England news January 9, 2014

Flower, KP and the England blame game

The blame game seems all the rage at the moment. Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen are both attracting flak and English cricket is all the worse for it

Hopps: England can't be two-faced on IPL promise

The blame game seems all the rage at the moment.

It's obvious, isn't it, that Kevin Pietersen was entirely at fault for the 5-0 Ashes score? He constantly falls out with coaches and management; plays irresponsible shots; doesn't pull his weight; fields on the boundary; gives warm-up matches short shrift; is a bad influence on younger players and, of course, he wants to play in the IPL.

Or is it? How about it is Andy Flower who can't work with Pietersen; those irresponsible shots were an attempt to wrestle some initiative back (this is, after all, was an England team called too timid and defensive); he was his team's top scorer and if someone had helped him could have laid a foundation for a win in Melbourne; he has never been much of a catcher so why not field on the boundary; he trains as hard as anyone and if those young players have his work ethic they will go far; and all England contracts now allow for an extended IPL window.

The ECB dropped the ball on Twenty20, it's not the players' fault for wanting their slice. Those that want to play should not be castigated, just as those who decline should not be made out to be saints.

The point is not to suggest that either side of the Flower-Pietersen argument is wrong or right - some of those examples are too simplistic - but just to encourage some rational thinking in the whole affair.

It is a good job Flower is no longer in day-to-day charge of the one-day side and to a lesser extent that Pietersen is rested because everyone just needs to take a step back and a deep breath. In defence of Flower, that is what he has publicly said he wants to do.

Clearly differences have emerged on the tour - these things tend to happen during a whitewash - but no one believed that Flower and Pietersen would become bosom buddies after what happened in 2012. Even before then it was fairly obvious it was nothing more than a professional relationship. Flower, remember, was part of Peter Moores' backroom staff when the debacle between Pietersen and Moores occurred at the end of 2008. Then when Pietersen left the 2011 World Cup injured, Flower made it clear that he thought the batsman could have battled through the pain.

Neither does it sound like Pietersen, if he has transgressed, was the only one. Matt Prior, in his Daily Telegraph column, talked in general terms about the team losing their respect, becoming lazy with little details such as dress code and team meetings. They sound trivial, but also sound strikingly similar to what happened to Australia in India.

During that episode four players were suspended for not doing 'homework'. One of them was Mitchell Johnson, now an Ashes legend, along with Shane Watson, a key part of Australia's side, and James Pattinson who can still develop into a world-class quick. Only Usman Khawaja has drifted off the scene.

The man to pay the biggest price, ultimately, was Mickey Arthur. His reputation has taken a hammering due to how his Australian career ended, but he remains a highly credentialed coach. In the end, Cricket Australia decided it was him, rather than some potential bad influences among the players, who needed removing.

That is not to say the same should happen to Flower - it clearly won't, given the support he has within the walls of the ECB boardroom. The only way he will leave is if he is not backed over his Pietersen stance, once it becomes apparent how extreme that stance will be.

Flower had his chance once to remove Pietersen from English cricket and was talked around, in no small part to Alastair Cook and it remains to seen how much influence Cook (who is in Australia for another three weeks) will have this time. The call has been for Cook to be allowed to build the team in his mould, but Flower will be in a tough position if that mould still includes Pietersen.

Pietersen is far from faultless in all this. For starters he needs to step away from Twitter for a while and just lie low. There are some raw feelings at the moment and retweeting columns where Michael Vaughan calls for you to be made vice-captain are unlikely to help. Neither, for that matter, is engaging with respected cricket journalists who make cogent arguments regardless of which side of the fence you sit on.

Pietersen's track-record of alienating people is long, involving most, if not all, his former teams. But since committing his future to English cricket (what happened in South Africa was perhaps a warning of what could occur later on, but also stemmed from wider issues) would any of them really be telling the truth if they said they were a better side without him?

What must Paul Downton be thinking? Those 5.30am alarm calls to go and tackle high-level investors and stock-market fluctuations will seem easy compared to the mess he is stepping into. In fact, he doesn't actually start officially until February 1 but you suspect that his inbox is already overflowing.

The transition of control from Hugh Morris to Downton (along with James Whitaker taking over from Geoff Miller as national selector) has encouraged a feeling that Flower has unimpeachable authority within English cricket. He is a fine man and outstanding coach but that is not a healthy position to be in.

And, while it is not the be-all and end-all, English cricket could do with regaining a human element. It is easy to make too much of the 'fun' introduced by Darren Lehmann, but neither should it be overlooked. What can't be doubted is that Lehmann has helped Australian cricket re-engaged with the public.

If it is Flower who wins out in this latest power struggle, he could do worse than heed that lesson. It would not look good to have ousted the most dynamic player in the team and not respond by becoming a touch more accessible.

This may be the end for Pietersen, who knows, but it should not be made out that he provided all the ills of an Ashes campaign where few came out smelling of roses. The problems in English cricket, which have festered for longer than this blighted tour, will not be solved by just removing one of the greatest batsmen of this generation.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2014, 0:16 GMT

    The fact is that the last time to do ANYTHING - let alone sack arguably your best player - is a week after you've just lost a 5-0 series. We've been through it before (only, as I recall, it was pedalos that made the news last time 'round) and came back in roaring fashion - why not this time too? I also seem to remember a certain G. Boycott being regarded as a pretty devisive character in the changing-room. Didn't stop him from topping 8,000 runs for England though, or rescuing us from some naughty situations - and that's when we weren't as good a team. These things go in pendulum swings, and we've had the best of the Ozzies for the better part of 10 years now; perhaps we were due for a wake-up call. I do agree though that it might be worth taking a leaf out of Darren Lehmann's book: It's a GAME chaps; stop naval gazing and go out and *enjoy* it - and forget the folks who think their grannies could do better.

  • Kiran on January 13, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    Get rid of Pietersen immediately. India is touring England this year and it would be good to face England without him. Bring in someone like Robert key who is more disciplined, listens to Flower and does not play IPL.Please !!!

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    As Hansen put it as an Australian, dropping KP is a good idea, for other teams, not team England.

    We are already destroying the promise shown by Root in his earlier innings. Because of chopping and changing he is rapidly going downhill. Welcome to mediocre England of the past.

  • Md Risalat on January 11, 2014, 17:28 GMT

    The entire team management to be blamed of course and KP should be one of the last few to take the flack who didn't have a, particularly, bad tour, all things considered. When Trott became unavailable, that void could've easily been filled with Compton who had been treated unfairly to begin with. Then, there's the Bresnan issue. Everytime and it is absolutely everytime the chosen 3rd seamer for the 1st test of a series hadn't performed to the highest of expectations after being out of the team for a while and replacing Bresnan, the management goes back to Bresnan straightway. That 3rd seamer needed a fair go. But no, we bring 3 seamers to fill in the 3rd seamer slot but persist with Bresnan anyway. That's the mentality we need to get rid of for which the management is solely responsible. Why even bother bringing Panesar when he would be underused anyway? Those 3 key issues alongside the general weakness facing Mitchell Johnson as he'd started to breed fear and havoc were enough

  • Rue on January 11, 2014, 12:21 GMT

    I don't care about statistics really. Vaughan and Trescothick would of not got a look I if you go on averages. I'm sorry to say that many. England supporters forget what a match winner KP is. he has played three of the most outstanding match winning innings in the last two years.. The one against India was staggering! He is a phenomenal player who does not deserve to be hung out to dry by Flower or Cook.

  • Sandeep on January 11, 2014, 11:21 GMT

    Both Alastair Cook and Andy Flower create a constrained, conservative and restrictive attitude in the dressing room, and for that reason Cook should be replaced as a captain and Flower should be sacked immediately as a coach. I think the ideal england team atmosphere would be in 2005 when they beat Australia- created by Duncan Fletcher. They played a thrilling brand of cricket which resulted from their love and enjoyment of the game. And the dressing room atmosphere rubbed off on KP- back then he was completely fearless and simply went out and had fun- culminating in a majestic 158 at the oval. To bring out the best in KP, a different dressing room atmosphere has to be created. He is a special player and a match winner- but of late his batting has changed- it can get back to where it was when he finds his old sense of enjoyment. Keep KP and unlock his best by changing the coach and captain

  • David on January 11, 2014, 11:13 GMT

    @sam kumar - as an insider I can only say thank you for your comment

  • Bob on January 11, 2014, 10:36 GMT

    @ Yevghenn.... You continue to miss the fact that the discussion is about Pietersen.. not anyone else..His past performances mean nothing...If you start selecting people because of what they done in the past...you could bring back all sorts of players...His current form and all the other inter-related matters are what will influence whether or not he is worth his place in the team. However, I can see that if any proof of the old saying, that there are none so blind as those who will not see, is needed, we need only read your undying support for him... I will be surprised if the selectors see things the way you do ...

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2014, 1:15 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding as an outsider, I can say you are making zero sense, despite all your wailing!

  • David on January 10, 2014, 20:12 GMT

    @Yorkshire Pud - all he has to do is what wally Hammond did a few years back: 563 in two innings for once out.

  • No featured comments at the moment.