Copy: Know Your Place – 11 February 2014

I stumbled across a Tweet from the Cricket Magazine, suggesting that a Press Release from the ECB was imminent on L’Affaire KP. Muppet Pringle seemed a little put out that his Sunday afternoon was being disrupted, as was the terminally annoying Jeremiah Agnew. As 3 pm passed, there was no Statement; Pringle then questioned who said it was 3pm? Leveraging his sources at the ECB, who have been leveraged quite a bit in the last few weeks it seems, Pringle announced a couple of deadlines later in the day. When the statement finally arrived on the Twitter feed, all the cricket bloggers, eager for news, were matched by the press, who seemed somewhat tired of the whole process.

Anyone not paying attention to this saga can’t get the real time feelings this wait exposed. We’d seen the Sky Sports programme, where Steve Harmison gave a player’s perspective, as a man who shared a dressing room with KP, against a journo and Bob Willis, who has decided KP is just the sort of charismatic maverick, tired of authority and false prophets, that he obviously never held against Ian Botham. The same old arguments rehashed. The establishment side saying KP can’t be trusted, the counter view being he should be managed better.

Then there was the poll on Sky – 87% or so saying it was wrong he should be dropped. This is not something on which only one side is passionate, and thus skewed. The comments against KP are every bit as vicious as those supporting our batsman and attacking those who made the decision. Less than 1% of those commenting know anything about KP other than what they’ve seen in media controlled settings or how he carries himself on the field. He hasn’t said a word, other than a couple of tweets/facebook posts since his sacking, yet is accused of waging a media assault on the decision. Whichever way you look at it, those who are the paying public who have spoken out are miles more in favour of him being kept than ditched. In the absence of a sackable offence, which is being played down by all and sundry, then we are left asking “can’t we at least try to keep our best batsman” (and no, no, no – Ian Bell is not better than KP. Please stop that now.)

So, with baited breath we read the KP statement from the ECB. And to a man, the blogosphere were gobsmacked. It wasn’t that this was never going to say anything that would dump on KP. Strauss had played a not too subtle card earlier in the day with his “lack of trust” speech, which was absolutely no way encouraged by the ECB, former colleagues and or anyone linked with Team England. Despite the floods, I’m sure he’s very happy talking to the Flowers. It was several of the more hissy-fit statements, and a couple of belting statements that had gasps of derision from the cricket blogging fraternity.

First – the future:

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

We MUST invest in our captain Alastair Cook. England only sack captains these days if they rock the boat. Literally in the form of Andrew Flintoff, who copped it after Fredalo, and figuratively in KP’s case. Being a laugh, or having a forceful opinion is grounds for sacking. Being widely condemned as clueless, unadventurous, and out of his depth in Australia is not reason to sack the captain. A captain needs full support with everyone pulling in the same direction – yes, everyone loves Michael Clarke in the Australian dressing room, just ask Shane Watson – and because KP might think that the winter’s farce was down to an overbearing coach passed his sell-by date, and a dutiful captain out of his depth, that’s it. As Ian Chappell said yesterday, if players weren’t making comments about Cook’s captaincy, they were doing the team a disservice.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

This is the bit that really riles me and my ilk. Outside cricket here is a catch-all for the ECB to rather peevishly have a go at Piers Morgan. Number one, the ECB should just ignore a man who feeds off the oxygen of reactions. Secondly,by casting a tent over the ECB, the players and those in the press privy to these going ons, you are not inside, you are outside. As someone, rightly, said, four days before this announcement Paul Downton was “outside cricket”. There in lies the true inner feelings that the ECB have stated loud and clear. Pay your ticket money, your sky subscriptions and shut the fuck up.

Secondly, with this bit, is the laughable line about attacking the rationale for the ECB’s decision-making. James Whitaker’s laughable first interview as Chairman of Selectors didn’t exactly put the doubters to bed about his integrity, ability and decision-making skills. A controlled interview he failed to control, a phone going off which the ECB have got mad about with Sky because they broadcast the interview as live, and weren’t totally in compliance with their demands, and evasion and obfuscation hiding behind legalities was not an auspicious start. Downton has said nothing in front of a camera. Cook has gone to ground. Flower has been quiet sorting out his new role. Giles wants the England job, so isn’t going to be talking. In the absence of anyone talking, we’ve basically been asked to trust an organisation that is keeping on in some capacity the coach that lost 5-0, is backing the captain that lost 5-0, and sacking a player who scored the most runs for us in Australia (albeit, at a poor average). I watched the collapse at the MCG on the 3rd day that handed the game to Australia. I saw player after player play stupid shot after stupid shot. If I’d have been KP, I’d have been pissed off, given the light shining on him at Perth. The rationale? How can we question it, when all it seems to us is that KP’s a bit awkward, and we don’t want our lame duck captain to be any more lame than he already is.

But then, I’m outside cricket.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

I’ll reproduce my Tweet when I get the chance. This is hilarious. The ECB is a source of so much stuff it is untrue. Players leak all over the place. Freddie Flintoff, not a man I have a ton of time for, tweeted that if this was such a source of angst, maybe they should have fired Duncan Fletcher and some of his team-mates for their comments about him in 2006. The fact is that we all see the stories out there which go something like “The Telegraph understands that….” or “The Mail can exclusively reveal that…” These are players and officials briefing out of school. For the ECB to get pissy because KP told Moron before the announcement that he’d been fired is hilarious. It seems that instead of players and officials leaking about a fiery team meeting, they are somewhat interestingly, putting the blame elsewhere. KP hasn’t said he slagged off Flower. Moron is accusing Prior and/or Cook of doing it. Or are Muppet Pringle, Mike Selvey and Paul Newman integral parts of Team England? Has anyone extricated Nick Hoult from the ECB canteen yet?

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

You need to back Cook, and yet feel KP won’t. Who thinks he won’t. None of the players seem overly fussed. Graeme Swann, and reportedly Stuart Broad, hardly two founder members of the KP Fan Club, have said KP has been fine. Cook said he should go on for quite a while on Boxing Day, and then Ashley Giles called him a Million Dollar Player. Only when Cook was questioned about KP’s future later on in the tour was the temperature changed. To say that our criticism is uninformed, is because you’ve not informed anyone about what he’s done that’s so heinous that you need to ditch your most attacking player. Whether this criticism is unwarranted, frankly, is not for the ECB to judge. Again, one can’t get away from the smell of the educated officer class telling the plebs to shut the fuck up.

If KP has done something so terrible, then have the courage of your convictions and fire him. You’d have no shortage of media lickspittles to do your bidding. Because you can’t produce a smoking gun, you let us decide what the motivation is when you say nothing. To me it seems that you back a yes man like Cook, who is insecure because a popular (with the people) maverick like KP, not frightened to open his mouth when things go bad, and instead of saying get on with it, you’ve thrown the best batsman out with the bathwater, and instead of strengthening Cook’s position, you’ve made him look weak. The conclusion is that KP was a customer to hot for Cook to handle. Instead of this being an indictment on Cook (and Flower’s) leadership, you treated it as time to part. Yet again, we are the only cricketing nation who doesn’t give its top players a chance to bow out on their own terms unless they are good little boys. As was rightly said, somewhere on line, if Shane Warne were English, he’d have been booted out before 200 wickets. We can’t produce another Ian Botham, because one “gin-swilling dodderers” remark would have him out on his ear.

This statement was all about Know Your Place.

The citadel needs to be stormed. Not for KP, but for the next talented player with an opinion and ambition.

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