Off The Deep End / Long Run – Episode 1

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OK. I’ve been reflecting. Let’s see where this gets us.

Over at TFT, James has asked people for their views on the current state of the game in the country. I’m well aware that in the last few weeks I’ve been asking a lot about your views, and not been giving mine. I had a really long DM conversation on Twitter with James on Monday night, which at times became a bit melancholy on both our parts, but from my perspective there were a couple of things that I spoke out loud (so to speak) for the first time in ages. Namely, that I am not inclined to do much at this stage, and that what I am writing is decidedly pulling my punches. I’ve just not been in the mood to do much fighting in the past six months – well, certainly since the Ashes began.

It may be time to really decide what I want to do with my interactions with the blog – I’m well aware with the welcome presence of TLG that it’s not just for me any more. Do I want to play it safe, not upset people, try to be the real me and avoid conflict? Sure, even when I’ve been pulling punches, I still haven’t satisfied some people who are beyond accepting anything on here, but that’s not the gig I want to play. I’m a little bit annoyed with myself for being like this. There are too many things that, in my view, are wrong, that suppressing the manner in which this blog got to where it did, has resulted in a half-hearted, relatively tame last few weeks.

So what to do? Carry on as a half-hearted, pulling punches blogger, or give it a bit more? I’ve not been short of advice, and people commenting on what they’d like to see from the blog, and maybe I’ve listened too much to them. I actually think that this blog would benefit from me not being on Twitter, and it’s something I’m considering actively. I’m not pleased with people being pissed off with things I’ve written, and then those matters being discussed with some individuals on Direct Messages  (DM) who just want to pick a fight, or try to do what it is they want to do, virtual person to virtual person. I told James that I am still not “over” if that’s the best phrase, the Etheridge nonsense a few weeks ago. I know I need to pack in Twitter after a night out, but I also need to be sensible when I am not. Look to see less of me on there. As if that’s a promise I can keep!

So, in a few posts in the next few days I’m going to give my views on the summer of blogging (from my perspective, not The Leg Glance’s) and the events on and off the field. I hope you enjoy them, I hope you comment on them, and one day, I hope to garner a much thicker skin to repel the haters.

So, in a peace offering to the haters, here’s the first instalment, and of course, it is on Kevin Pietersen. Good. Write what you are most comfortable with, I say. Lest we forget we entered the summer with Pietersen given a clear indication by the man who supposedly was/is in charge of the ECB, the successor to Giles Clarke (no-one doubted he was leader, did they), Colin Graves that he had a potential route back if he played county cricket. Of course, some of the press went into overdrive, and I have to say I was absolutely convinced that this was a nonsense. But KP came back, and after a laugh with his Uni hundred, he then went and made 355 not out. So having given up an IPL place (a number sneered that £200k, or whatever it was, didn’t rock KP’s world…) he learned his fate. Since the “encouragement” a new broom had come in…..

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The Good Old Days….

1. The Kevin Pietersen “Issue” – Trust The Boss, Trust The Press, Trust The TV

You know,  stuff them who don’t like me talking about it. Sorry for the defensive posture, but that accusation thrown at me that I am just a stuck record and obsessed by KP is a joke. I have consistently said he should not be recalled now, or in the past year, not because he didn’t deserve a place on form and ability (he clearly still does, and if you deny that, well we’ll debate the pure cricket ability point all you like – he should be in the World T20 line-up but won’t be), but because it would be a total zoo. Worse than it has been without him in the team. That it would render some scribes into a catatonic state, others would spontaneously combust and some would probably see the funny side, a recall would have been too much. There is too much history, still. The ECB had used the press as their conduit since pre-sacking, and now a recall might be seen as a betrayal of the support they’d given. Who knows? Nothing is too ludicrous in this saga.

Kevin Pietersen’s treatment by England, and the ECB in particular, has been an unmitigated disaster. It has been the most disgraceful scapegoating one could ever see. If he deserved to be left out for behavioural issues, then let’s have them. It was sacking by innuendo, besmirching by press leak and vendetta, disparaging by those who had waited for the moment. Pietersen once said in an interview that he was like Marmite – you either loved him or hated him – and that he would spend his time on the former and ignore the latter. You don’t ignore your enemies, and Pietersen found that out. No matter how much he pretends that the T20 fills the hole in his career, by making enemies at home, he misses out on the pinnacle.

When KP made that 355 not out and was then sacked again – and no-one has denied KP’s side of that clusterf**k so let’s assume that was true – it wasn’t just an added insult to those who still respected what he’d done for England. The treatment was nasty. KP’s side of that evening has never been denied (I don’t want to go into that, as Strauss kept saying, is as clear an admission that it’s true) and that his sacking was leaked while he was in the meeting, a few days after the Moores disaster, just summed this disgraceful mob up. It re-confirmed that the ECB, in trying to bring clarity to the situation, were just being a nasty, spiteful, vindictive bunch.

The fun came in then watching some of those employed by ECB-TV saying that 355 against the worst team in the country wasn’t that impressive. This is an insult to those who watch the game. Dominic Cork should have been sacked on the spot for allowing personal malice to creep in. But he wasn’t alone. The issue wasn’t allowed a public airing. Subsequently we see every time Pietersen’s name is mentioned on Sky (ECB-TV), David Gower acts like the maid when she sees Jerry in the cartoons – the cricketing equivalent of screaming on a stool. It’s an insult to the viewers who think burying a player who, on the face of it, on public evidence presented by these buffoons, has done nothing wrong, is a grave dereliction of duty by a broadcaster. But more about that later..

But that sort of character thing, making it personal, as Dominic Cork clearly did is OK, because, let’s face it, the bloke making the decision (Strauss) couldn’t possibly have been accused of the same thing, could he? The total c**t, was it?

Instead of investigating whether personal hatred had over-ridden the need to put the best players out there, the press spent most of their time, as they did with Downton, buffing up the new man in the suit. It’s as if criticising an officer of the ECB is strictly verboten. Given how a number of sporting bodies treat proper journalism, it wouldn’t surprise me if the line to take from the ECB, readily snapped up by their chums in certain parts of the press corps, was reprinted verbatim. I was in the States at the time, and I didn’t get to see or hear it all. A few broke ranks, and a number said KP had been treated shabbily. Didn’t stop them, at the end of the summer, polishing Strauss’s ring, did it? You’d think they’d learn from last year and Downton, wouldn’t you?

I’m wandering off the KP bit, and don’t worry, I’ll get to the ECB in the next part, but it wasn’t just the phenomenal mis-treatment of him after that 355 that riled me. KP had clearly been told to play country cricket, and there might be a chance to play, but all the experts at the time snorted that even if he did come back, play well and score those massive scores, there was no vacancy in the middle order. Some of us thought it premature to be so cock sure of the England batting prowess, on the back of a couple of miserable displays in Barbados. So it proved as Ballance fell apart and was ditched hastily, no-one has the faintest clue still if Bairstow is a test batsman, Bell is in a funk that has people calling for him to be dropped, and others begging him to stay (because off the lack of replacements), and no-one should have been the slightest bit surprised. Not really. It means that Joe Root has to carry more passengers than Sheffield Buses, and also focuses the light on our openers to make good starts. If you had a top class, top banana middle order, you wouldn’t need Moeen Ali batting at 8, would you? But the media, who punted that line at the time, have never truly been held to that account. The fact the Aussies were substantially worse on some decent, lively wickets, covered up the cracks, allowed people to “look over there”. Yes, look, our middle order is in pieces, we’ve gone with a player some in the past clearly didn’t rate (Taylor – and please, spare me the KP stuff on him) and the rest is a wing and a prayer.

(I’ll take a brief break to bring this piece of “good journalism”.

Clearly John has done his work here, but who told him that, and is that how we want our teams run?)

Again, don’t confuse this with wanting KP back in the team. It’s just putting into context some of the fantasy that was used to cover Strauss’s arse. We’ll go more into this one later. Because in Strauss providing “clarity” and then waffling on about amorphous things like “trust” , there might have been a requirement for much more like hard work instead of relying on old platitudes about his captaincy. Instead, we had all these promising youngsters with burgeoning reputations in the middle order, and we needed to place great faith in them. We didn’t parody James Whitaker’s interview with Pat Murphy for nothing. Gary Ballance was the answer, now what was your question again?

You know, I’d barely mentioned Pietersen, or the issue at least, all Ashes. Then came along the end of the pier show that was Strauss at SoccerEx. Now the context may have been all, but the message seemed clear enough to me from initial readings. “Great we won the Ashes, great it was without KP or the issue festering all summer because I provided clarity”.

I’ve used the phrase often enough, but it does seem worth repeating. “Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan”. I was discussing sporting matters with someone recently, and if you believe Strauss doesn’t despise KP, he thought you might be in error. I think by Strauss’s actions he should be judged. Instead of questioning a man in love with management textbooks, army disciplines and so forth, the things I run a mile from in my life for fear of being indoctrinated by these cretins, we saw an almost universal acceptance of what a spiffing man he is, and how well he’s done all summer. A barrage of positive articles, ignoring the gaping hole that our middle order became, put Strauss on another pedestal. Honestly, I was gobsmacked he raised the KP issue at all.

Most of us had “moved on” and were on the point of letting it lie, but the desire to want to dredge this decision, based on personal animosity, up as some sort of example of management brilliance was amazing. In one fell swoop, he lost a ton of respect from me – I really didn’t care that much for his appointment, but as you will note, I was a big fan of his as a batsman, which is all that should matter. Not that he would give a shit. It doesn’t matter what any of the proles think. But just as we were constantly encouraged to let it lie, some appear just too grand, just too pleased with themselves, to avoid patting themselves on the back.  Hell, Andrew, you have the same home win-loss margin as your predecessor in tests. (4-3 as against 3-2). Don’t be too pleased with yourself.

But again, we can get to the ECB later. But note. It’s nearly always the ECB when it comes to KP. Their behaviour, their attitudes, their implementation of policies. Which really means this isn’t a KP issue, it’s an ECB one, which leads me to………………………….

2. Giles Clarke and the Curious Case Of The Silenced Yorkshireman

That will be for next time.

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