Trust – 2

First of all, I have some bad news.

It is time to have an honest conversation about thelegglance. After Wednesday morning, with his blogging equivalent of a 355 not out under his belt with his post A Matter of Life And Trust, it was decided, unanimously, by the blog board, that he would no longer be retained by Being Outside Cricket. I cannot trust him not to overshadow me again, and he’s also upset my support staff, Armand the Rubber Duck, and my border collie (although I’ve not asked him yet, being in a different country and all that) and have decided that in the short term, Being Outside Cricket will move forward with a fresh and exciting skipper at the helm (me). HE IS NOT BANNED. DEFINITELY NOT. We’ll see, if he agrees to be utter crap in future, whether we can get that trust back. Until then, he can get on a plane to Dubai and write for The Full Toss for all I care. I just want the best for Being Outside Cricket, as long as they aren’t more talented than me.

Seriously, my thanks to Vian for the post. It meant I didn’t have to write much the same thing, but in a much less focused manner, and it was one of the best posts I’ve read anywhere. I’m biased, but as he knows, when we had that legendary Krusovice evening that I’d wanted him to come on board, and knew what an asset he’d be. He just better not do it too often!!!!

I thought I’d do a little bit on some of the side issues. I listened to the two podcasts on Tuesday night. The Switch Hit was interesting principally for David Hopps nailing the Alastair Cook issue. I hear many times that “no-one dislikes Cook” when there is a growing element that do. Hatred is too strong a word for me. When he said that the continued, repeated backing made Cook sound entitled, you could have heard the cheer from my mother-in-law’s kitchen. He got it. He actually got it. The rest of the podcast was a bit nondescript to me, missing a Butcher or a Dobell, and Jarrod went a bit OTT. But it got a damn sight nearer to the points we are making than most.

Then came the TMS podcast, weighing in at a brutal one hour and 45 minutes. At the end of it I felt thoroughly crushed. What the hell has happened to Phil Tufnell? He’s about as rebellious as Marks & Spencer. Is it too simple to ascribe his views to becoming a paid-up member of the Middlesex Mafia? “When I did wrong, at least I said sorry” he said. Phil Tufnell was a rebel who on his day, and I was there for one of them, was a brilliant bowler. He was a maverick. He didn’t seem to do well with authority. What possesses him to side against someone you would think was in his sort of field? I was surprised how willing he was to side with the authorities.

Jonathan Agnew was blaming it all on Graves. At the time Colin Graves reached out to KP, England were performing appallingly in the World Cup. Downton was a dead man walking. There, presumably, was no fixed thoughts on the way forward and who would be the new personnel. Moores was also probably a dead man walking, because I’m not 100% convinced this was a Strauss decision in its entirety, much as the KP one wasn’t either, in my view. He may have been too hasty, but lord, he thought he was dealing with adults, not children. Now he’s in a hell of a spot, probably, again as a mere “guess” because I don’t believe Giles Clarke is going to be a silent partner, but a very influential back seat driver (I must find where he was referenced in the decision making process) who has made sure, before he left that KP wasn’t getting back. (It wasn’t the book, I think, on that, but when KP listed who needed to go before he got back – Downton, Moores and Clarke). Agnew did admit that KP is entitled to feel let down, but that it was Graves’s promise, not Strauss’ nonsense that was the problem.

The other point that Jonathan made was one that’s really itching at me. He said that he speaks to other players in the team who feel that the support isn’t there for them from the fans. Instead of really focusing why, Jonathan seemed to be exhorting us to get behind the lads. I’ve heard the same from George Dobell, put in a slightly different way. The fact is that this is down, fairly and squarely to the ECB. I understand those people I see on Twitter who say the team matters more than any individual, and certainly more than any organisation. I understand, but I do not agree. I’m at an age where I’ve been taken the mickey out of enough by authorities to know they don’t care about me. If I disagree with them, I will tell them, and I will fight and get angry if needs be. The ECB couldn’t give a stuff whether I support them or not. They’ve shown that by their attitude to those of us “outside cricket”. Those who don’t care about that, fair enough. I think you are wrong not to.

The ECB sacked one of their best players in February 2014. They did not tell us why. They clearly believed over a short period of time we’d die down. They were wrong. They thought that a decent test series win against India would calm it down. They were wrong. They thought that the silent treatment of the book would mean the England community would turn against KP, but they were wrong. They thought that he might be permanently finished as a player on the basis of a poor T20 Blast season and a disappointing IPL. They were wrong. They have one hope left. That time will calm us down. 16 months on, and with the events of Tuesday, there’s absolutely no sign of that.

The Cook issue is for another post, but Jonathan ought to realise how much many of the angry brigade don’t like the way he’s been reinforced at every turn, and now, it seems, having a veto on selection. It’s hard to pull for a team, even with really exciting players like Buttler and Root, and really promising talent like Ballance, Stokes, Jordan and Moeen, when their positive results keep Cook in his position. I can’t betray my feelings, Jonathan. I really can’t.

Lament

Well, good morning/afternoon all. It has been an interesting one to wake up to, I have to tell you. I’ll leave “proper” politics because there’s a ton more places to look for it than on here, and it divides rather than unites which is never good in my book. So let’s talk about the sort of politics we all love to indulge in and that’s from the good old ECB.

I think you all remember the aftermath of the Ashes debacle when in the infamous February press release, the most heinous crime anyone could perpetrate in the English cricket firmament was to breach the sanctity of the dressing room. There were certain journalists who were said to be “anal about leaks” but that didn’t stop them talking out of that orifice on a daily basis. The people on this board, out there in the world aren’t stupid, and they know these stories don’t just appear out of thin air. These journalists have contacts, have their way to read the runes, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. I’m not sure it is, as John Etheridge I believe once said “more good journalism than leaks”, but it’s something that annoys us all.

So we can’t be all up in arms because the news leaked regularly about Kevin Pietersen and not be when it affected Cook (in December when his sacking from the ODI captaincy got out) and now seems to be for Moores. I know the journalistic corps will accuse me of naivety and all that, and that this is how the world works, but it doesn’t make it right. I’m going out on a limb here and say that although I didn’t support the appointment of Peter Moores (reeked of a pre-ordained Flower-inspired stitch up) and don’t particularly rate him as an international coach (this progress we are making seems rather ephemeral to me – as Grenada / Barbados seems to indicate) he comes across as a very decent man trying his best, and the one thing that those people deserve above all else is to be treated with the same decency. If this is proved, and I note Lawrence Booth for one is saying this didn’t necessarily come from the ECB, to be from high-placed official sources then more shame on them. This is not the way a new and improved organisation does business, and if it is one of the exiting old guard doing it, well….. you know what you should do about that.

The responsibility for a leak goes to the source of the information. So if the ECB told someone in confidence that the decision had been made, and then this gets out, it’s the ECB’s fault for trusting that confidence. The fact is that if this is the case here, and that’s the message coming out here, there’s always the convenient “plausible deniability” on behalf of this organisation which seems to make key decisions ahead of appointees taking up their roles. Indeed, Strauss hasn’t even been officially announced yet, and he’s supposed to be the one either doing the sacking or rubber-stamping it.

I see one of the commenters BTL on the Guardian is going on about us conspiracy theorists again. I’m glad these people are so trusting of those in authority to think that way and just let those running the game to do as they please, no questions asked. Trust those inside the game. But from the outside there seems to be a bit of a power struggle within the ECB and I have no idea how it is going to pan out. The deserved sacking of Downton, a man who should never have been appointed, seems more and more like a piece of meat thrown to us “slobbering hordes”.  We then replace his role with something not yet defined, and when they found out that not many people were interested in a Downton-lite role, the new revolution stumbled across an old pillar to effect whatever it is Harrison and Graves think is needed, which at this stage, we don’t have a clue about. Memo to all here, I’m not buying what Harrison is selling, not at all. Now to appease the hordes again, we are going to fire a coach AFTER a series where we could have looked at new players, but the coach and captain were too keen to bolster positions and didn’t try much. This isn’t a new bold strategy, but something else too familiar. Clueless, aimless and now heartless. The absence of a decent media strategy, treating people in their employment with dignity and class, and allowing things to just get out there, however they get there, isn’t great. It really isn’t.

Lawrence Booth, Jonathan Agnew and Ali Martin can all put their side of the story any time they like – they are more than welcome to here, but I would not expect that. How this news got out there matters to people. It speaks of an organisation seeking to regain our trust, to re-engage with us, to make us proud of the England cricket team again and to bridge the divide. This is not what is happening. The divisions aren’t now a simple chasm down the middle framed by a decision to sack Pietersen. They are becoming fractures, along familiar fault lines, but fractures nonetheless. Those that were original members of the outside cricket club see more of the same. Those who were more attuned to the ECB way of thinking see appeasement of the great unwashed. Those of a more sceptical bent than the ECB line to takers see increasing incompetence and doubt creeps in, like rot in a wooden building. The Cook fans see devilment in every utterance on the doubts in his form. The KP fans see an ECB talking out of both sides of its mouth. The ECB are further away than ever from gaining public trust. Their ultimate test was to keep their traps shut and do this the right way. They haven’t. It’s a bloody PR disaster.

Just one thought, that could negate much of this, but not all. The only explanation that gets the ECB partially off the hook is that the leak came from Peter Moores himself, or someone close to him. In which case we can make our own judgements on him. That said, it would seem a little out of character, wouldn’t it?

Upstairs

The day after the Downton Dismissal and the chaos of yesterday already seems somewhat distant. Few journalists seem to be drawing the dots, with the trail leading up the line to Clarke so obvious it almost appears in neon lights. Clarke was a major player in the appointment of his MD, and yet today he leaves the ECB not to enable him to prosper more fully in his ventures in Colombia and Paraguay, but, er, wait a minute…… he’s been made President!

We knew this stitch up ages ago, but there is something even more unpalatable about it now, the day after his cataclysmic decision to appoint Paul Downton had been shown to be the abject disaster that it was. People who make appointments like that don’t stay long. People don’t generally beg those sort of people to remain on the ledger. Instead they are shunted aside, sometimes with an added gong to keep their mouths shut, and then we can pick apart their legacy at will.

To me, retaining this buffoon as Chairman is a stain on our organisation in this country. You cannot truly clean house, have a fresh start, if you merely move the dead rat from the living room and shut him away in the attic. It’ll still stink. His ICC role is even more of an insult, as the incident at the Wisden dinner appears to show. This man does not seem to be able to hold back when he has been criticised, or even mildly questioned. This isn’t Clarke’s team. This isn’t even Clarke’s organisation. I think Dean Wilson probably summed it up best:

But along the way he has ruled the game as if it were one of his personal businesses and he is a ruthless businessman.

His success in that part of his life has largely come about by doing what he thinks is best. By calling the shots, making the decisions and swatting away anyone who gets in his way. It works in business and for a time it worked in cricket, but the England cricket team and the ECB does not belong to him, and he doesn’t always make the right call, just ask Allen Stanford.

When it comes to sport and to cricket, you can’t just tell people what they want and what they are supposed to like. You can’t tell them that because you like one person over another, they must feel the same way.

You can’t endorse an England captain because he comes from the right sort of family.

That sort of outlook is what makes our great game exclusive when it should be inclusive. It is what shuts people out and makes them angry, so when you next ask them to dip into their pockets and buy a ticket to your show, they will turn their backs and look elsewhere.

I was beginning to worry about Dean, but this hits a nail on the head more than many of his other colleagues have. Instead of making it about KP, which is a major point, yes, but only one, he captures the essence of why I despise Clarke. The arrogance which comes from some sort of superiority that only a weapons grade pig can pull off. Every interview, every appearance and every word I heard from this individual brought one word to mind. No, not that one. The word is “unpleasant”.

Now many may laugh that a blog (and blogger) described as unpleasant by more than one member of the media should get on his high horse. But just like Newman, if you meet me, I’m really, most of the time, pretty nice. I like people who like me, and want people to. Clarke’s one of those I don’t get. He seems to get off on being loathed. Why the ECB couldn’t tell him to shove off, because all words seemed to indicate he was going to lose an election, I won’t know. While they made that decision, there will always be a stain.

I’d also like to approach one other point this evening, and it is the sudden reduction in the role and scope of Paul Downton’s role over night. To this, I’ll pick up on Jonathan Agnew’s piece on the BBC:

Downton had a difficult time of it. He was briefed that his first job must be to get rid of Pietersen. He took responsibility for that, but it was not 100% his call – it was a broader decision.

So perhaps he was an easy person to target with regards to KP. He has taken a lot of flak for that. And likewise he was not directly hands-on with the England team.

You have to question how much responsibility he actually had on England team matters.

Downton is moved from the key man in matters of England international cricket, to a sock puppet who danced to his master’s tune. So it wasn’t his decision to sack KP, but someone else. That someone else is either Andy Flower or Giles Clarke (OK, it could have been David Collier, but he was so far off the radar, he was in deep space). Both pose crucial questions to the future of English cricket. If it was the former, it appears as though we threw a drowning man, one who had been in charge of a team that imploded on the spot, a life raft. KP’s description in his “nasty” book of a man adept at managing upstairs seems appropriate. I am not an anti-Flower blogger. At this time I’m converting a lot of my Ashes DVDs from 2010/11 and enjoy the way we dismantled that team. We were a really decent team. But he’d lost it. That was clear. If it was Clarke, then we were sold the mightiest of pups by our friends rushing out of the door that spring day when Moores was appointed, to crown Downton with aplomb. Both the people who pulled the puppet strings are still employed at the ECB. That’s not symbolic, that’s insulting.

He was an easy target, Jonathan, because he made himself the target. He hid. Pure and simple, after the announcement. Not a peep in a live setting for a couple of months. I knew, as much as I could, then we had a problem. We call it, in our game, red flags. This was so red, it had a Liverpool season ticket. Read the stuff on the other blog. You’ll see what I meant from those early posts. The hilarity when Downton actually spoke for the first time, on a Waitrose ad. The difficult winter and all that….

I don’t want to pick on Aggers, but I’ve seen this theme more and more today. Except for one glorious exception which had me rolling about with laughter.

FEBRUARY 2014

After the Ashes whitewash, Kevin Pietersen and head coach Andy Flower are sacked. After days of silence, the official line on Pietersen’s dismissal is that the ECB wanted to ‘create a culture’ in which captain Alastair Cook had ‘the full support of all players’.

From one he was a puppet master, from another he was upholding Flower’s contention that he sack KP. From this article, he actually sacked Andy Flower. He didn’t. He resigned. That author should know the difference between a sacking (KP) and something not quite the same (Flower – resigned, and moved to a job he courted). I don’t think disingenuous quite covers it.
I’ve gone over a 1000 words, and it is late. More reaction including a look at two of our favourite journo’s work (Brenkers and Selfey) to follow. Good night, and thanks for the support.