February 6, 2014

The ECB's vagueness problem

All that we know for certain is that Pietersen is out. The rest is a blurry collage of noncommittal sentences

Did he give his team-mates wedgies in the shower? Did he ask for the dressing room to be declared a blue-M&M-free zone? © Getty Images

Nature abhors a vacuum, but the ECB does not. It has created one in the middle order and another in public discourse. Facts about Kevin Pietersen's sacking are hard to come by. Omerta is in effect, and so fans are left to piece together a blurry collage using sentences culled from various articles, all of which begin "it is said… " or "there is a belief… "

How many horror films have been terrifying when you didn't know what you were even scared about, only to fall flat when the big revelation came? "Oh, it's just a giant spider. Ho hum." In the absence of detail, people's imaginations fill in the gaps with something that is invariably more extreme and powerful than the truth.

The vagueness surrounding Pietersen's departure encourages conjecture. In fact, considering who's involved, it positively demands it. But it can go both ways such that a guy who's clearly a right pain to work with is now starting to look like some kind of martyr. This is quite some achievement by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Rumours say that Pietersen was a bad influence on younger players. Going by recent results, so too, you could argue, were the coaches, captain and other support staff. As England's top run scorer of the recent Ashes series and the country's highest scorer of all time, across all formats, KP appeared to know a thing or two. Perhaps he didn't have enough influence.

Being "high maintenance" is another of the charges; one which conjures images of diva-like behaviour. Back in the day, Pakistan would indulge Inzamam-ul-Haq by allowing him to spend most of their net sessions reclining in a rattan chair. As long as he batted like a prince whenever he came to the crease, they didn't much care. Pietersen is a similarly exceptional batsman, so why not meet all of his demands? They must have been extraordinary. The point is, without detail, we can conclude pretty much anything. All that we know for certain is that he's out. So what are England fans left with?

"Everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy," said Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket.

The long term. The future. Rebuilding. The implication is that everything will be okay further down the line, which is invariably true if you wait long enough.

Long-term decisions are, of course, the easiest ones to make because you don't have to defend yourself in the short term - particularly when no one's in on the details. In fact you can hold critics at bay almost indefinitely. "No, it's not the long term yet. This is still only the medium term. This is a transitional period."

To gain some notion of what might be in store for England fans, let's look at another example of long-term planning that involved a senior player being discarded. Australia embarked on a period of "rebuilding" back in 2011 when they ejected Simon Katich from the team.

It's well known that Katich didn't exactly see eye to eye with Michael Clarke, except when grappling with him in the dressing room and it is generally accepted that this relationship played at least some part in his departure. Cricket-wise, he was arguably Australia's best-performing player at that time. How did things pan out?

Looking back on Katich's axing a few months ago, the chairman of Cricket Australia, Wally Edwards, admitted it was a mistake. He said the decision had been "an attempt to move from a very strong side to a new side", which seems an odd journey to try to take.

Katich's departure marked the start of an extended period of Australia being rubbish and this only really came to an end at the end of 2013. Young whippersnappers such as Chris Rogers, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Brad Haddin and others are the bedrock on which the new Australian side has been built. Looking to the future and embracing youth clearly reaped dividends.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on February 8, 2014, 4:43 GMT

    Glenn McGrath & Shane Warne were the best bowlers Australia have produced. They dominated Test matches and brought many wins to Australia, not least of which were a 5-0 trouncing of an England side which had won the Ashes from them.

    Then they retired. What a loss!

    Less than a decade later the Australian side has recovered sufficiently enough to inflict a 5-0 trouncing on an England side which has dominated recent Ashes contests.

    It seems fairly obvious to me......you'll get past Pietersen's retirement.

  • Channan on February 6, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    If I were, and I know I am not, Peterson should now look after Peterson. And that's that.

  • naresh on February 6, 2014, 14:47 GMT

    I hope people get the sarcasm in the last para - some oin the comments section do not seem to have.

    doh....or maybe I got it all wrong :)

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    Good article. The ECB is a bit like Fight Club, except that the First Rule of ECB is you don't talk about Kevin Pietersen's departure. Any cricket team needs a mixture of young players and more experienced, preferably brought into a winning side. The "experienced" nucleus should definitely include Cook, Bell, Broad (on cricketing grounds) KP and maybe Prior and Anderson (I am far from sure on the latter). The young players include Root and Stokes (that much is clear). The "long term" clearly (from the ECB's perspective) cannot include the forthcoming world T20 (where England would obviously be better with the 2010 Player of the Tournament than without him). And why was the incoming coach given no say on the decision (unless it's Peter Moores)? Until the ECB breaks its omerta speculation will continue.

  • Ross on February 6, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    @Rajeshj: That's the point. The Ozzies kicked Katich out to bring in a young team; but they have only won now after a while of being rubbish because of 4 older players.

    England have discarded Pieterson (and they pretty much discarded Collingwood) to rebuild with a focus on youth. Let's see if the next series they win is because of Anderson, Trott and Prior.

  • Steve on February 6, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    Liked this article, esp the comments under the photograph. Sent a comment to another article putting similar questions / suggestions myself! I have long thought that centrally contracted 'Team England ' eventually creates as many problems as it first solved, not the least of which is an exaggeration of problems such as kp being a 'difficult' character. The fact that as our best bat he improves our chances of winning has been lost under the daily hassle of dealing with a player who has his own opinions, sense of himself and doesn't like doing as he is told. Does his 'bad influence ' on younger players simply translate to encouraging them to think for themselves? That would certainly put a spanner in the works of the micro management. Similarly, is his batting advice to them undermining Gooch as the appointed coach? These problems grow out of proportion when they happen day after day, and have ultimately led to a decision that we would rather be a worse team without him!

  • Rajesh on February 6, 2014, 8:22 GMT

    I am not sure what the last para tells or the conclusion of Alex Bowden.. Was this a printing mistake... He says looking to the future and embracing youth clearly reaped dividends for Aussies.. And before that he cites a couple of oldies (Rogers and Haddin) and a couple of 30's (Johnson and Harris) in which the new Australian side has been built.. Do you mean to say that all these 4 guys are young guns... Harris is already limping and Johnson might run out of steam within a year.. Are you telling me that the Aussie performance in the recent Ashes is sustainable for another 2-3 years?? It must be the biggest joke.. I would really say that half of this team would disappear within a couple of years.. And KP is just 33 years old.. Well Cook, Flower and Giles have heaped numerous praises during this Ashes.. How can all these guys words go wrong within a month?? Something terribly wrong with Cook/Flower etc... they need to be booked for lying so loudly too.. absolute lack of character..

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 6:40 GMT

    The last para just seals the deal. Thank you

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