England news May 22, 2014

'Unanimous feeling' against KP - Downton


Paul Downton has claimed there was a "unanimous feeling" within the England camp that the time had come to move on from Kevin Pietersen and suggested the team who lost the Ashes had fallen "into a mindset thinking they were better than they were".

Downton, the new managing director of England cricket, told the BBC's Test Match Special that he talked to every member of the England management on the Ashes tour and quite a few senior players and "couldn't find one supporter" for Pietersen.

"All I know is I and others wanted people purely focused on playing for England," Downton said. "There was an enormous amount of frustration surrounding KP from everyone in the management team. I watched every ball of the Sydney Test and I had never seen anyone as disinterested or distracted on a cricket field.

"The accusation made was that he had too many different agendas and was not 100 per cent focused on playing for England. Who knows if that's right but that was the unanimous feeling. I couldn't find one supporter saying 'we want KP to stay in the side'.

"I'm not saying all that happened in Australia was down to KP. Dynamics disintegrate when you're under pressure. Maybe all the players were a bit distracted in terms of commercial opportunities. Test cricket is hard work and back-to-back Ashes series had an enormous effect on mental energy. We suffered from that point of view."

While Downton reiterated that there was no single incident that led him to conclude that the time had come to drop Pietersen, he accepted that, from a PR perspective, it would have been easier to dismiss Pietersen as a direct result of the "textgate" issue in 2012.

"The public would have understood it more," Downton said. "Andy Flower was trying to back Alastair Cook ahead of the tour to India and a peace deal was brokered. But a huge amount of trust was lost.

"He was brought back, which opened the opportunity up for rehabilitation. In the end that lasted 18 months and we've decided to make a split. The team has to grow and rebuild and can only do it without KP in the side.

"KP had a fantastic career but it was not incident free," Downton said. "There were issues. We managed KP fantastically. He played 10 years of Tests. But there was a strong feeling within the management that team won't grow until we make a decision and move on.

"We played on wickets that were slow and our batsmen lost confidence and we became too tight. We defended rather than attacked and fell apart under immense pressure."
Paul Downton

"We had to rebuild the side. That side, with KP in it, had just lost 5-0. We lost Strauss 18 months ago and never really replaced him. Graeme Swann retired during the tour and Jonathan Trott, who I saw yesterday, is recovering but is quite long way from getting back to playing cricket. So we made a decision on KP. We had to rebuild the side. And we had to decide who we were going to back. Were Cook and Bell going to be backbone, or were we going to back KP? It became a bit of a no-brainer.

Downton also admitted that he, and the ECB, could perhaps have handled the situation better in the days following the decision not to select him for the World T20 which sparked a backlash on social media.

"We told KP 'we won't pick you for the World T20'. From then on he was clear he wanted to come to a settlement to terminate central contract. His team pushed for that. We would have been quite happy to let the contract run out. It was a week before the IPL auction. KP wanted the freedom to play where he wanted to play and he won a big contract because of it.

"The lawyers took three days to argue to and fro and it did leave a vacuum. I'd been in the job a week and I didn't know how best to handle it. I was not aware of social media at the time. It was always going to be noisy. But the sooner people understand that we have cut our ties with KP and moved on and that we're investing in younger players coming in to rebuild the side, the better."

Downton also suggested that the England team that lost the Ashes 5-0 had developed a mindset that overestimated their ability.

"There was a group of players together for a long time," he said. "And, in the words of Graham Gooch, felt they had one more tour left. There was a huge focus to win in India and keep the Ashes, but they were starting to play slightly defensive cricket.

"They had a wake-up call in New Zealand, then struggled over here again in the Ashes and we slowly lost confidence. We played on wickets that were slow and our batsmen lost confidence and we became too tight. We defended rather than attacked and fell apart under immense pressure.

"It's very rare when you have such a settled group for so long and it's very different not to become stale. The preparation and planning was the same in 2013 as it had been in 2010-11 but we couldn't recreate the same sense of urgency. The tanks were empty.

"Maybe, as a collective, the team got into a mindset thinking they were better than they were. No-one was deliberately complacent but maybe success turned out to be a false cocoon around them."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 24, 2014, 15:20 GMT

    England did not loose series because of KP.It was collapse of whole team.

  • Amit on May 24, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Ashes was a collective failure and if this were a real / professional institution, the accountability would've been at the very top of the chain. In this case, it would have been AF / Cook / Management team for failing with strategy and for losing the confidence of the players in the strategy over the series after continuous failures. And then, you would've looked at the players who didn't perform. However, the way it's been handled is the complete opposite. There's neither a public recognition or criticism of failure of the strategy, the man who devised it (AF), nor of the man responsible for executing it on ground (AC). Instead, they've found a way to pin it on one guy in a team sport, for their own failure to "manage" him because he was the one senior player with courage to criticize the plans. Pathetic!

  • Amit on May 24, 2014, 12:05 GMT

    Slating a player after sacking him, is an absolute disgrace. And what's funny, is the little amount of ink used to really dig into some issues like inadequacy of replacements and no real development of bench strength that are going to affect the performance of the team now that Swann / Trott and KP are all out. While England did enjoy a season and half of glory under AF and his BIG team, if there has to be a real analysis of the previous regime, then these are real issues that should not be overlooked. I can understand if these conversations (and criticism of AF/Gooch etc.) were being had in private, but why not have the same standards for one of your best players in last decade and stay away from insulting him in public?

  • Dummy4 on May 24, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    It is totally wrong to make KP the scapegoat for the 5-0 loss in Australia. There were many reasons for the loss - poor form of Cook, Bell, the inability of the bowlers to break through the middle order and the amazing consistancy of the Aussie bowlers. KP and Carbury tried to take on the bowlers with reasonable success but the middle order just fell apart. If he was difficult to handle ,well paid management team should have stepped in and sorted it out as it's their job to do so. As I recall there were many difficult stars ie: Boycott, Flintoff and Botham etc. who were handled quite well in the past. As for me I have lost interest in the English team whom I have loved and followed over 60 years.

  • Dheeban on May 24, 2014, 6:40 GMT

    What an absolute non-sense! You don't pick or drop a player if he has any supporter in the team? What is this? Priiviliged Golf Club? This is a national Cricket team. You pick the best players and manage them. If you can't manage them, resign and let someone else manage them..

  • rob on May 24, 2014, 0:53 GMT

    @ SirViv1973: Funny you should mention Swann. I was thinking just the other day that England are going to miss Swann nearly as much as we miss Warne. SKW retired 7 years ago and we STILL haven't found a replacement for him. Lyon does a commendable job but he's not likely to tear the guts out of batting list like Warne could. .. anyway, I don't think it'll take 7+ years to find a like-for-like replacement for Swanny but he was a cracker of a bowler and they don't exactly grow on trees.

  • Dummy4 on May 23, 2014, 23:32 GMT

    Why do the ECB keep perpetuating this story? Yawn! Move on this is not helping England, concentrate on now not what's happened in the past!

  • lkselva on May 23, 2014, 21:25 GMT

    We all know England would not have got Ashes in 2005 or World T20 in 2010 without KP. Why they talk about KP in this uncultured way? They have to prove in action and win the games ..even then, KP is the top player for England. I stopped watching England cricket afte KP was sacked.

  • Ali on May 23, 2014, 19:24 GMT

    "We played on wickets that were slow and our batsmen lost confidence and we became too tight. We defended rather than attacked and fell apart under immense pressure." Paul Downton

    yet,, you drop your most attacking batsman .. and have continuously, during his entire career, criticized him for being too aggressive !

  • niaz on May 23, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    "The others did not like him".. is not a good explanation. What has he done that caused it? I guess there is nothing significant. He probably advised young batsmen to bat with instinct rather than technique. Both have merits. The point is england did not do well. KP did ok. He should have retained. KP is not your best likeable personality but he was not the reason England lost. As matter of fact I find his captaincy in IPL very poor. Cook on the other hand is a better captain. May be KP could not take the loss and wanted a change and Cook knew KP did not have the cricketing brain. But he has got his batting. It makes no sense to smear KP the person.

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