Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores: no going back
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Peter Moores could be sacked by the ECB before the end of the week, with his position as England coach becoming untenable in the wake of his public falling-out with the captain, Kevin Pietersen.
Hugh Morris, the ECB's director of England Cricket and a close friend of Moores, has stepped in to mediate in the row, although the final decision on Moores' position will be taken by David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB. The die, however, is already cast for a coach who took over from Duncan Fletcher barely 18 months ago, but whose record of eight wins from 22 Tests - seven of those against the lowly-ranked West Indies and New Zealand - does not stand up to scrutiny.
According to Nasser Hussain, who understands dressing-room politics better than most after his experiences as England captain between 1999 and 2003, Moores has to go because he is in a no-win situation. "If you are asking me who is more important, Kevin Pietersen or Peter Moores, then there is only one winner and that's Kevin Pietersen," Hussain told Sky Sports. "That's what he knows and that's why he's probably flexing his muscles.
"Somehow Hugh Morris has to calm this situation down otherwise it looks like Moores might have to go. I feel sorry for the bloke because he deserves time and if he doesn't do well then the ECB make the decision."
The England squad is due to fly out to the Caribbean on January 21, to begin their four-Test series against West Indies, leaving the team management barely a fortnight either to iron out the differences or, more probably, to identify a short-term replacement. Ashley Giles, Warwickshire's director of cricket and an England selector, has been touted as a possible stand-in, although his lack of coaching experience makes him a doubtful candidate for the permanent role, especially with an Ashes series now only six months away.
Pietersen is currently away on holiday in Africa - and it was his apparent absence from the discussions that led to Michael Vaughan's omission from the West Indies squad that escalated the current row. He did, however, offer his thoughts in his News of the World column, describing the situation as "not healthy".
"We have to make sure it is settled as soon as possible and certainly before we fly off to the West Indies," said Pietersen. "Everything has to be hunky dory, everybody has to have the same aims and pull in the same direction for the good of the England team."
If Moores does go, and his dismissal could cost the ECB up to £250,000, then the fall-out could extend beyond the immediate stand-off between him and Pietersen. His modus operandi was to build an umbrella of support - from the batting coach, Andy Flower, through Ottis Gibson the bowling coach to Richard Halsall the recently installed fielding coach. It remains to be seen how many of the backroom staff would be willing to continue in such a disaffected environment.
Then, of course, there will be the effect on the players themselves. Moores' methods were described by one team member as "in your face", and he may not be missed by the entire set-up. Andrew Flintoff, however, is one significant player who is understood to be content with his relationship with the coach - and he is a man whom Pietersen can't afford to alienate in the dressing-room.
Hussain, however, believes that when push comes to shove in the dressing-room, there's only one way the opinion of the team will fall.
"It's absolutely not ideal in an Ashes year for the public to know the captain and the coach are not gelling, and not getting on, but more importantly the players now know," he told Sky Sports. "There have been some doubts in the last year or so over whether Pietersen and Moores clash in terms of personalities - they are two entirely different people.
"Pietersen is outgoing, single-minded; Moores is much more measured, diplomatic. But now the players know that and at any meeting, whether it be before the Ashes or before the West Indies, when Moores speaks the players will be thinking, 'KP doesn't buy into this, or KP thinks this is a load of rubbish. Who are we going to listen to?' "