England's Pietersen dilemma

Collier apologises over Pietersen remarks

George Dobell

October 15, 2012

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

ECB chief executive David Collier, January 27, 2012
David Collier sparked controversy with his radio interview about Kevin Pietersen © PA Photos
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David Collier, the ECB chief executive, has apologised for suggesting that South African players "provoked" Kevin Pietersen into sending the messages that led to the player being dropped from the England team.

Pietersen was omitted from the England team for the third Test of the series between England and South Africa in August after it emerged he had sent messages containing inappropriate comments about the England captain, Andrew Strauss, to members of the South Africa touring party. Pietersen was subsequently omitted from England World T20 squad and their squad for the Test tour of India, though he is now undergoing a "rehabilitation" process that could see him return to the side shortly.

Just as it seemed the matter was close to resolution, however, Collier gave a live radio interview with the BBC on October 7 in which he claimed Pietersen had been reacting to messages from members of the South Africa team and that the episode may have been orchestrated to disrupt the England dressing room.

Asked about the context of the messages sent from Pietersen to members of the South Africa touring party, Collier replied: "These were responses to messages from certain members of the South Africa team and I would not condone an England player doing it if it was the other way around, and I certainly think they provoked the situation. There was definitely a policy that was happening but we shouldn't blame the South Africans, we should be above that. I think there was a tactic which was used. I think that is sadly some of the ways of modern sport."

The comments angered Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the South Africa Cricketers' Association (SACA). The acting chief executive of the former, Jacques Faul, expressed his "disappointment", while SACA demanded an apology. While it is clear that the ECB and CSA do not agree on all the details of the episode, they have now released a joint statement making it clear that Collier has apologised for his comments and underlined the respect the ECB have for the "highest ethical standards of behaviour" observed by South Africa players:

"CSA and ECB have discussed the events which led to Kevin Pietersen's non-selection for the third test," the statement said.

"Cricket South Africa has made clear to ECB that the electronic messages were not part of any initiative or plan to undermine the England team or players. ECB has unreservedly accepted that assurance and wishes to reiterate that it has no issue at all with CSA - or the Proteas players - on this matter and appreciates that the South African and England players follow the highest ethical standards of behaviour.

"Although the two boards do not agree on the sequence of events regarding any responses to messages between Kevin Pietersen and certain Proteas players, CSA and SACA accept Mr Collier's apology based upon his earlier utterances that the team may have acted in a way which was underhand. Both CSA and ECB regard this matter as now closed and will not comment on the confidential information shared in discussion between the boards."

The episode is an embarrassment to the ECB and may well lead to questions about Collier's future. But, while Collier will forever be tainted by his involvement with the Stanford debacle, his record as CEO is, on the whole, good. The England team has climbed the rankings in all formats since he was appointed in 2004 and the ECB has gone from a position of poverty to boasting a surplus of more than £20m.

Furthermore, the ECB lead the way in the funding of women's and disability cricket, while huge sums - in excess of £30m a year - have been invested in grassroots cricket and the numbers of people playing the game has doubled. He was close to being appointed CEO of the ICC earlier this year, but missed out to former South Africa wicketkeeper Dave Richardson.

The issue will do little to improve relations between the ECB and Pietersen, though. While Collier has previously admitted that the ECB has never seen the messages, which were reported to be deleted some weeks ago, they have received a "binding assurance" from Pietersen that they were not derogatory of Strauss and did not contain tactical advice. It seems they also accepted, at the time, that they were sent in response to messages from South Africa players.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Dirk_L on (October 17, 2012, 13:22 GMT)

@Army-Jim: England never was #1 in all three formats at the same time (SA was, though very briefly) but still is the ODI #1.

Posted by Hammond on (October 17, 2012, 10:45 GMT)

@Mervo- the ECB never recruited anyone. The Kolpak decision opened the door. But I don't expect anyone who wants to fly that "England are good because of South Africans" flag to actually even recognise the truth, let alone acknowledge the truth openly on a cricket forum.

Posted by ArmyJim on (October 16, 2012, 19:14 GMT)

I think it's time the (gutter) press dropped this and we just get back on with the game. No matter what you think of KP, England have just had a very poor T20 WC series, we can never prove it would have been different with him playing. What we can say is that we have goner in a very short time from being number one in all formats, to (I believe) not number one in any format.

Posted by 2nd_Slip on (October 16, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

@Mervo and @ jr1972 ABSOLUTELY TRUE, YOU COULDNT HAVE SAID IT BETTER

Posted by csr11 on (October 16, 2012, 10:31 GMT)

To my English friends, Keep flogging this dead horse please.. it is hilarious.. and definitely more entertaining than champions league..

Posted by disco_bob on (October 16, 2012, 8:01 GMT)

@Dirk_L, what I meant was the hypothetical situation where KP did not leave SA in the first place and simply fought his way into the side so by now he would be an established player surrounded by others of commensurate ability, because ostensibly that was his raison d'etre for jumping ship. Just seemed a little impatient. England only gave him the opportunity to express himself and not always with regards to cricket. There's no doubt that KP is a remarkable talent and in retrospect SA was the place to fully develop it. I cannot imagine anyone in England ever considering him English, as opposed to say Straussy, who does seem to have a fair dash of English pluck about him.

Posted by Dirk_L on (October 16, 2012, 5:31 GMT)

@disco_bob: KP's absence may leave a yawning gap in the England team, but I don't see the corresponding gap in the SA team where he would slot into. In place of Amla? Kallis? De Villiers? Clearly not. Duminy? Objectively maybe, but there are obvious reasons why Duminy is now permanent. Rudolph? His place will have to be sacrificed to make room for a specialist wicketkeeper. No, KP is irrevocably English now. When he left SA, he was a mediocre bowling allrounder. England made him what he has turned into. Kevin the man may have a South African heart, but Kevin the cricketer is English.

Posted by Ronaldus on (October 16, 2012, 5:23 GMT)

There is an old adage that says "the more skilful your sports administration the better your team's performance on the field". The recent decline in England's performance on the field in all forms of cricket tells me something about the competence of Collier and his colleagues in the boardroom. I agree a code of conduct for administrators suggested by some readers is worth considering.

Posted by ghost_of_len_hutton on (October 16, 2012, 0:13 GMT)

A storm in a teacup, by gum. As no-one has access to the texts now, I respectfully suggest we all move on. There's literally nothing to see here anymore.

Posted by disco_bob on (October 15, 2012, 23:54 GMT)

It is ironic that if KP was in the current SA squad they could well be in a position to dominate Test cricket as the number one team for a long time and he would have finally received the adulation that seems to be his motivating force. As it is now, with England he'll never be regarded as a truly great player, and he'll never be thought of as a true English player either, which is why it's Fredalo's heroics that are remembered in 2005 not Pietersen's Ashes winning Oval knock.

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