Mike Holmans January 9, 2009


Pietersen will no doubt be very disappointed, but I expect him to get over it quickly

“The Pietersen Captaincy” ought to be a Robert Ludlum thriller. All the ingredients are there. We have the central character being thrust into a position for which he is woefully under-qualified and over which he has no control, with the strings being pulled by a shadowy cabal (in this case, the ECB). The action zooms from one exotic location to another, strange foreigners turn up with huge quantities of money which suddenly disappear, bombs go off, presumed allies turn out to be working for the other side, and in the end the shadowy cabal decides to eliminate our hero, though he escapes their clutches – in this case by resigning before the hit man turned up.

The merciful difference is that the average Ludlum doorstop weighs in at 700 pages, whereas the KP-as-captain interlude lasted less than five months.

The point to realise is that it was inevitable. Whether it’s Bradman, Sobers or King Viv, Botham or Flintoff, Lara or Tendulkar, whenever you have a superstar towering above a team, especially a team of relative nobodies, the superstar will inevitably be made captain at some point whether or not he is fitted for the job.

There are two possible good outcomes to this: one is the Bradman result, where it turns out that he is a brilliant captain; the other is what has happened with KP – it takes very little time for it to become apparent that he is the wrong man for the job and he leaves, whether voluntarily or not. The saga of Brian Lara, who by the end was so hated by his team that only Dwayne Bravo was prepared to speak his name, shows what disasters await the team which does not lance the boil early.

So it’s much better to have had the inevitable row now, when the team can go and pull itself back together on Caribbean beaches, than in the middle of an Ashes series in six months time. Pietersen will no doubt be very disappointed, but I expect him to get over it quickly. His overriding aim has always been to be recognised as the world’s number one batsman and after this setback, the only route to the king’s castle lies over mountains of Test runs.

It’s unfortunate for Peter Moores that he got frazzled in the shootout, because his reputation has been unfairly tarnished. His failure to inspire the England team of 2007-08 only means that he was wrong for this team at this time, not that he’s a rubbish coach who shouldn’t be employed by anyone. He would have been praised to the skies by Graham Gooch as being just the man to instil some discipline in a squad infected by the Botham-Lamb-Gower wine-quaffing axis of the late 1980s, and when he was captain, Alec Stewart would have been totally sincere when saying “Very much so” in response to Charles Colvile’s question as to whether Moores was a good coach.

The pleasant surprise in all this has been the thorough and decisive way in which the ECB have dealt with it. Hugh Morris quickly assessed the true levels of support that KP and Moores had from both the playing and support staffs, and the board did not temporise, appeal for calm and set up a working party. There’s been a big foofaraw and a lot of heated language, but it’s blown up and been settled in less than a week where under previous adminstrations we’d have been subjected to months of faction-fighting in the press while the team disintegrated. When we come to look back on this episode, we will see that it was a relatively painless rite of passage.