there a few years ago and drew 1-1 so we know how tough it is.

No comparisons with the dour functionality of the 2013 Ashes win, something which, in my eyes, no-one has anything to apologise for. Plenty of hints that that team didn’t enjoy playing with each other. PLenty of tips to youth that Flower didn’t have a great record of developing while in the job. Also Flower is doing himself down over South Africa. That team we put out in 2009-10 faced a vastly superior opposition then. Three factors. Smith. Kallis. A fit Dale Steyn. We had Swann as well (so that’s four). IN blowing smoke up our teams arse this is almost too self-effacing.

The article tails off with things about future international jobs.

Flower is done little credit by this. Two years silence to talk about a current job and hinting about things that went on, while interviewed by a friendly face who is hardly going to pose the tough questions because he nailed his colours to Flower’s mast many years ago, and has been at times an out of control anti-Pietersen reporter. Flower was not a failure as a coach. I’m not saying that. I’m saying Flower got a man scapegoated for the tour, and in the process secured a job he was campaigning for at the time because he knew that team’s run might be coming to an end. There is still the unanswered questions on his role in the dodgy dossier, the leaking, the role in getting KP sacked. He chooses not to answer. I think that silence speaks volumes.

I still want answers, and I want him to answer them. He doesn’t have to, of course, but what we don’t need is for friendly journos to put his case for him. That’s why those of us who huddle under the “outside cricket” umbrella, rained upon at many turns, get so frustrated. There’s no attempt to be even-handed. They’ve decided that KP was the man doing the character assassinating and that anything said about him was fair game, even though it came through all sorts of leaks and sources. Until the likes of Newman actually get this, we’ll still be doing what we are doing.

The final question about this is timing. Why now? Flower has been, so the story goes, an example of a man keeping his counsel. The dignified coach who let the mess go on around him. We never bought it, but we understood the right to silence. Now, 28 months after the end of the series, he speaks, albeit tangentially about the thought processes and his new job. Why now? What does he want to get out of it? This looks like an ECB sanctioned piece – only Newman can tell us that – so there has to be some thought going into why you’d open up this can of worms now (I fully expected it to come out in either his or Cook’s autobiography)? Is he after another job? Is he worried that not enough credit his coming his way? Is this some sort of attempt to get him back in the public eye now KP has gone for good? I really don’t understand. These media managers manage for a reason.

It’s a long time since I fisked an article and this one deserved it. Andy Flower was a very good England coach. I have not gone to town on Flower ever. I think he had things he should have said, I think he had a role in what went down, and I think he leaked (has anyone ever asked him whether he leaked the discussion over Taylor with KP). I know some will sigh and say “it’s just Dmitri being Dmitri” and if that’s the way you feel, you’ve done well to reach the 5000th word of this piece to read that. But I don’t trust the ECB and their motives and I sure as hell don’t trust this journalist to tell it straight. So what is going on here and don’t you think the supporters of England should know?

Feel free to take me to task. This was bad.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-3577853/Andy-Flower-admits-reign-fell-apart-Ashes-whitewash-believes-England-bright-future-Trevor-Bayliss.html#ixzz47y5iopQb

The Colo(u)r Of Money

Many of you have already picked up on the wonderful exchange between Hughes and Newman, after the Bogfather had kindly showed them the way to the Dirty Dozen.

If you haven’t, here it is….

I hope that shows Hughes’s comment above (just checked and it does).

Many of you have taken this as a complete dismissal of the words of the people on this blog, which we shouldn’t be surprised about. It’s not as if the great unwashed have been given a say so far, so why change now. But it is something that we still see coming through their writing and other appearances, and is what is now going to be known as the TTT. This stands for Tyers Twitter Tendency.

Readers for a while know exactly what I am on about, as it derives from a tweet by Alan Tyers in February 2014:

This can be summed up best by the fantastic tweets from Simon Hughes, aka the analyst, in his responses to The Bogfather:

We’ve done this tweet already, on the post “Quietly”. He just jumped on a list containing JAMES BRAYSHAW and thought I was only going on about culprits. Want strange? Read one of his “editorials” in The Cricketer.

Classic TTT. “Ooooooh, I know who the real cuplrits are, and you don’t…. because I’m an insider and you aren’t……”

So when challenged to put up…

“Can’t tell you”. Why not, big man? You subject to a confidentiality clause as well? Worried anything that disturbs Downton will mean less of your puff piece interviews in The Cricketer? No. I call bullshit. If there were culprits, as he puts it, then shame them, with evidence, not hearsay and innuendo like he does with Pietersen. Don’t hide behind this change from within stuff.

How interesting though that Newman reacted to the list. Now, as you know, Paul Newman doesn’t like my stuff. He’s never said so in print, but he has said so by blocking me on Twitter. Wonder how I can still link your stuff, sir? It’s not hard. I can understand being cheesed off being told you are a shill for the ECB decision makers (until one came along) and the most anti-KP presence on the new circuit, but blocking me for questioning why this is so? Do leave off.

He got one thing right on those tweets. I’m not important as one person. But as a blog with quite a decent hit rate, along with the Full Toss, we have a small voice that is growing, and has caught some attention. One press guy described the blog to me as the best one holding the press and decision makers to account. That was nice. But I’m not here for the ego, I’m here because I enjoy it (most of the time). And what I enjoy most is fisking articles like this.

Frustration was clear in the voices of Peter Moores and Alastair Cook as they fended off repeated enquiries about Kevin Pietersen’s future more than a year after he had seemingly been banished from international cricket for good.

Getting worried, Paul? Getting worried that a person with a test hundred since your beloved captain made one might get back into the team? And hang about, weren’t you banging on about how rubbish Moores had been at the World Cup? Do you want to stay consistent on that? Oh, you’ll claim this a factual representation of what happened, but Moore especially, needs to feel the heat. Cook, well, I’ve given up with you lot ever challenging his lamentable record over the past two years in all formats. Seems he’s a protected species.

Well, there is only one person to blame — and that is Colin Graves. The incoming ECB chairman has been responsible for the mixed messages that leave the England team in as big a state of turmoil and internal rebellion as ever.

Well, I’d humbly suggest that Colin Graves wasn’t the architect of England’s brilliant World Cup campaign, and if we’d done well in that, the clamour, for what it is worth, would have been a great deal less. After all, your constant line is that the only way to shut people up is for England to keep winning. So there isn’t only one person to blame for doing, as Tickers says:

Graves has forged an excellent reputation in English cricket as chairman of Yorkshire for the way he bankrolled and transformed the club, but his initial forays into the international game have been little short of an embarrassment.

I’m not embarrased? Anyone else think he is embarrassing? Are you embarrassed not because of this, but because he may be attacking your casus belli, Mr Newman (the persecution and exclusion of Pietersen)? Really? OK, some of his and Tom whatisnames ideas are a bit off beam, but as you will say later on, you agree with one of the most controversial. All of his forays into the international game are an embarrassment, but one that could potentially bankrupt the counties isn’t? Way to pick and choose, sir.

He has become the loose cannon of English cricket — and he has yet to take up office.

He’s yet to take up office. Of course, he’s the deputy to Clarke at the moment, so he is in office, which is why us refuseniks are greeting all this with scepticism and a great deal of care. You’re worried because if KP makes a comeback, your fox (and all those that made the decision) has been shot. So while you call this man the loose cannon of English cricket, you save your powder on Paul “outside cricket” Downton and Giles “right kind of family” Clarke. We know you can’t include James “Gary Ballance” Whitaker because he’s tight as a drum when it comes to talking. He’s about as much a loose cannon as a speak your weight machine.

It all started on March 1 when he gave an interview to Garry Richardson of the BBC, who is known for his persistence and admirable success in coaxing ear-catching sound bites from interviewees.

Dacre won’t like you praising someone at the BBC. Also, note. Garry Richardson got someone to say something interesting. A lesson for you lot, maybe? See also, BBC employee Pat Murphy.

So when Graves said that Pietersen — exiled for valid reasons after the last Ashes debacle before producing a nasty autobiography that only supported the ECB’s decision — had to be playing county cricket to earn an England recall, it was put down to Yorkshire straight-talking.

A nasty autobiography. Your paper has the rights to the definition of nasty. I don’t think the book did Pietersen any favours, but on the first part, we are all still waiting on these “valid reasons” that you cling to like a piece of driftwood. It’s a clash of personalities with Andy Flower mainly, and we can’t be having someone who might make test hundreds playing because he cheesed off one of the officer class. What a load of cack. Keep rolling on with this nonsense.

Yet subsequently, most importantly in a phone conversation with Pietersen, Graves has done little to play down the 34-year-old’s chances — even if privately the chairman is said to be perplexed at the media’s ‘spin’ on his apparent opening of the England door.

The “picking the team on merit” ethos, which we want, which any country seems to want, goes out the window if it means picking someone who won’t keep his gob shut and might make 8181 runs at an average in the high 40s, who may have a couple of years left and may, just may, be BETTER than those currently playing, including a captain who can’t buy a century at the moment. But hey, you keep on keeping on. Graves may, or may not, be playing a game. We don’t know, and evidently, nor do you.

If Graves, who has apparently assured senior figures that he does not want Pietersen back, really had no intention of encouraging the maverick, then he has made a right old mess of it.

These the same senior figures who told you Surrey hated his guts and never wanted him to darken their door again. Called that one right, sunshine. Remind me, who is piling on the guesswork here, John? Me or you lot?

For he has created a soap opera that will run and run now Pietersen has rejoined Surrey and put huge pressure on a fledgling England middle order who made significant Test progress last summer.

How dare Pietersen still want to play at the highest level. How dare he be cheesed off he’s escluded. How dare the poor little darlings in the test team now have an excuse to fail. How dare there be pressure on them to perform.

Not to mention completely undermining managing director Paul Downton and national selector James Whitaker, who have repeatedly clarified England’s stance on the batsman over the last 14 months.

If I’m nailing my credibility to these two, I’m bang in trouble. Downton is a joke. Everyone on here, most on Twitter and all those who see him in action, including the vast majority, I reckon, of your press corps colleagues think he’s totally and utterly out of his depth. Also Whitaker doesn’t do press conferences, and has spoken around three times that I can recall in public (that is three occasions he has spoken to multiple outlets). You let out one of your off the record sources there, sir?

And if Graves disagreed with the original decision to axe Pietersen, then he had a duty as deputy chairman of the ECB to say so then, not wait until he had taken over from Giles Clarke.

He might have. I don’t know. But note, earlier he doesn’t take office so he shouldn’t be saying anything. But now because he has an office, he should. This is belting stuff.

That is not all. Since his Pietersen outburst, Graves has said that there will be an inquiry if England do not beat a ‘mediocre’ West Indies in the upcoming three-Test series.

Well. most of us were calling for this after the Ashes last year. And also, although I love West Indies cricket, even their own people think this is a mediocre team. Come on. So do you. So stop pretending like he’s offended the lorded classes with this comment. If they lose this series, heads should roll.

This prompted the respected Barbadian commentator Tony Cozier to liken the comments to Tony Greig’s infamous intention in 1976 to make the West Indies ‘grovel’.

Because “mediocre” has all the racial connotations of a white South African telling a black team that he intended to make them grovel. I mean, seriously. This is nonsense from Cozier and it is nonsense from Newman to repeat it. Put it more alongside the “worst Australian team ever to tour here” comments of 1989, or “can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field” from one of our own at Ashes 1986-7.

Then Graves came out with the ridiculous notion of reducing Test matches to four days. This would be achieved by introducing the unrealistic target of playing 105 overs a day — a move that would destroy the primacy of the ultimate game.

I don’t agree with it, but it’s not ridiculous, and it’s not speaking the unspeakable. The guff that came with it about corporates and families was nonsense, and the thought that we might get 105 overs in a day is unrealistic in a world where TV demands a five minute break every hour, and there’s no real disincentive not to slow the game down. But there’s something to work around.

If Graves wants to make himself useful, then he should concentrate on his supposed main aim of introducing a 10-team English Premier League franchise Twenty20 competition. Everybody bar a few myopic counties wants that.

This isn’t ridiculous because Paul agrees with it. Tremendous. Nice to see “a few myopic counties” there as well to reinforce his view that he’s in step and everyone who disagrees is myopic or ridiculous.

He could also do something about a crippling fixture list that will see England play 17 Tests in the next 10 months — a key factor in why they have fallen so far behind in the 50-over game and just endured the worst World Cup in their history.

Some of us mentioned this around two years ago. Nice to see you join us here. However, hard to see how a future fixture list meant we cocked up the World Cup. We had a very light winter of cricket, playing just 12 days of cricket between October and January. And we were crap. Care to explain how fixture congestion caused this? Should we not play in our summer? Also, not sure it is in Graves’ gift to cancel our tours, given he’s not in office yet, Paul.

There is much for the ECB’s new regime — which includes new chief executive Tom Harrison and communications director Chris Haynes — to do, but all the new chairman has done so far is make things worse.

We share your scepticism on this front. I don’t trust Graves as he has been part of the furniture, and if England falter and KP is scoring runs, the cry will be for him to come in, and if we are told there is no place for him, the alienation will be complete. Betrayal of the worst kind is raising hopes to dash them. You seem to want to finish KP’s career and take glee in it. If Cook can’t lump it, then he’s the one with the issue and needs to get over himself, but you are never going to write that. Unless there’s blatant insubordination which we’ve not been told about. But also, I have a healthy mistrust of all authority and I don’t like people telling me someone is great before they’ve proved it. Indeed if they have to rely on that testimony, then they probably aren’t.

I am worried Tom Harrison hasn’t shown his face. He’s becoming a bit Downton-esque on this front as again, we are being told how great he was before he spoke and disproved that notion. The new press officer can hardly do worse than Colin Gibson and his entourage.

Colin Graves should think very carefully in future before he speaks.

Or Paul will block you on Twitter.