Citius, Altius, Fortius

The reports, carried by Tim Wigmore on ESPN, that Colin Graves is about to propose that cricket be in the Olympics, is interesting on many levels. This is about long-term development and broadening the game in the future. But it’s also about the ECB now. Very much now. Who knows, this could be the funniest power struggle yet?

2024 is almost a decade away and the landscape may have changed by then, because the land has changed a great deal in the last 10 years. There’s no certainty cricket will be selected as an Olympic sport even if it chooses to seek inclusion (although India’s might could help if they were interested as their Olympic record is not good), and not many of our current team will be around for it. But the prospects it opens for associate nations and broadening the game can’t be underestimated. Spare me the wailing sirens of us losing a test series – the NHL in each Winter Olympics shuts for a couple of weeks and then re-opens again. There is too much international cricket in the summer as it is.

Don’t worry all you Ashes lovers. A series isn’t scheduled in England that summer. Yet. We’ll probably play two test against South Africa instead.

What interests me is this is Colin Graves challenging his predecessor. Now, you know my position and I’ve still not changed it. Giles runs English cricket and Graves has not stood up to him. Now Graves seems to have found his balls. This could get interesting, quickly. Under the Yorkie watch he has overseen a change of personnel in charge of the national team, a revitalisation of the ODI team into an attractive, attacking unit, and, of course, an unlikely Ashes win. He has the press salivating over the new Director, Comma as well as the beatification of our captain. There’s a rump of us who have the hump, but we’re not important. Frankly, if he can’t impose his own authority over matters now, when can he?

Now Giles is coming off the back of some negative publicity. His performance in Death of a Gentleman was awe inspiring, playing to his typecast role of unreconstructed snob, the sort of villain straight out of Hollywood’s central casting for “quintessential evil English toff”. His high-handedness was inspiring. One wonders how a man is so self-confident while lacking so much in self-awareness. I think someone removed his “I give a shit” gene. Giles is a master of politicking, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. He will likely be put into bat for cricket in the Olympics by the people he lorded over, and have to put the case. I for one reckon we’ll be hearing back precisely what Srini thinks as a reason for inclusion or exclusion, and Graves can say all he likes. Giles is not a man for turning, and his protestations that he’s protecting his board in DoaG didn’t look like those of a man considering all sides of the argument. Will he take his orders, given he made sure Brearley was put in his place when it was suggested he would have to. Oh yes, Giles Clarke is going to be a great watch throughout this. Wally has already deserted, but then again, it’s not his country’s summer this jamboree is going to take place in!

For someone who finds the ECB shenanigans fascinating, this is like Christmas. The former deputy, coming in with the reports of a blunt intstrument ready to hit all and sundry, put in his place over his attempts to bring back someone the establishment want rid of, and for correctly assessing West Indies ability to play test cricket, is now feeling he can say something. This something challenges his former king. It could be seen as betrayal. It could be seen as a challenge. How Clarke responds will be riveting, at least for me.

Read Tim’s piece by clicking here.

Also, this is a stat I was supposed to write a whole piece on. It does shine an exceptionally good light on our captain’s performances in Asian conditions. A good player of spin, not as many concerns on his areas of weakness (caught behind, chopping on), and a method and indefatigability that is almost inhuman. There’s no taking away this statistic from him. I’m not sure anyone is denying that these conditions suit his game (and not many others) and he cashes in.

Selvey, of course, wants you to know how much he loved Cook’s performance. This from a cricket correspondent who, since the release around three months ago of an important film on cricket hasn’t bothered to watch it, but still seems “remarkably informed” at what the ICC is thinking given his tweets on the IOC approach.

As I’m writing India are collapsing to defeat against South Africa.

21 Days

Secret Photo From The Kremlin
Secret Photo From The Kremlin

I feel a a bit melancholy, to be honest. I’ve been out of the UK for the best part of three weeks and will be returning in the morning, weather permitting. I’ve had such a great time out here doing very little that the thought of returning to the office on Thursday fills me with dread.

It also got me thinking. There’s been a hell of a lot going on in those three weeks, those 21 days, and we’ve come a long long way in that time. I thought I’d jot down a few points to tide you over until the next piece (hope Vian can put one up in the next day or so) but also see where we were, and where we now are.

1. Grenada (Act Like You’ve Been There Before) – I left just after victory was secured and the growing clamour was that England had turned the corner and were continuing their form from the India series having got that “awkward first away test of the series” out of the way. Those who sought to belittle us doom-mongers were in full cry, and the reaction was less than pleasant. We had all that “real England fans” codswallop that cheeses me off. I don’t doubt their desire to see England do well and succeed in the long run, so don’t doubt mine. Also, it has to be said, the media went totally overboard, as if this was one of the great England test wins of recent memory. It reeked of what it was, a good win against a team that got into a slide they couldn’t arrest, and in Anderson, they came up against a bowler in a purple patch. Relying on miracles isn’t a long-term route to success.

Hate Weekly

2. KP (170) – Pietersen had made a flying start against the Universities, but had not set the County Championship ablaze with one half century in four knocks (albeit with two not outs). The anti-KP were as comfortable as they could be, as this was not the form of someone pressing for selection.

Cooky Macho Captain

3. At last, a century for Cook – A couple of days into my holiday, and outside a massive department store in Mays Landing, NJ, I got the signal that told me that Cook had ended his long wait for a test century. This was his first century in England’s first innings, when the big boy runs are supposedly made, since Kolkata in 2012. His first international ton since a century to set up a run chase against New Zealand at Headingley 23 months ago. Just as Grenada proved England were back, this century, on the back of several more solid knocks, provided those who had waited with the ammunition to fire at those who had been right the last year. Cook was back, and no-one seemed to mind he was out to the last ball of the first day’s play because England looked like they had scored enough on a tricky wicket.

4. Mediocre – Then the West Indies scrambled back, with Blackwood keeping them in range of England’s first innings. I couldn’t watch it so lord knows what the captaincy was like. Then England, on that second evening, collapsed. In a heap. They tell me this middle order is set in stone, and yes, collapses do happen, but that’s a few times now against some of the less threatening attacks in world cricket. Buttler tried to get the score up, but the tail was abject, with Broad’s decline now reaching the almost “feel very sorry for him” stage. Still, it was just under 200 to win, but the WIndies did it. Suddenly a mediocre team had just had a rocket put up their arse (presumably said rocket doesn’t go off in Anitgua or Grenada) and a tag used by the Chairman Elect to describe the WIndies was now the greatest motivational thing ever, in the history of the world. A pity the press weren’t so hot on “outside cricket” eh?

Dinosaurus Vexed

5. Losing Minds – Suddenly, a week after Grenada, it appeared as though the appeals for calm and rational assessment after Grenada went as unheeded after Barbados. People started to just go bonkers. Suddenly a team every press member thought we should beat easily had been galvanised by Colin Graves. This despite the fact that the Australian media and punditry and players give England enough bulletin board material to last decades and it doesn’t seem to matter then. Geoff Boycott lost it with Alastair Cook, and the divine Cooky had a gentle pop at Yorkshireman in an interview – the sort of thing that is called ill-judged, or fanning the flames if someone else does it – and Boycs went nuclear. Aggers and many others in the press were going overboard on “mediocre” and meanwhile in an incredibly dignified and thoroughly professional manner, a man who has had his mental health picked apart for nigh on 18 months retired in a classy, decent way. Oh, and then there was Selfey and Smiffy, waging campaigns against bilious inadequates and social media minorities. But compared to what was coming, this was child’s play.

Ed Smith Is Really Clever

6. The Curious Case Of The Non-Leak – Peter Moores went to Ireland with a scratch England ODI team, and by the end of the day had been humiliated. This is the ECB. I don’t care how the story got out, someone at the ECB told someone, who told someone, who told someone else. It’s a leak, no matter how you deny it. A leak doesn’t have to come from the ECB directly, but as this was their information, their decision, that it got out in advance of when they wanted it to is their fault. In doing so they humiliated Peter Moores. It was wrong. Horrendously wrong. I was no fan of his appointment, and in test cricket it has to be said, he assimilated Ballance into the team, got Root in a place where he has made hay, brought in Buttler, and tried to get Jordan and Stokes firing. He’d not done an awful job with the test team, but was beyond awful in ODI cricket. Despite the massive workload required of a full-time, across-all-formats coach, Strauss (more of him in a minute) wants one man for the job. Remember when it was KP “alone” who wanted shot of Moores and no-one stood behind him. By his actions, one might judge  the craven “leadership” of Strauss back in 2009. Hey, let’s go out there and say Strauss could possibly, even then said “you go ahead KP, I’ll be captain if you fail” to himself. His attitude to Moores was evident in the rapidity of his dismissal. Also, did he leak? So poor Peter Moores had people feeling sorry for him.

Moores Not Wanted

7. The Appointment of King, Andrew – After an exhaustive head hunt, which seemed to be of one person after Vaughan said this wasn’t the job he was looking for, the decision to appoint Andrew Strauss as Director, England Cricket was a poorly kept (leaked) secret. He pulled out of commentary for the Moores Debacle game, leaving Nick Knight to spill the beans, and was confirmed as the man for the job in one of those hastily compiled, corporate speak load of old crap we’ve got used to in the past few years. You didn’t need to be Einstein to work out this was bad news for KP. A lot of white noise was created over his educational background and potential political leanings, but you only had to watch how his successful teams won matches. Graft not glamour with individuality contained within a strict structure. With a strong captain this works, to a degree, but only for so long. With one perceived weak captain this is a recipe for disaster. Oh, and he called KP a c*** and had a big feud he would never have picked him for after if he had stayed on. So we knew what was coming. Even if some said that Strauss might surprise us.

You're our only (choice) hope...
You’re our only (choice) hope…

8. It’s All About Timing – The Sunday night saw KP in the 30s not out v Leicestershire, who on a pitch that was supposed to resemble a road, had been bowled out in a day upon. 24 hours later, and much glee up and down the Garden State Parkway, and in Atlantic City, KP finished the day 326 not out. Then we found out there was a meeting due that evening with Andrew Strauss and Tom Harrison, ahead of the formal launch of Strauss as Director, England Cricket the following day. Within minutes of that meeting the information leaked, and TMS was saying KP had been told it was all over. Frankly, you know the rest. We’ve done it to death. It’s all about trust. Andrew Strauss cannot trust KP. The ECB cannot trust KP. Senior players, supposedly, cannot trust ECB. Oh, and KP’s lack of trust with the ECB is a sideshow. An organisation that constantly leaked against him, most notably the heinous leaks of 2009, is not relevant. Only KP has to build the trust, no-one else, despite it being no-one to blame. It’s all a load of old nonsense.

KP In Flames

9. 355 – The fact is that there are few who could have played that innings, despite some absolute fucking morons trying to – and yes Dominic Cork, you are an absolute fucking moron who should be slung off cricket punditry if that’s the wretched sort of analysis you are coming up with, you absolute cretin – and although he fell two short of Surrey’s all-time record, the statement made Strauss look rather stupid. We’ve debated it for days, and will do for days more. But, in the words of Hal Holbrook in All The President’s Men, Deep Throat could have been talking about KP, rather than Haldeman:

“you’ve got people feeling sorry for him. I didn’t think that was possible.”

Because this was all about a clean slate, giving up the IPL, and making a fist of county cricket. He’d been lied to. People like KP don’t give up £250k on a whim. If he did, it’s rather noble, don’t you think? It sort of smashes the selfish, money-grabbing tosser meme apart? The anti-KP media, while trying (and failing in the main) to be ever so fair, all fell in line. A non-playing suit with an ill-defined role will always be more important than a man capable of what KP did. Because, in the history of county cricket, only five people, is it, have scored more?

A Matter of Integrity
A Matter of Integrity

10. The Graves Delusion – The press statement issued on Friday was eerily similar to some that had gone before. We had questioned his integrity, and that no guarantees had been offered. We hadn’t really questioned the first, and no-one I know thought the second. The statement showed that in the 15 months since Paul Downton released the infamous “outside cricket” press release, one which raised barely a murmur among our stalwarts in the press at the time (some have woken up, most notably the Editor of Wisden), the ECB have learned nothing. They remain distant, aloof, dismissive, arrogant and supercilious in the extreme. Graves has become the media lightning rod now, and each press man is taking it in turns to line him up now Clarke is out of the way – how tremendously brave of you – either for betraying KP (which he was only a part of) or for opening the whole thing up again “needlessly” which he did, and for which many applauded him for reverting the policy, we thought, to picking on merit.

So, not a lot, eh? I’ll be back on line possibly tomorrow, although I’ll be getting over whatever jet lag I get, or Friday. We’ll have the usual posts up for comments on the game on Thursday, and until then, I’d like to thank all of you for saving me a ton of money by giving me much to read and not going out as often to drink such rot as Miller Lite. It has been a tumultuous 21 days.

Pipe Down Week

Statement Of The Oblivious

You know when there is trouble ahead. When an ECB press statement is delayed is a pretty decent indication that this one is a bit tricky. The last time one of these was delayed like this we got the gems of outside cricket and the moaning from the ECB that someone else was leaking. So we expected something interesting…

http://www.ecb.co.uk/news/articles/ecb-chairman-colin-graves-comments-week

And they delivered with something so totally “lawyered up” that a new remake of LA Law was interested in it for a script.

I would like to start my stewardship of the ECB looking forward to next week’s Investec Test series against New Zealand and the Ashes later in the summer.

That’s very nice. I mean, you could say that if you’d been hiding in Paul Downton’s cupboard at Lord’s, but this takes wishful thinking a bit far.

But first there’s another point I want to address.

Ooooh. I wonder what that could be. If it’s what I’m thinking it might be, “want” might be a strong word.

Clearly, the question of whether Kevin Pietersen will play for England again has been a debate for media and cricket fans alike.

Er. Yes. Arguably you re-created the debate in a move welcomed by many. The odd concept that teams being picked on merit, good performance rewarded, clean slates and all that. I mean, we are debating whether these are good things, which seems odd to me, but it takes all sorts…

I understand why people feel it’s important. So I’ll tell you what I said to the First Class County Chairmen, at yesterday’s AGM, and our people across the ECB this morning, on my first full day as Chairman.

I understand why people might be a ickle bit cheesed off that our top run scorer was dumped without a reason given, and that for a year or so we’ve been chasing for an explanation as to why meritocracy takes second place to personal feelings, and despite what that two bob muppet Pringle says, we aren’t fairweather fans but passionate supporters of our team. That’s our team, not the ECB’s. So do tell me.

In the past few days my integrity has been called into question, something I can’t accept. Throughout my business career and my years at Yorkshire, integrity has been my watchword. It governs everything I do and is an important part of what I bring to the ECB.

You’ve not just joined the ECB, Graves. You were part of the gang who instigated this. So when you ease the position on his potential for selection, as you evidently did despite some less than convincing denials, we, and KP took note. So don’t try the “aww shucks, I’m new to this nonsense”. Now if you are bringing integrity into it, say what you said to KP on those phone calls. Admit you had them and say what you said. Then we won’t think of questioning your watchword.

So it saddens me that what was a private conversation with Kevin in March has been used to do just that.

What did you say? You said in private that there was a “clean slate” (you’ve not denied it) and now you are getting pissy because someone who might have relied upon it has used it to defend their position? Are these people for real? Don’t insult me with this faux naivety, Graves.

Back then, when we talked on the phone, Kevin asked if I thought his England career had ended in the right manner following the last Ashes series in Australia. I agreed that nobody particularly emerged with much credit from the whole episode, particularly given his achievements for England.

So, saddened as he was with private conversations being made public, he’s making some of it public. Note also that those who did not emerge with much credit, such as Flower, A and Cook, A are both still well entrenched and enjoy the full backing of the ECB. There’s not much credit going round, but they kept some.

Kevin felt he had a lot to offer and was interested in a dialogue with the ECB, sorting things out and working together. He would love to play for England again but he wanted to contribute, whether as a player or not.

Chairman of ECB indicating KP’s not a purely selfish pig. The zealots on the other side won’t be pleased, but this is all puffery. Did you say he had a clean slate, Colin? This stuff matters. It’s the key accusation against you old son, and you know it. So stop pretending.

I didn’t make any promises. There were no guarantees that if he chose to exit his IPL contract, play County cricket and score runs he would be selected for England.  And I said he should make any decision on his future on that basis.

Deny an accusation that wasn’t made. Colin, this should not fool anyone with half a brain. He never sought guarantess for selection. He sought a clean slate. He sought an indication that he wasn’t wasting his time giving up a still lucrative IPL contract to play county cricket because he had a chance. Come on now. Stop letting the lawyers write this, you bluff, gruff, Yorkie.

I can see something has been misunderstood around the conversation and in the following debate – and perhaps how that happened.

You told him it was a clean slate. And it wasn’t. Ooooops. Someone cocked up. Probably you.

What I did stress was that when I took over as chairman I would back those people whose job it was to take decisions on team selection. I stand by that.

That’s very nice, but if you told them it was a clean slate, as leader of that organisation, they would have to listen or they would be out of jobs. Also, Andrew Strauss took the decision and he confirmed that he isn’t a selector, if we’re going to get all strictly legal on this. Also, you are his boss too. I don’t know, but I don’t reckon Giles Clarke gave a stuff about his underlings’ sensitivities, given he is supposedly one of the key drivers for KP’s exclusion and made it a key part, along with Downton (miss him) in the selection of a new Coach for England last year.

Ahead of a big, busy summer of cricket, a clear decision needed to be taken. Given the history and the book, the simple fact is that bridges have still not been rebuilt and trust needs to be restored.

Details, details. Still not there. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. What history are we talking about now and can you perhaps shed some light on it? The book was post-sacking so we can’t be using that as a reason for the original decision. You were there Colin, in post as Deputy Chairman, weren’t you? Were you dozing at the time? Were you on “Integrity Watch”? As for the trust, well, we’ve been down that road. Trust = Alastair Cook veto. Allegedly.

That takes time – as Andrew Strauss made clear this week.

The time it takes to lose an Ashes series and see KP sod off. Andrew Strauss is talking nonsense.

Kevin was told on Monday and I completely support the decision that was taken. He may not have liked what he heard but it allowed him to look at his opportunities.

A bit late for that. You had 355 reasons why your strategy has gone per-shaped. As for the last part of this particular sentence, he and his lawyers have to be taking the piss.  He gave up a ton of money because of you. Don’t you dare say this allows him some freedom. This was a stitch up from the start. Whether you meant to lie to him is neither here nor there. You’ve not denied the key allegation, that KP took it from you that there was a clean slate, one made by Alec Stewart as well, so we’ll take that as truth. So don’t go acting as if you’ve done him a favour now by trashing what he thought he might have a chance, that’s all, a chance, at.

Despite everything, he can work with us to re-build the relationship and make a further contribution to English cricket. It was important he knew where he stood.

Hey, despite the fact we’ve led him up the garden path, leaked against him on many occasions, briefed against him, had the press slag him off, encouraged him to play county cricket and made runs, we can still trust him in the future. Jesus, do these people ever listen to themselves? Is anyone buying this drivel. KP’s no saint, I know that, but the last part of this statement is a kick in the teeth, He thought he knew where he stood in March. He acted on that. Did no-one think to tell him “no” then? When he gave up his IPL contract? You certainly don’t appear to have, Colin. That’s integrity if you are relying on your statements now.

Of course, I would like us to move forward and concentrate on the important matter of winning cricket matches. I don’t want to add any more or go deeper into private conversations.

Of course you would. Look over there. News for you mate. They tried that last year and won a test series as well. How did that work out? Of course you don’t want to go deeper into private conversations because you would be Donald Ducked if we did, and you know they will. I wish you luck if you stick to this line, Colin, because you will be shark-bait.

I want to look to the future. I’m excited by the England team that is evolving and I look forward to giving them my full support this week.

Rah-Rah. Another charlatan.

UPDATE:

Look who pops up later in the comments to put an even-handed, I’m not an ECB stooge, spin on things. Well, lookie-here.

A Matter of Life and Trust

Like so many others, the activities of the last couple of days have left me in despair about cricket in England.  That the ECB can invoke a question of trust in their carefully rehearsed PR speak was roundly met with hollow laughs amongst professionals, amateurs and supporters alike.  So much of the focus has been on Kevin Pietersen for obvious reasons, yet the ECB will be perversely pleased by that, because it avoids the wider questions and the wider problems.

That Pietersen has been treated dreadfully is a given even amongst those who are not remotely his fans – and let’s nail this particular straw man argument right here, there are a tiny number of people who are proper, out and out Pietersen fans.  Most of the others are England fans who may or may not think the side would be better with him in it, but believe a team should be selected from its best players, and who know a stitch up when they see one.

There is no doubt at all that Graves told him it was a clean slate, not just from his public pronouncements, but in two phone calls.  Pietersen responded to that by giving up his IPL contract to come and play county cricket.   He did what was asked of him.  Pietersen might be wealthy, but making someone give up a contract worth hundreds of thousands is not a small matter.  There have been some comments that Graves is just one person and that no guarantees were given.  This is sophistry of the highest order.  That one person is the incoming chairman of the ECB, and Pietersen trusted what he said.  More than that, if he has gone out on a limb then there was plenty of opportunity for the likes of Tom Harrison to talk to him and tell him that was not ECB policy.  He didn’t do so.

Let’s call this what it is – a lie.  They lied to him, an action of both commission and omission.  Pietersen might be a controversial figure, but he did not and does not deserve that.  At no point yesterday has there been so much as a hint of an apology for that.  That is outrageous behaviour.  Whataboutery concerning Pietersen is not the issue at hand here – it wasn’t him that kept banging on about trust.  The ECB are the organisation comprised of people that promptly leaked the outcome of Pietersen’s meeting with Strauss and Harrison minutes after it happened, the organisation on whose watch the coach Peter Moores found out he was being sacked via the media before they’d bothered to tell him (leaks or otherwise is irrelevant to this – it’s what happened), who backed Alastair Cook vocally two days before sacking him as ODI captain, who allowed a private memo from the England captain in 2009 to leak to the press.  What Pietersen has or has not done over the years does not for a single second justify any of this.  To talk about trust is a sick joke.

Nasser Hussain tried to make the point that trust has to go both ways, and Strauss’s response that he isn’t blaming anyone for the breakdown of it simply isn’t good enough.  He can refuse to talk about where Pietersen is at fault, that’s his prerogative, but he cannot avoid the complicity of the ECB, the organisation he works for.  Tom Harrison apologised to Peter Moores for how he found out about his sacking.  An apology to Kevin Pietersen for being led up the garden path is the very minimum that is needed.

It’s not going to happen of course.  The arrogance of the ECB knows no limits.  Over a year later they still haven’t addressed the realities of the “Outside Cricket” jibe and the utter contempt that signified for those who buy tickets and play the game.  And here is the fundamental question of trust as it really is, not as the ECB would like it to be.  There is none for the ECB.  The way Pietersen has been treated – and indeed the way Moores was treated – are indicative of an organisation that considers human beings to be commodities and nothing more.  Losing the trust of individuals barely scratches at the surface of the problem, because despite the ECB’s apparent belief, the public are not stupid.  They can see how this translates into a wider lack of interest or concern for anyone that doesn’t fit into their narrow field of vision.

The media response has been  fairly predictable in the way it has gone down the usual lines.  What the ones who loathe Pietersen fail to understand is that it is not about that, it is entirely within their rights to despise him and not want him anywhere near the England team while at the same time recognising that the ECB have behaved poorly.  The inability of some of them to see things through anything other than a Pietersen prism is the reason they attract such contempt.  If Pietersen is a side show to the wider issue, then deal with the wider issue.  Being an apologist for awful ECB conduct is not journalism, it is cheerleading.  Let’s put it a different way, if it was someone other than Pietersen who was the central player in the drama, would there be such fawning coverage of the ECB itself? This goes to the crux of the matter, because if not, then it means that they need to ask themselves about the job they are doing – their loathing of Pietersen is blinding them to what are far more important questions.

It is abundantly clear Pietersen is not coming back.  So given that, it raises a whole series more questions about where we go from here.

The first thing that Strauss and Harrison talked about was the plan for 2019.  In itself, this is hardly surprising – all new arrivals give themselves a nebulous target some time in the distant future, usually when they’re fairly certain the near term is going to be catastrophic and don’t want to be blamed for it.  But there are a couple of things about that.  By focusing so relentlessly on it, they invite ridicule that it’s tantamount to a Soviet Five Year Plan that was simply replaced by another Five Year Plan when the previous one went wrong.  In one day cricket, England cleared the decks for the World Cup, moved the Ashes with spectacular – in one sense anyway – results.  Yet now they are telling us not to worry, there’s another new plan coming along, and this one will be a belter.

Ah, but we should trust them we are told.  Why?  For what reason should we trust these people who have made a monumental mess of everything they have touched.  Trust needs to be earned, as  Strauss himself banged on about with that terrified look in his eye, but he apparently again didn’t grasp that the horrible masses don’t believe him.

It’s nothing more than a permanent offer of jam tomorrow.  That can work for a bit, yet they drew much greater attention to it by self-evidently rejecting a player who might be of value in the here and now.  Anyone over the age of about 15 can remember rotten England teams, but it’s been a fair while since having a weakened side was specific policy.

The Ashes this summer are not sold out.  It’s not disastrously so, but it’s not brilliant either.  Next summer we have Sri Lanka (again – though doubtless they’ll compensate for that by not playing them again until about 2030) and Pakistan.  If ticket sales are struggling for this year, what on earth is going to be like next year?  The blasé talk about what happens in four years time is surely not a deliberate writing off of the near term, but once again it does give the impression of it, which is exceptionally clumsy, even if not intended.  Those who have bought tickets are perfectly entitled to ask what the point of going is if the current team is not the focus.  It can’t especially cheer up the players either.

Buried in the detail was the sacking of Ian Bell as vice captain and Stuart Broad as T20 captain. Poor Bell.  He seems to be the favoured whipping boy, there’s no question that he has been briefed against – when Cook’s position came under scrutiny for captaincy (not exactly a rare event) there were a slew of articles talking about how badly Bell had done in team building events to make it clear he wasn’t a viable alternative.  This is a minor matter in relative terms, but once again a player suffers in certain media quarters when the status quo is under threat.  Broad’s removal as T20 captain is less surprising in itself, but replacing him with Eoin Morgan perhaps is, given his recent troubles.  Broad might wonder quite how he has been booted while the Test captain is so strongly backed.

As for Cook himself, although at first sight it seems he’s been thoroughly backed, in reality he’s already been given notice on his captaincy.  The appointment of Root as his second in command is the first time the ECB have deliberately chosen someone who they feel (the “they” is important here) can take over.  The ECB are plainly not optimistic about this summer, and Cook now appears to be in place as a firebreak for when it all goes horribly wrong.  Not remotely the first time they’ve used this tactic, and whatever the opinions on Cook, it seems quite likely he is the next sacrificial lamb.  What that does suggest though, is that the Ashes themselves are not regarded as the priority.  It may also just be dawning on Cook that if he doesn’t win this summer, he’s probably out (it is the ECB of course.  So they could decide to grant him life tenure – funny how we don’t trust them…), and therefore if Vaughan is right and Cook said he would resign if Pietersen was recalled, then he’s signed his own death warrant by refusing to include a player who might give them a better chance, and thus him a better chance of keeping the captaincy.

And then we come to the question of the coach.  The sacking of Moores was nothing other than a panic response.  That he shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place doesn’t alter the truth that Moores had a point when he complained he hadn’t been given enough time.  Although you could equally argue he’d had far too much time given the results were pretty dire, if you are going to appoint a coach with a brief to build a new team, and then sack him a year later when the said new team doesn’t do too well then you’ve sold him a pup.

Both Strauss and Harrison responded to questions about Jason Gillespie by saying that he is certainly one of those they will want to talk to.  In ECB speak, this is tantamount to openly saying he hasn’t got a prayer, because the front runner never seems to get the job with them.

The Pietersen affair has rightly re-opened the question as to what sort of coach will take on a role where certain players are denied to them through policy.  It may well be the case that Gillespie wouldn’t want Pietersen anywhere near the team, but there has to be significant risk that he will feel having that principle enforced at a level above him will be considered an interference in his ability to do his job.  There remains the feeling that the lack of high profile coaches applying last time was directly related to interference in team selection.  And here’s the rub – if by their actions against Pietersen they have limited their ability to obtain the best coach, that is a far wider impact than a single player, and a direct failure on the part of the ECB to do their job.   This has already happened with the choice of Director, Cricket (I wonder how much it cost to have the consultants decide on that format?) where Vaughan hinted, and Stewart openly stated, that they would want to select from all players.  Repeating this with the coach is an abrogation of their responsibilities to English cricket to play the best team, with the best support staff, to give them the best chance of winning.

The ECB have tried to pretend the Pietersen omnishambles is a discrete issue.  It isn’t, it pervades everything they are doing and everything they have done.  The consequences of it are ongoing and extremely deep.  If high quality coaches are uninterested in the England job because of how they’ve dealt with Pietersen, that is appalling mismanagement not of a single player, but of the entire England structure.

The question must be posed, what is the ECB actually for?  If it is a governing body of cricket domestically, then their lack of interest in the game below the exalted professional level is a savage indictment of them not doing their job in any way.  Participation levels have dropped, viewing figures for England on Sky are now lower than they are for darts.  There are huge swathes of supporters disaffected and disillusioned.  Ed Smith’s ridiculous attempt to claim that all those NOT using social media are silently delighted with the ECB merely reinforces the cosy image of those Inside Cricket, talking amongst themselves.  They don’t see the anger, and are taken aback by it, because they don’t understand why.  The ECB hierarchy see the world through the prism of their own experiences, while the media have absolutely no idea whatever about the supporters and their world.  When did any of the journalists last queue for 90 minutes to get a beer?  When did they last find themselves squeezed into a tiny seat with inadequate legroom?  When did they discover that lunchtime is a terrible time to try and get some food at a Test?

They have no idea about any of this, because it’s not part of their world.  The reaction to the Pietersen debacle is one of puzzlement as much as anything else – the confusion of people for whom the masses might as well be speaking a different language.  There is simply no doubt the ECB have succeeded in keeping the bulk of the cricket press onside, while at the same time driving a huge wedge between them and the wider cricketing public.  Bloggers, commenters and tweeters might not be representative of the wider public (although they might well be too), but they are extremely important for one reason alone – they tend to be the kind who care sufficiently to consider buying tickets.   How many bilious inadequates not attending does it take to become noticeable?  One for you to work out Ed.

It’s a matter of trust we are told.  There is none.  And the worst part of it is, they don’t even realise why it is, or what they’ve done wrong.  That’s why there are some English cricket fans actively hoping for Australia to hammer England this summer.  Think about that.  That’s the ECB legacy.  Well done chaps.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

326 Not Out – Part 2

COOKY

Read Part 1 below – a bit of a diary of the day up to the TMS tweet. Now I’ll really get stuck into this nonsense.

Let’s take ourselves back to the end of the day’s play. The reaction to the 326 that I saw was mostly of the “wow” kind. A few churls who wouldn’t have cared if it was Marshall and Holding in their pomp at each end had a pop, but they looked rather stupid. One moron of the month, who Clive rightly called a troll said “one innings in four years” which not only questioned his recognition of how relatively rare 300s are, but also his numeric ability given KP’s knocks since 2011 – you know, the golden trio even his worst critics can’t help bu admire. I’m used to this utter nonsense now. It’s tedious, it’s dull, a bit like this blog to non-believers.

So to the TMS Tweet.

Seems pretty unequivocal. Of course it’s a leak, or whatever you want to call it, because a leak isn’t a leak if it isn’t a leak or something. Some people got rather uppity about all that over the weekend (no, not you LB), as if we were doubting their journalistic abilities. But this looked like a leak to me, this one… if it looks like a leak, smell lies a leak, it probably is one. So the reaction was one of fury.

I absolutely one hundred percent stick behind this one. I’m deadly serious. I’m not over-reacting. This blog is built on these foundations. Call it as you see it on DAY ONE. I called for Downton’s dismissal the day after he said something utterly stupid and now I call this.

I am seriously not impressed by Tom Harrison. Oh, I know, he wouldn’t give a toss if he read it, and why should he? He’s a highly paid executive and I’m just a mere bilious inadequate with a small platform and loyal support. But this was another one we were told was made of the right stuff. A former county pro, who went into media rights management and is now in charge of something or other at the ECB.

This is him.

HarrisonSo far, he’s sacked Downton, which was a fair move but bloody hell, he took his time over it as he presided over a costs and structure review – and boy does Harrison like a structure. Then he presided over the absolute clusterf*ck that was the dismissal of Moores. In the interim he employed head-hunters to come up with Andrew Strauss for a new post called Director, (and that comma says so much) England Cricket (or whatever – I cannot be bothered with this muppetry) and now, that is coming home to roost. They had it all planned. Andrew Strauss would be unveiled, they’d say a teary farewell to Peter Moores, and then new Management Structure England would move forward to the New Zealand series and the Ashes.

But, as we know, the information on Moores leaked. How it leaked we do not know, because, well we’ve done that already above. So a decent bloke (I think I’ve been consistent in that) was humiliated in public by this organisation. You’d think they’d feel a little chastened, a little wounded, maybe a touch humble. But I’m not sensing humility from Harrison. I’m sensing someone who is a little too cock-sure and seems to think he’s wielding a big stick. Just a hunch, and we’ll see how it plays out. Not been too wrong on them so far.

So, with plans completely blown out of the water, a contingent strategy took place, and the announcements were made on Saturday. Vian’s post below captures my thoughts brilliantly. My thanks for such a really good post on the matter. After this nonsense we were advised there would be a press conference today (Monday) or tomorrow (Tuesday). No-one was quite sure. There seemed to be utter confusion, while at the same time trying to exude some sort of decisive authority. This smacked of Captain Mainwaring shouting “I’m In Charge” as his bunch of old timers rambled off here and there.

Now, they knew the press conference, on Tuesday, was always going to throw up the KP question. At this stage (Sunday) it was an easy case to answer. Let him make some runs, he’s not in our plans at the moment, and it’s difficult to see him in our plans going forward. But he has to make runs. Even this has not, it appeared, satisfied our captain. I’ve been told a ton of times how nice a guy Cook is, but he doesn’t seem to act like it it. Either he’s being horribly misinterpreted here, or there’s something I’m missing, but every time someone seems to broach a rapprochement with KP, there’s a column saying Cook’s angry at someone for it, being Aggers (reportedly) over his TMS stint at the World Cup, or Graves for that message during the World Cup that got KP to sign for Surrey and play county cricket. It seems that Team England is run for the benefit of Team Cook. We’ve been down this road on this blog before. It really appears to me a him or me situation, a back me or sack me. In Downton, Cook had an implacable supporter. In Flower, behind the scenes wielding whatever power, he had someone in his camp if it means keeping KP at bay. And in Strauss, he has a man who KP fell out with, who didn’t want him to return to the team after Textgate, and who called him a c*** live on TV. I think, as they say in the legal world, these lot have “previous”.

I’ve been saying all along they’ve been leading him up the garden path. This is not an organisation steeped in an ability to admit mistakes. It refuses to believe it can ever be wrong on any matter, or admit it’s core policies are misguided or prone to scrutiny. This is a body that went into a major deal with a subsequently committed felon, and you’d gather from our governing bodies attitude to its culpability in the terms of “ooops, shucks, well, ok, never mind.” Collier, the architect supposedly of this kept his job for a mere six years after that. Clarke has had to be prised out of office with the promise of a lovely old international jolly. Hugh Morris presided over the Moore/Pietersen nonsense with all the authority of Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served, while throughout this period we had leaks/good journalism all over the shop. That an organisation is supposed to be anal about leaks lets so much information out, such as KP’s report, the dodgy dossier and the sacking of Moores II, is preposterous. They are a sick joke, with the emphasis on sick. It’s bloody ironic that the new chairman is called Graves. This is a place where common sense goes to die. Where good chaps preside over the serfs, and don’t you dare question authority.

Above all, this is an organisation that employed Paul Downton in a position of responsibility. You remember him. All aplomb and good impressions. He may have been a lovely guy, aren’t they all, but he was out of his depth from day one. He hid. When he spoke, we knew why he hid. But we are told that things will be different now. While Downton was removed from the game for a couple of decades, the new Director, England Cricket, will be more in touch. More in tune with the modern game.

The list of those who would be in for the job underwhelmed. While Michael Vaughan was an inspirational captain, he’s a twit online. Alec Stewart had experience of being a Team Director, but that didn’t count a jot, and really, were we enthused by his candidacy. Then there was Andrew Strauss. The last week has seen people falling over each other to tell us how tough he is, how single minded, how focused he was. How he’d do the best for English cricket. He is the ideal man to take us forward, a great captain, a great leader of men. The evidence? He got rid of Moores (or did he. I’ve heard from some that he was gone well before the announcement of Strauss….and I’m talking a couple of weeks). But if Strauss sacking Moores adds to the narrative, well, what’s the harm in that? Of course, we’d heard from Michael Vaughan that Moores wasn’t going to be sacked, and that he’d been told that the ECB were not going to take KP back. Then Strauss is their man, and Moores goes. It’s laughable. So Strauss has a big decision under his belt, so it seems.

And it is abundantly clear, if I’m guessing, that the plan was to talk to KP before the presser to sort that out. They know that the question is going to come up, and I said how I thought they might answer it in part 1. But it’s easy to speak to KP with a forthright view if he’s not made runs. Now he has. 326 un-ignorable runs. 326 stabs into the heart of the ECB with their high-fallutin’ principles and beliefs. 326 jabs at their pompous approach, their holier than thou, high and mighty, we are in charge balloon of infallibility. 326 reasons why they are wrong to adopt a policy of selection that excludes someone because someone inferior doesn’t get on with him. 326 reasons why this country is a bag of shite when it comes to creating and maintaining great English sporting teams. It’s too much about getting along, and not enough about getting runs.

So when faced with the utter shit-storm the initial twitter post from TMS unleashed, with people going absolutely puce with rage (me included), there was a very quick back-track via Nick Hoult in the Telegraph. Lawrence Booth has reported much the same thing. But this is them trying to be clever and the ECB-watching public out there are not going to be fooled one iota. Their policy, if not explicit, but as close as you can get to it, will be KP over their dead bodies. Even now these control freak, superiority complex muppets will be concocting something that is designed to fool the public tomorrow. You won’t. Without the simple mantra that the team will be selected on merit, as it should be, anything else is claptrap. We won’t get fooled for building for 2019, because we built for this World Cup and blew it up in a tantrum last year. Setting long-distant dates, talking about long-term strategies is management bullshit. You going to give all the punters who paid all that cash for the Ashes some money back as you ain’t giving it your all? Like hell. It’s talking down to us. Some, in their bilious hatred for KP will accept this bag of nonsense. More shame them.

So, on the off chance that Strauss will surprise us, which I doubt, I’ll hold all my fire. But here’s the Dmitri Declaration. If I hear anything other than the England cricket team will be selected on merit, and no player is excluded, and if he is playing well and is deemed to be the best available at that time, regardless of age, then that player will be selected. But as this is a team that selected Tredwell over Rashid, Trott over Lyth and is busy flogging Anderson and Broad to a standstill, it’s all a smokescreen.

To the final insult, the last in a long line. The Graves comment that KP’s not available for selection as he’s not playing county cricket and not scoring runs. There have been denials that a deal has ever been struck, that this was a mere innocent comment and nothing had changed. KP is many things, not all good, but he’s not stupid. He returned because he felt there was a genuine chance of a rapprochement. He felt Graves would take none of the previous regimes nonsense and set them straight. To that end he negotiated an exit to his IPL contract, and gave up a decent, not huge, sum of money, and does not take a salary from Surrey. If there were “no chance” of a recall, then they should have said so, there and then. They didn’t. They hoped he would fail, would not score sufficient runs. That he would wither and die, and sod off to the CPL later in the summer. KP’s not that gullible that he wouldn’t keep that in his back pocket.

Now he makes 326, now we see them close ranks. Now we see them all but shut it off in perpetuity. That’s reprehensible, and let’s see them get their way out of this. A good number of cricket lovers are enraged at this apparant duplicity. That this isn’t just getting shot of a trouble-maker but exacting a bitter, cruel revenge. I am a KP fan. This man gave me some of the greatest thrills of my cricketing life. I would have loved to have been there today. I’m desperately hoping he’ll be there at Beckenham in a fortnight’s time, but that looks unlikely. I’m not saying he’s an angel, but he’s among the best we have. But we don’t play the game that way.

From the outside this is an organisation not representing its core supporters. This is an organisation that leaks. This is an organisation that thinks it is too clever by half. This is an organisation that is rotten to the core, steeped in some misty-eyed half-baked concoction of superiority complex elitism and management philosophy claptrap, that only they can judge and only they can decide. This is an organisation that couldn’t organise a piss up in brewery, a sacking on the Apprentice, or honest broking in a room full of spivs. It is diseased, it is malevolent and it has to go. Yes. We need a new organisation running the game, free of all this rubbish, these agenda, this structure. There’s another structure for you, Tom.

Sure, I’m outside cricket. I’ve never felt more outside than I do now. Judging by the reactions of many today, so do they. It’s an incredibly sad day when our own organisation rushes to dampen down the enthusiasm felt by many when a player who gave great service to England, who played many amazing innings, who had us glued to our screens, buying our tickets, makes a thrilling riposte and does what he thought he need to do, only to be told within a matter of hours, it seems, to foxtrot oscar. Someone put cricket on the back pages today, and instead of welcoming it, our beloved guardian authority hated it. They’ve got it all right, ain’t they….

Let’s be pleasantly surprised tomorrow, eh? Anyone betting on it?

kp FO

Washing up

And so the dust begins to settle.

Let’s get something clear here, before the start of the Test series, an England win was expected by everyone.  No one in the media said that the West Indies were an improving side, no one in the press said that there were grounds for concern.  England might be a “developing” (a delightful euphemism for “not very good”) team, but the result of the series would be that England would win it. And they haven’t.

And here come the excuses.  Colin Graves was at fault for motivating the West Indies by calling them mediocre apparently.  Let’s just look at that for a moment.  Say that what he said did motivate them, did do their team talk for them.  Are we really saying that a few words from the chairman of the ECB, a man most of the West Indies team have probably never heard of, made the difference?  Firstly, that’s incredibly insulting to the West Indies team, it implies that without such words they would have rolled over to defeat.  It also says that England could only win if they were scrupulously polite about the opposition.  How fragile must this England team be?  How shallow must the West Indies be?

It’s a nonsensical line of argument, particularly so when Alastair Cook talked only a few days ago of how the West Indies would crack under pressure.  If anything were to motivate the opposition, those words would have done it – but to suggest they did is still silly, for all the reasons above.  The series was drawn because of what happened on the field, not what was said off it, especially when both instances are pretty mild.

As it happens, Graves shouldn’t have said what he did – but not because of what happened in the series, simply because it was impolite.  But people who are outspoken sometimes say things, weirdly enough.  That four paragraphs have been written about something so supremely irrelevant is a reflection of how some have grasped at straws.  Let’s move on.

It is genuinely pleasing to see some signs of life in West Indies cricket.  The wider picture is important, and they do seem to have found some young players who have a bit about them.  Jermaine Blackwood had a terrific series, averaging a shade under 80.  There’s little question that his innings first time around in  Bridgetown  went a long way towards the eventual result; his team were dead and buried without him, and he kept them in the game.  Jason Holder equally looks a good prospect, while Darren Bravo played with a discipline yesterday that’s been lacking in much of his career.  In all cases it’s up to them to ensure it’s not just a one off, but something to build on.  It’s hard to see this side seriously troubling Australia in a month, but nor should they be expected to.  It’s at the bottom of a very long and winding hill – there’s a heartbeat, that’s enough for now.

As an aside, what a sad cricketing irony it was to see Shiv Chanderpaul look like he’s reached the end.  A player who almost single handedly kept them alive over a grim decade, but whose age catches up just as there seems to be some hope.  No one ever said life was fair.

England lost this game in their batting.  First innings wasn’t good enough; the pitch was at its best, and scoring under 300 was abject.  Cook held the innings together, with an innings that was obdurate and stubborn, and he certainly deserves credit for that.  His dismissal at the close of day one was likely a loss of concentration.  It’s not that surprising shortly after a hundred he so desperately wanted and needed, and blaming the bloke who got the hundred for getting out misses the point as much as it always did.

Yet Cook’s hundred was not evidence of him being back and it’s wishful thinking on the part of those who worship at the altar of the blessed Alastair to assume it is.  His technique remains flawed and there are serious concerns about how he will shape up against a better attack this summer and next winter.  He deserves immense credit for getting it, because even the longest journey begins with a single step, but that’s as far as it goes.

Bell had a poor Test, and not a great series.  Indeed, he’s struggled since his Ashes mirabilis in 2013.  He clearly deserves the patience his record warrants, but it is concerning as we go into the summer that he seems so adrift from where he could be, especially so given that he doesn’t appear out of form.

We are probably saying goodbye to Jonathan Trott.  There’s an extensive piece elsewhere, so there’s no point going over that again. His near tearful reaction at the end of the match suggested he knows it too.  There’s no shame in attempting to come back, and no shame in not succeeding. He’s been a fine servant for England.

England’s second innings of 123 showcased all the problems that have been evident for some years, especially the way that they freeze when put under pressure.  The irony of Cook’s comments about the West Indies cracking under such pressure is evident, and this is nothing new.  The tour to New Zealand two years ago had a few instances of England becoming strokeless and terrified of defeat.  For all the talk about England playing fearless cricket, they do the opposite.  Only Stokes and Buttler tried to reverse the position, and Stokes then received criticism for the way he got out.  That’s just not good enough.  When a player tries to change the momentum they are taking risks to do so – sometimes it doesn’t come off.  The reality is that it still has to be attempted.  That England got as many as 123 is down to him, and then Buttler.

Buttler was again left high and dry.  At number eight in the order that’s clearly going to be a risk, but given the side England selected, should he be any higher in the order?  Probably not.  The issue is that England’s lower order fold even when there is a batsman to play for.  Jordan was a bit unlucky, and Anderson fought.  Broad’s batting is simply not good enough for someone of his ability.  There were signs in the first innings of the smallest smidgen of progress – he stayed in line at the point of delivery (he stayed legside of the ball, true) which is more than he’s being doing recently.  But he’s in pieces still.

Root and Ballance both had good tours, one of the most striking features of the second innings shambles was how England fell apart when those two failed with the bat.  Like always, we cannot rely on players having unsustainable runs of form to bail us out of a hole.  At some point, they won’t manage it.  Still, in the wider context, those two have been a success.

Moeen Ali had a curious time of it.  His bowling wasn’t great, but compared to what?  His first class record hardly suggests he is a world class spinner, but he is a hard worker and improving.  Bringing him in after an injury and with little bowling behind him was a gamble, and one that didn’t work.  He batted well in the first innings before Cook ran him out, but he needs to deliver more than he is.  He’s flattering to deceive and becoming a bit of a frustration.  He clearly has talent and desire, even if the blame game is trying to highlight him.

Buttler himself did well throughout the series.  His keeping was good, and he’s still inexperienced in that discipline.  His missed stumping yesterday cannot and should not be used as an excuse (another one).  Keepers do make mistakes.  The specific missed stumping is one of those that commentators and journalists who have never done it talk about as being easy.  It is an abiding frustration that those who know nothing about keeping are so keen to dispense their lack of knowledge.  When the ball goes between bat and pad, there is a tendency not to follow the line of the ball, but the expected path of the shot.  It’s a bad miss because every keeper who has ever done it (and every keeper has) berates themselves for the error.  But it happens, and happens a fair bit.  A perfect example of the complete lack of understanding about wicketkeeping comes when a catch standing up to the stumps is described as good reactions.  It’s nonsense.  When standing up, the keeper isn’t even aware that there has been an edge until AFTER the ball is in the gloves or on the ground; the brain simply cannot process information that quickly.

None of which means that Buttler won’t be bitterly disappointed not to have taken the stumping, but some understanding is required here. He made very few mistakes behind the stumps this series, and for a young player making his way in Test cricket, that’s a good effort.  Wicketkeepers drop catches and they miss stumpings.  It was ever thus.

Chris Jordan is another who showed promise without ever fully justifying his inclusion.  His catching in the slips was genuinely astonishing, and he bowled some fine spells without seeing quite the rewards.  Like Ben Stokes, his wicket taking was below what would have been hoped for.

Broad with the ball seemed to be getting his mojo back.  He needs overs under his belt more than anything.

And then there’s Anderson.  The best compliment he can be paid is the frightening thought of him getting injured this summer.  Like with Root and Ballance, England cannot be so reliant on him going forward and hope to succeed.  He was overbowled in the last home Ashes due to desperation, and largely ineffective thereafter.  He’s a fine bowler, but he’s not invincible.

Peter Moores spoke after the game talking about how players had developed over the series.  Presumably he meant that Lyth, Wood and Rashid have become particularly expert on which bats to carry out to those playing, and what combination of drink they prefer.  In any tour, players are left out, and often become little more than a spare part, yet this was a missed opportunity.  If Rashid is not to be selected for pitches like Bridgetown or St Georges, when is he going to be selected?  Is it remotely likely that he will play in the Ashes or in May/June Tests against New Zealand?  England were on a tour against one of the weaker sides in world cricket, and chose not to introduce new players, but to stick with the tried and presumably trusted.  Perhaps the worst part of that is the fear about what a player can’t do, not what they can.  This is symptomatic of the problems in the England team, the negative considerations always outweighing the positive.

James Whitaker looks likely to pay the price for this tour, having been described (as was Moores) as a “dead man walking” at the outset.  Yet it wasn’t the selectors who ignored the fringe players on this tour, that was down to the captain and coach.  Whitaker has been something of a PR disaster in his role, but it would be somewhat cruel for him to ultimately be blamed for the reluctance of Team England to trust the selections he and his colleagues made.

Moores himself is now extremely vulnerable.  Both he and Cook specifically contradicted the words of the chairman, in the captain’s case by his effectively partially blaming Graves for the outcome, and in Moores’ by saying there was no need for an enquiry.  Repeatedly saying how it had been a “good tour” in defiance of the results simply adds to the impression of being removed from reality.  And yet there should be some sympathy for Moores.  A better and stronger captain would have made a significant difference, but he has helped in his own downfall by being front and centre in terms of what he wants.  England are the only team in the world where the coach has such a significant role in how the team actually plays, it is impossible to imagine Duncan Fletcher being interested in such a structure – which is perhaps exactly why Fletcher wanted captains like Hussain and Vaughan who knew their own minds.

And then there’s the captain himself.  It is curious how so many queue up to damn him with faint praise.  He did indeed do alright as captain this series.  Alright.  For Moores to talk about him learning in the role is preposterous, he’s now one of the longest serving captains England have ever had.  When will he learn to be England captain?  2019?  When he breaks Graeme Smith’s Test record perhaps?  Maybe then he’ll actually be “not bad”.  Highlighting that he’s done alright merely emphasises that he so often has been awful.

The least surprising, but most troubling news came in the shape of various articles indicating Strauss would get the DoC role.  Above all else, such an appointment would be a circling of the wagons and a reinforcement of the status quo.  As Vaughan said last night, sometimes you just have to accept it isn’t working.  Unless you’re the ECB.

England drew with the eighth ranked side in Test cricket, who in the last four years have beaten only New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.  Stop the excuses.

https://twitter.com/BlueEarthMngmnt

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.

Battle

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good week, folks.

Get The Popcorn

But an ECB spokesman later sought to clarify the comment, adding: “Colin Graves is correct. Nothing has changed – only players who are playing consistent high-quality county cricket and who are seen as a positive influence will be selected for England.”

I say. Did I miss that second part in Graves’s first statement….

The force remains strong.

Ali Martin was the reporter on The Guardian.

There’s a million and one things to say about this, but let’s try to be brief as it is a Sunday night and I need to be up for work in the morning.

This is an interesting development. We sort of know how this works. Someone puts something out there, the reaction isn’t as expected and they reel it back it in. You saw that with the Peter Moores interview in Sri Lanka alluding to Cook’s fate, then the Muppet Director, Downton, reeled it back in, before the coup de grace was implemented later in the week.

Colin Graves is not in charge yet, but don’t be fooled. Paul Downton managed to start his job before he was officially in place. Graves is running the show, or at least he should be. The comments he made today were out of the side of his mouth, saying he’d back the selectors etc.but also trying to distance himself a little from the excommunication by saying if KP did “this and that” he may get a look-in.

KP adroitly jumped all over that, and within a few hours the ECB threw Graves under the bus and propped up the crumbling edifice. Make no mistake, they have undermined the new CEO. So if one was a conspiracy theorist, one could say there was a power play at play in the ECB. You can’t tell me that leak of the “think the unthinkable” document wasn’t done for some purpose. This is an organisation rotten to the core in its upper echelons, and it needs rooting out. Graves isn’t some white knight, but don’t tell me this isn’t the old guard keeping the new upstart in check.

“Positive Influence.” How about Downton and Clarke for two abide by that? The ECB brand is seen as toxic. Toxicity is not positive influence. These two have presided over a disastrous year where they have been dismissive of the public, ignorant of the facts, and contemptuous of feedback. They exude the arrogance of the infallible, when they have feet made of clay. Their appointment of Moores and backing of Cook was evidence of their brilliance in their own minds. Cook was sacrificed as ODI captain a few days after his MD backed him. Moores is living on borrowed time, with Cook probably really cheesed off over the ODI nonsense.

Graves is going to regret not ditching Clarke, and you can mark my words on that one. He might need to look at Downton, but goodness knows what he has to do to get the chop.

An organisation that amazes, continues to do so. It’s bonkers. We “outside cricket” sit here and just think “we’ve not been proved wrong yet by these clowns.”

All You Can Cook – Selfey Service

Selvey Downton

Once again, let me set the scene by referring back to Alan Tyers most famous tweet around these here parts…

As we all know, the man we think this refers to most appropriately, even if Mr Tyers might not, is Mike “Selfey” Selvey. His attitude to the great unwashed over the past year has been reprehensible, and if he doesn’t feel loved back, well that’s his fault. He has written articles praising Flower and Gooch despite the disastrous Ashes series, and most memorably for me, telling us all how great Paul Downton would be as MD of the ECB. We all know how that has gone. I’ve not seen one word of contrition on his part for that load of old hogwash.

So if there’s benefit of the doubt going around on a comment or two, the inclination in this parish is not to give to Selfey, because he gives none to any critic. Or at least it appears this way. So when he writes something like this, we’ll grab probably the most obvious end of the stick:

There is a familiarity to it all. Since the back end of November, England have played 15 ODIs and the first seven of those were against Sri Lanka in that country. The result of that series – Sri Lanka winning it by five matches to two – is largely irrelevant when it comes to this match given the entirely different conditions it will be played in.

It is true to say that had Alastair Cook opted to take a break by missing it rather than using it as a team bonding session, he would almost certainly still be leading the squad here now. Such is fate.

Let me do a bullet point breakdown of all this. It needs a decent examination:

  • The tone – throughout this is laced with “I know the inside track and you don’t”. That is, we can’t possibly get to the full story because we are mug punters and they are journalists. The art of journalism is to act as our representatives in that room, not as some sort of privileged conveyor of the establishment’s screed. So results don’t matter, the English wanted a bonding session and Cook was/is possibly a case for special treatment. How else could we think? Because we don’t know….
Invaluable. To be protected at all times.
Invaluable. To be protected at all times.
  • History – Re-writing it is cool. If Cook, as Selvey supposes, chose to miss the Sri Lanka ODI tour, does anyone here seriously think he/the toxic brand would have got away with it? Do you actually think it was an option on the table? Even the toxic brand couldn’t pull that one on us. So, frankly, even raising this is bunkum. But it implies he knows something we don’t. I’m sure he does, but raising it in late February when selection for the ODI tour to Sri Lanka was in September, was it not?
  • Results are irrelevant – Clearly they weren’t. If Cook had struggled, but we’d won that series, then he’d still be in place. The fury would still be there, but losing the series 5-2 combined with the lack of form Cook showed meant he was dead. Results weren’t irrelevant.
  • The Sri Lanka tour as team bonding session – International cricket as a practice match, as something not to get up for, as something that it doesn’t matter how you play. To use the over-rated, and overused, quote by Steve Archibald, team spirit is “an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory” and bonding in defeat rarely ends well. I don’t know, you don’t have to look too far back to see how that defeat thing helps team mates get on. The fact is that while some games are defintitely more important than others, and we are not ignorant of that fact, if these games were “largely irrelevant” then more shame on the England team for taking that approach. They were equally irrelevant to Sri Lanka, after all, because surely England don’t have the monopoly on not giving a shit, and they still roused themselves to stuff us. Fans cannot tolerate being told international sport doesn’t matter. Do you think an Aussie takes the field thinking that? They are the standard we are aiming for. New Zealand certainly didn’t think their preparation cricket was largely irrelevant. Maybe, by bonding session, the press thought they might get another Ian Bell as crap leader leak….
  • Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve ranted about a largely irrelevant when it comes to this game. Well, yes, it is. But you can’t tell me that the Sri Lanka series is treated as an irrelevance by the media. They tell you that by their team bonding nonsense. So no, I’m not giving them that out. After all, prior to that series, anyone remember the journalists weather forecasting abilities when citing how stupid this tour was?
  • The cult of Cook – opinion is divided as to whether Selfey, who has claimed for a while that Cook should pack in ODI cricket, meant with his line that if Cook had missed the tour it would be good or bad that he’d be here. Undertones of the good servant reek through this piece, and I’m inclined to believe that Selfey believes Cook perished through his own good intentions rather than any masterplan. Well, there was no masterplan. Cook was dropped because his presence was not tenable. He wasn’t making runs. He wasn’t scoring fluently. He looked miles off the pace. He was losing ODIs as captain. He was the story. If he’d missed this series and gone straight to the Tri-Series and cocked up there, the fury would have dwarfed the level it reached in Sri Lanka – and that was hot enough. The story of the whole tour would have been Cook, even if he hadn’t been there.

The comments section on the below thread have remarked on Fred’s comment. In case it gets modded, I have copied it here.

That’s it, I’m done. I’ve officially passed the point where I think the shallow and xenophobic cricket press in Australia is worse than English cricket writing. English journalists use longer sentences and more adjectives, but stripped of that it comes to the same thing. Bollocks. 
The above sentence is just breathtaking in its delusion. If only Cook hadn’t played, he’d still be selected now for the team? What a fool he was to walk on to the cricket field! There was no problem at all with Cook, just that he chose to play the wrong series, but of course did it for noble reasons. 
“Such is fate”: he could have been leading England to glory now if he hadn’t come unstuck in Sri Lanka?
He used it as a “team bonding session”? A seven match ODI series against Sri Lanka, the country that just beat them at home? A fucking bonding session? 
By way of comparison, every Australian who speaks about playing cricket for Australia has awe in his voice when he talks about playing for his country. Doesn’t matter who, where, when or what, it’s playing cricket at the highest level, for their country, and they all jump at the chance, and they want to win. They’re not there to bond. 
This sentence, and the editorial tone of Guardian cricket, indicates the malaise of English cricket.

Here’s another one not giving Selfey the benefit of any doubt. I don’t blame him. Not in the slightest.

On another paper our old favourite, the nomination for Cricket Journo of the year pocketed, has been having his say on Eoin Morgan not singing the national anthem:

The anthem issue is a contentious one because it throws up the whole dynamic of national identity, which is more complicated in cricket than most sports. Morgan is not the first nor the last international sportsman who has chosen not to sing (Darren Sammy was the only player to sing Rally Round the West Indies before the match against South Africa) but it has been noted in Morgan’s case because is a Dubliner now at the helm of the England side.

‘It’s pretty simple,’ said Morgan. ‘I have never sung the National Anthem whether I’ve been playing for Ireland or England. It doesn’t make me any less proud to be an English cricketer.

‘I am extremely proud to be in the position I’m in and privileged to be captain of a World Cup side. It’s a long story but it’s a personal thing.’

Morgan chose not to tell that long story which is a shame because it leaves him open to conjecture as to why he will not exercise his vocal cords.

It’s because he’s Irish, Paul. We’re not stupid. If we’re going to have a pop at people for not singing the anthem, then watch our football team. They don’t have a dual nationality issue to offer as a reason. Maybe we should focus on those born and raised on these shores for their “failure to show enough national pride”.

But the bottom line is that it is his choice and it is better surely to be true to yourself rather than, as some dual nationals in England’s recent history have, belted out the anthem for effect.

Or you could just have a go at Kevin Pietersen.

Finally, I couldn’t let go of the little nugget in George Dobell’s article on the proposed changes to English cricket.

Other suggested changes includes a rebranding of the ECB – the current brand is seen as toxic – as Cricket England & Wales.

Because this will change all of our views.

Mr Toxic Brand
Mr Toxic Brand

Unless Paul Downton and Giles Clarke are excommunicated then you could call it Late For Dinner and you aren’t going to fool any of us. It is an insult to all of us who pay such close attention to what is going on that you could actually imagine this being something that would calm us. How about doing your jobs properly, apologising for your stupidity and adopt a real new approach and we will be accommodating. Having a coronation for a Chief Exec, shunting the bete noire upstairs where he can dip his snout in the trough, and keeping the disaster that is Downton isn’t the way.