The former England captain's take on the fortnight in cricket

'KP's attitude hard to understand'

England's resurgence in the Ashes, Flintoff's decision to retire, and the West Indies contracts issue (17:27)

July 20, 2009


The Tony Greig Show

'KP's attitude hard to understand'

July 20, 2009

Johnson: a bit of a problem for Australia at the moment © Getty Images

The Ashes are underway, and once again it seems that this is going to be an exciting series. The Aussies will be spitting chips. Despite totally outplaying England in Cardiff, they didn't manage to finish England off. Everyone should be excused for thinking that the Aussie dominance in the first Test would be carried forward to Lord's, but not so. True to the vagaries of the Test match format, England have managed to dramatically turn the tables on Ponting and his team, and barring inclement weather England will win and go one up in the series. Confidence has been restored and once again the England bowlers look better equipped than their opposition.

The standard of the cricket played by both sides thus far has not been great, but because this is the Ashes, only the connoisseurs will make an issue of this. It seems to me that this series, like that in 2005, will be decided by which team's bowlers manage, on a consistent basis, to extract movement through the air. Swing is yet again the key to the series.

I find it a little hard to understand the attitude of Kevin Pietersen. He is such a naturally talented batsman and could so easily play a pivotal role in the series. His shot in Cardiff, when so much depended on him, was an abomination. All Pietersen has to do is to control himself in Tests, and he will make a world of difference to England. Having played one of the worst shots I have ever seen by a leading batsman in a tight situation, Pietersen then had the audacity to tell all and sundry that we better get used to it because he wasn't about to change his attitude to batting. All I can say is that if I were his captain I would be making it absolutely clear to him that if he persisted with that attitude he would lose my support and possibly his position in the team. Let's face it: the 50- and 20-over formats allow him to be as adventurous as he wishes. A player of his class should want to prove to us that he has the temperament to handle all three formats of the game.

Some former cricketers have questioned Andrew Strauss's captaincy but I'm certainly not going to jump on that bandwagon yet, as I have not seen enough of him in the job to feel strongly one way or the other. In any event, when criticising a captain one had better have an alternative in mind, and right now I don't think England has one. In years gone, England have on occasions resorted to captains not good enough to hold a permanent position in the team, but Strauss is scoring runs and is very much a regular member of the team. He has a good temperament and seems calm, so I am definitely prepared to give him time to prove what he can do with the captaincy.

"There is a school of thought that West Indies would be better served by abandoning their current formula in favour of one that recognises each individual West Indies nation as an associate of the ICC. This way the factionalism will be broken down, and places like Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, in particular, could, given time, become Test-playing countries in their own right"

Right now, Australia doesn't have a captaincy issue, even though Ponting is becoming a bit of a whinger. But they do have a few other serious problems to resolve. Mitchell Johnson has gone from one of the most dangerous bowlers in the world to just another scatter-gun slinger. Having watched Johnson develop in quick time to a fine bowler, I am certainly not going to write him off yet, but he too will have his work ethic and temperament seriously tested before the Ashes is over. There have been plenty of bowlers over the years who have hit the big time running only to disappear once the batsmen of the world have had a chance to work them out. It's also worth remembering that Stuart Clark is champing at the bit for a go, and it won't be long before Brett Lee is back in contention. Johnson will have to play in the county match after the Test, and if his wayward ways continue he may well be dropped - which would have been completely unthinkable at the start of the tour.

After England's dismal performance with the ball in Cardiff, I thought the selectors had to play Steve Harmison, partly because he is in such good form. The way he ruffled up Phillip Hughes just prior to the first Test was an expression of intent by Harmison, but it seems he is still out of favour. I think he will be back soon. In the meantime England are persisting with Stuart Broad, who seems to me to be lacking in pace and movement. Sure, he brings a bit to the party with his batting, but to win Tests, teams have to take 20 wickets. In Cardiff, they struggled to get 10. Having said that, things have improved dramatically at Lord's. So unless there are injuries the selectors will be inclined to stick with the same team.

Flintoff's decision
The news that Andrew Flintoff is to retire from Test cricket will come as a shock to many cricket lovers, especially when we've been hearing so much from top players about their great love for the Test match format. There will be many sceptics who will point to the riches that there are for the likes of Flintoff in the Twenty/20 leagues that are and will continue to spring up everywhere. We already have the Indian Premier League and let's face it, there will be an English Premier League, a Southern Hemisphere Premier League, and even an American Cricket League, so there will be plenty of opportunity for Flintoff, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and any other recently retired stars to earn a mountain of cash. Let's not be unfair to Flintoff - he has been to hell and back with injuries to his shoulder, knee and ankle, and has clearly had enough of the operating table and painkillers. He has decided to give away the tough stuff, the Tests, and play limited-overs only in the knowledge that he could well be better off financially, and more importantly, free of pain.

Crisis in the West Indies
The controversy between the West Indies Cricket Board and its players has resulted in the best players withdrawing their services, and as a result Bangladesh is playing what is effectively a West Indies second team in Tests. While this is a dreadful state of affairs for cricket, it has been on the cards for a while now. There is absolutely no doubt that both the administrators and the players in the West Indies are to blame for the position they find themselves in. It is nonsense to say that the players haven't had contracts, because on numerous occasions they have been offered contracts only to knock them back because the terms weren't to the liking of the players, or perhaps more pertinently, those negotiating on their behalf.

More money, less pain: a future in Twenty20 is a no-brainer for Flintoff © Getty Images

There is a school of thought that this impasse will never be resolved and that the West Indies would be better served by abandoning their current formula in favour of one that recognises each individual West Indies nation as an associate of the ICC. This way the factionalism will be broken down, and places like Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, in particular, could, given time, become Test-playing countries in their own right. This formula works well for them in all other sports, so why not cricket? It would be sad to see, but no worse than the current state of affairs.

The challenge before the ICC
The ICC has long been working hard to expand cricket's boundaries and the advent of the exciting Twenty20 format certainly offers more opportunity. The US is one market that everyone seems to think is worth having a crack at, and it now seems that the USACA and the ICC will make a meaningful effort to get cricket off the ground in the US. I have a few reservations, not so much about trying to spread the cricket word but more about how we go about it. India's IPL has been a great success and every other cricket-playing nation is trying to work out how they too can get a piece of the Twenty20 pie. The ICC needs to come up with a formula that satisfies everyone, or we run the risk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. I have said this before, and don't mind reiterating that no individual country, including India, can expect to utilise the services of players from other countries unless they are prepared to share some of the spoils with the country responsible for the development of those cricketers. It is simply not enough to only reward the players. It's only a question of time before this issue blows up, and until it's resolved the game will experience problems.

Pakistan's difficult state
The series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan has been disappointing mainly because Pakistan have under-achieved. The political state of affairs and general unrest in Pakistan has resulted in the Pakistan players being deprived of the sort of consistent exposure needed at the highest level. There have been so many changes both on and off the field that the players' heads must be spinning. Pakistan is a bit like South Africa during the apartheid years, and Zimbabwe right now. It's hard to conduct normal cricket in an abnormal society. This is such a shame, because I firmly believe that Pakistan are brilliant, naturally talented players who are so good for our game. We just have to do everything that we can to make sure they don't become a cricket basket case, like the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Talk to Tony

In this fortnight's show, Tony Greig discuses whether the era of fast-bowling allrounders is coming to an end with Cricinfo readers Chris Howard from Wangaratta in Victoria, Australia and Brendan Layton from Sydney.

The Tony Greig Show runs fortnightly on Mondays. You have an opportunity to be part of the show every fortnight. All you have to do is send in your queries here and Tony will pick a couple of you to discuss a cricket issue with.

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