Like a tired bear in winter, let’s try and put this to bed for a few days. Maybe it’ll have to get up again at some point next week to go for a wee, but we’re kind of hoping that we can concentrate on the New Zealand series from now on.
As far as we can tell, this is how it’s gone…
Colin Graves told Kevin Pietersen that if he came back and played county cricket and maybe made a triple hundred, he couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team. He said this because he genuinely couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team.
Then, while Graves was in the Caribbean, he discovered that England’s captain, Alastair Cook, was adopting a ‘him or me’ position on the issue. Not mad keen on having Joe Root as Test captain just yet, the ECB opted for ‘me’ in favour of ‘him’ and tried to ham-fistedly make the best of that.
Kevin Pietersen came back, played county cricket, made a triple hundred and requested his place in the side. Andrew Strauss broke the news to him.
This is perhaps why, at the press conference the following day, Strauss said that Pietersen wouldn’t play for England ‘this summer’, while adding that he couldn’t offer guarantees beyond that. He was basically just acknowledging that there are two possible scenarios.
- England win the Ashes, Cook stays, Pietersen remains excluded
- They lose, Cook goes and Joe Root – who has just been named vice captain – takes over
Cook presumably feels the presence of uppity Pietersen with his inability to keep his trap shut makes captaining the side impossible. If the public comes to accept the version of events outlined above, he may come to reclassify that particular ‘impossible’ as merely ‘very, very difficult’ in comparison to what he is likely to experience should England start losing this summer.
Strauss said of Peter Moores that every game had become a referendum on whether he should continue to do the job or not. It would be like that, only a hundred times as vitriolic and a thousand times less dignified.
Here’s the real nub of the problem
The main problem, as we see it, is that some people seem to think that being England captain is a big deal; like it somehow elevates you above all other England cricketers. If Alastair Cook didn’t see captaincy as something to aspire to, he could have acknowledged that it wasn’t especially his thing at the very outset and instead busied himself with the greatly more important job of scoring Test runs. Pretty much everyone would have liked him more for it.
You’d never get this kind of thing with Pakistan. Pakistan would have had about nine different captains by now and everything would have been much less chaotic as a consequence.38 Appeals
What may eventually prove to be Kevin Pietersen’s final six scoring strokes in first-class cricket were, in order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. At that point, there was nowhere left to go.
A friend of ours was referred to a heart specialist once. As he sat in the waiting room alongside lots of sad looking folk, Unbreak My Heart started playing on the radio. Point is, plenty of things that you’d roll your eyes at if they happened in a sitcom actually do happen in real life.
Witness the ECB’s public relations efforts. A script editor would rip such a story apart for being too contrived, too convenient, too obvious to pass as comedy. Kevin Pietersen is allowed to believe that if he returns to England and makes runs in the county championship, he may be considered for selection. He makes 326 not out and that night – that very same night – he is told that actually, no, he will not be considered for selection.
The news is leaked, obviously. It always is. It is leaked at the exact same moment that the ECB Twitter feed publishes a link to highlights of Pietersen’s innings. The next day, the ECB officially unveil their new director of England cricket, the man who has made the decision to continue to omit Pietersen. It is Andrew Strauss, a man who once called him a cunt on TV; a man who, for all his qualities, is considered the embodiment of the establishment by those feeling disenfranchised and alienated by that very establishment.
Strauss says that Pietersen is not going to be selected any time soon because of trust issues. He later adds that he offered him a consultancy job with the one-day side, which Pietersen declined. Apparently trust is not required for that sort of a role.
If you can, temporarily suppress your feelings about Kevin Pietersen. Find a way of pretending that you’re a dispassionate observer tasked with repairing the ECB’s tattered image. They are, after all, considered a toxic brand even by themselves.
If the notion that the ECB is a cosy old gentleman’s club, a sort of pseudo-masonic quasi-incestuous backslapping coven, then that notion had to some degree been confined to certain individuals. Whether they were truly the guilty parties or not, people like Paul Downton and Peter Moores had been infected with this cancer, but they had recently been excised. Giles Clarke is about to depart as chairman and while he will retain influence, the arrival of Colin Graves had at least felt progressive.
Now, somehow, against the odds, the cancer of negative public perception has been allowed to spread. And not just subtly and by stealth, but like something from an unusually gory B-movie. People are being eaten alive. A three-time Ashes-winning captain has become public enemy number one among a large swathe of England fans. The new coach is tainted by the new-old regime even before being sounded out about whether he might maybe like to think about possibly perhaps applying.
Rights or wrongs of the selection or non-selection of one player aside, how in the hell does an organisation find a way to shoot itself in the foot like this; a prosthetic foot it only received following an identical shooting incident just last year?60 Appeals
The Kevin Pietersen saga is often described as a soap opera. This is quite accurate because the defining feature of a soap opera is that IT NEVER ENDS. Okay, Crossroads and Eldorado did, but you get what we’re saying. For the most part they just rumble on, day after day, setting up contrived storylines and having them play out.
Kevin Pietersen’s triple hundred today was neither proof nor irrelevant. It was an impassioned and noteworthy innings against the worst first-class county. He can’t help who he plays. All he can do is score a few runs. Today he did that in about as convincing a manner as possible. The second-highest score in the innings was Kumar Sangakkara’s 36.
More is needed, but on this evidence more is highly likely to arrive. What strikes us most is that Pietersen was at his most exciting early on in his career when he had it all to prove. Back then, there was real steel underpinning the carnage. If his sense of being wronged has brought that back and precipitated some sort of driven final fling, then excellent.
Very few batsmen possess the qualities required to make you think you might be about to see something you’ve never seen before. Very few batsmen play the kinds of innings you feel compelled to send text messages about. It’s not about playing outlandish shots or scoring heavily, it’s a combination of brutality and endurance, a way of manhandling a match and pointing it in a new direction.
Brian Lara explored new territory, so when he got going you couldn’t really feel confident about where things were going to end. There is something of that in Pietersen. Today a hundred wasn’t enough; and a double hundred wasn’t enough; and his highest first-class score wasn’t enough. Plenty of players have hunger, plenty of players have ability. Very few sit at the farthest extremes of the spectrum on both counts.12 Appeals
Much as we enjoy writing about administrative staff, what they think and what they may or may not have meant when they said something in an interview, we rather feel that the World Cup is a time for writing about actual cricket.
Colin Graves has said some things, the ECB have said some different things in faceless, Borg-like fashion and Kevin Pietersen has expressed enthusiasm, as he is wont to do. While all of this may amount to something one day, it isn’t all that meaningful right now. A whole bunch of things would have to happen in the correct sequence before there could be any impact on a cricket match and lest anyone forget, cricket is about cricket matches.
Cricket-wise, South Africa’s huge score against Ireland changes nothing in our eyes. They have a couple of exceptional batsmen, some middling ones and a long tail. We still think they’re vulnerable.
Pakistan play the UAE tonight and could, quite honestly, lose. We say this only because they appear to be even worse than England and England certainly seem in the market for a mugging; ambling about the dangerous part of town with a bulging wallet tucked precariously in a back pocket.
In the other match, Australia play Afghanistan. There shouldn’t be an upset there, but it could provide some exceptionally entertaining moments.16 Appeals
A guest review of KP: The Autobiography by Dandy Dan.
Having met KP and most of team, I feel I’m very qualified to review this book – especially as he came across to me as actually being all right. I didn’t buy it. I got it out from the library. I didn’t even pay the 50p charge (or however much it is these days) as I know the librarian. It’s not what you know…
It’s a bit boring really. The problem isn’t really all the sections released in the media when it came out. It’s that he’s never really been shy in saying how he feels throughout his career so we all know the stories anyway. The only thing that came to a real surprise to me was his dislike for Flower. Flower gets a pasting throughout the book, even during the successful times. Now I had come to the conclusion at the end of the last Ashes series that Flower must be to blame for the whole debacle, so taking this one sided view of things I feel smugly content in being right.
Essentially, each chapter follows the same path with a different tour/story thrown in.
In bullet point format:
- Yes, I’ve made mistakes, I realise that now (But he doesn’t realise he’s still making them).
- The IPL is great, not enough people in England realise this.
- The ECB is made up of incompetent buffoons (This was a particularly startling revelation).
- I had an injury and wasn’t playing well.
- I played well.
The most interesting part of it to me (well one which wasn’t covered by the media that I could tell) was his apparent dislike of authoritarian coaches, yet the fondness he holds for his strict childhood experiences. Flower (and to a lesser extent Moores) get a slagging for being too controlling, yet he reminisces about his time at school where the juniors had to say please at the end of every sentence they spoke to a senior. Apparently this taught him that respect has to be earnt. I’m not sure I understood the idea of earning someone’s respect just because they were older than you. He obviously has a lot of respect for his father who he says showed him little emotion, but then criticises Flower for not putting an arm around him. If there’s a source to the idea that KP just wants to be loved there it is. Pop psychology over.
The whole Matt Prior/Big Cheese stuff starts off quite funny, gets a bit tiresome, then goes back to being funny again. It’s particularly amusing when he takes the piss out of him for thinking he’s in Team Sky. Swann doesn’t get laid into as much as I thought he would for leaving the tour early.
He does make a good case for the IPL and reading his book has changed my mind about it a bit regarding its importance and the engagement the ECB should have with it. I’m still not interested in actually watching it though.
Following this revelation that the newspapers didn’t actually republish every last word of KP’s book, you might like to buy it. If so, you can get it from Amazon here.16 Appeals
Our latest Twitter round-up’s just appeared on Cricinfo. It was an unusually tough assignment. We’d sign into Twitter, get distracted by the latest developments arising from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography and then find that we’d lost an hour or more. We’d then force ourself to close down Twitter so that we could get some work done before remembering that Twitter was our work. Repeat.
Twitter isn’t fundamentally bad
Despite what many believe. It’s just people, after all. People are good and bad. If your experience of Twitter is always negative, you’re following the wrong people. Follow good people and it’s an always-accessible sounding board for thoughts and ideas; a friendly online pub full of witty, erudite people who like to discuss things and trade one-liners.
However, of late logging in has been to waltz onto a medieval battlefield sans armour. A 24-hour argument is being maintained and even if you don’t get involved, it can be a bruising experience. If you ever feel emotions for other people, you won’t go long without sympathy or anger welling up in you. Absorbed in the debate, you don’t notice it happening either – at least until you go to bed and realise that it will take literally hours before the tension subsides.
Pick a side
The annoying thing for us is that the Pietersen story raises lots of interesting questions about the way the sport is run in England. We’d like to discuss these things, but we can’t. We always consider this website to be quite a friendly place, but even here it’s impossible to criticise the ECB without people assuming you must therefore be on KP’s side. Conversely, criticise KP and you are ascribed all sorts of other opinions as a consequence.
It’s like English cricket has devised two new stereotypes and is getting busy with its label maker, tagging everyone. On Twitter, this polarisation is even more pronounced.
Fight your corner
The word ‘tweet’ sounds so fey and inconsequential, but reading them at the moment is exhausting. Even when we broadly agree with someone, we’re often put off by the vehemence with which they put their point across. People we otherwise enjoy speaking to – often contemporaries; the pseudo-colleagues of the freelancer – seem incredibly militant all of a sudden.
Perhaps the chaos is addictive. Perhaps people enjoy the feeling of being at the centre of something major that is unfolding, surrounded by well-known names, not knowing where things are going.
A lot of KP/ECB-related Twitter output is a kind of directionless rage broadcast to the ether – almost an invitation to combat. At other times, a target is identified – and if there is no target, it doesn’t take much to create one. Disagree forcefully enough with something someone says and they will respond in kind. A quick to and fro and two people who thought they occupied middle ground suddenly find themselves entrenched at opposite extremes. Suddenly you find you have a stance – and then everyone else piles in.
And oh how they pile in
Maybe it’s the number of people who can get involved in a Twitter debate that causes all of this. Crowd behaviour is greatly influenced by a reduction in each individual’s sense of personal responsibility. That’s how mobs form. But a reduced sense of personal responsibility is something that can surely only be exacerbated by the pseudonyms and physical distance that come with Twitter.
You can say what you like and you can get carried along with the crowd. That’s dangerous enough, but compounding this is the fact that the more people who are discussing something, the more quickly the debate moves. This is exciting, your adrenaline fires. Yet if you’re involved, you may feel you have to become more and more extreme in what you say so as to be heard above the noise.
In short, things escalate.
What’s your point?
No point. Modern world, self-control, polarised debate.
And even for conscientious objectors, it’s hard to ignore a medieval battle. It takes willpower to look straight ahead when you pass an accident on the motorway. When this sort of melée is just a click away, what chance have you got – particularly when you can sit on the sidelines, invisible to all the combatants?35 Appeals
We support the England cricket team. We will always support the England cricket team. It’s just that it would be so, so, so much easier to support the England cricket team if it weren’t being run by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is mental, the West Indies Cricket Board is incompetent, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is some kind of Machiavellian old boys’ club. No-one within it really has much of a clue about international sport. They don’t know what makes it good, they don’t know what it takes to be successful and worst of all they think the sport of cricket and the England team that plays it are theirs to do with as they please.
It appears to be an organisation almost tailor-made to antagonise us. It hates individuals, tries to exercise almost complete control over its workers, loathes anyone who disagrees with its methods and has some weird, very specific notion of the kind of person it wants in key positions. We sometimes feel like English cricket is being annexed by this weird group of buffoons and we don’t know where they came from, who gave them power or how they’re still around.
Watching them trip over each other, set fire to things and fling pies in each other’s faces while trying to deal with this Pietersen book, all we can think is that someone should put them out of their misery. We don’t mean stringing them up by their ECB ties. We just mean drawing a line under the floundering and manipulation. Why don’t we just change the code to get into the office and then hire some grown-ups to replace them?33 Appeals
We didn’t get a review copy of KP: The Autobiography. Apparently it was already getting enough attention without a review appearing here in about six months’ time.
We wonder whether we need to read it. The two-page email from Rahul Dravid about how to play spin that features within it sounds interesting, but as far as we can make out, the book’s mostly all about the run-up to his sacking (KP’s, not Dravid’s – who’d sack Dravid from anything?). We felt like we’d pretty much got all of that information after an hour on Twitter yesterday.
Andy Flower’s a mood hoover. Alastair Cook’s a company man. Matt Prior refers to himself in the third person as ‘the Big Cheese’, saying things like “the Big Cheese has earned some beer tonight” (pretty sure that last one’s either a lie or Prior was saying it with great irony, but it is quite funny all the same).
The interesting stuff that might cause us to read the book falls into two categories.
Stuff about cricket
Like the Dravid email or the observation: “We are on the road for 250 days a year, we wear our England kit on most of these days … It never, ever ended.”
We’d like to know more about this sort of stuff, but is there really any room for it in a book that seems to spend most of its time focused on fall-outs of the recent past.
I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – there’s a book that’s worth a read. But we also love the accidental Partridges pro sportsmen are prone to. Apparently at one point Pietersen says that most England players don’t have many friends internationally “whereas I have friends in literally every single international team,” which is a brilliantly petty piece of one-upmanship.
Sadly, we’d be surprised if his ghost writer, David Walsh, allowed much of this to get through. Having someone filter his thoughts probably means that even if Pietersen doesn’t have the brain mechanism that stops him saying such things, his words generally won’t make it as far as the printed page.
So, in summary: No, we’re probably not going to read Kevin Pietersen’s book. Now that all the best lines have been published on the nation’s sports pages, we’re just not sure there’d be enough in it that’s new to us22 Appeals
Kevin Pietersen sort of didn’t really get on that well with a few people he had to spend a lot of time with
Kevin Pietersen EXCLUSIVES and REVELATIONS are about to rain down on us in the run-up to the launch of his autobiography (apparently most of it’s about him – the egotist). The latest salvo in English cricket’s biggest shitfight of recent times comes in the form of his interview with The Telegraph.
Feel free to have your say in the comments, but we found it all surprisingly low key. We’re promised THE TRUTH now that the confidentiality clause in his severance agreement has expired but it increasingly seems like a situation where fairly small stuff grew to seem like big stuff for a bunch of coaches and cricketers who had to spend morning, noon and night together.
It’s just one guy’s story and while some of it is certainly self-serving, other aspects ring true. We’d actually forgotten about the England team’s fielder abuse of a few years ago, but it definitely happened and it’s interesting to see that it was a big thing for some players. Shouting at those who misfielded or dropped catches always seemed childish and counterproductive but Pietersen portrays it as being one aspect of something broader and deeper-rooted – although he doesn’t really give other examples. Similarly, you don’t need to have seen more than one Andy Flower interview to know that the allegation that he built ‘a regime, not a team’ is probably quite a fair assessment.
But none of this is really shocking. It doesn’t seem like petty squabbling, so much as mundane squabbling. The mystery is how it all came to seem like such a big deal that the ECB and Pietersen ended up pitted against each other. Maybe if the England cricket team weren’t such a 365-day-a-year thing, everyone involved might have retained a bit more perspective.33 Appeals
Anyone know how to stop Cricinfo videos from automatically playing?
In our line of work, we read an awful lot of cricket stories. This sometimes involves opening tens of tabs at a time and we then have to play ‘hunt the video’ when we hear that one or more has started playing automatically. More often than not, a Cricinfo page is the guilty party.
We hate this burgeoning love of video. To be clear, we enjoy the same YouTube rubbish as everyone else and we like video being used correctly where something is added. What we hate – and we mean truly, truly loathe – is the video-instead-of-an-article video where it’s just someone talking to camera.
Videos take too long. You can’t scan them and see what lies ahead. You just have to sit there like a bleeding numbnuts patiently enduring something that may or may not prove to be of interest with no knowledge of what might turn up 12 minutes in. Yeah, you can fast forward, but then you still have to sit and watch for a few seconds to work out what’s going on. We don’t have a few seconds to spare when there’s a whole internet of information accessible to us.
On each of Cricinfo’s videos there is an option to switch autoplay off and then if you click the little sprocket to the right, a ‘save’ option appears. For us at least, this appears to do nothing. As soon as we reload the page – or any other featuring a video – it starts to play.
Any suggestions gratefully accepted.
Also at Cricinfo
And just to underline the fact that we’ve just slagged off one of our employers, our latest piece has just gone up on Page 2. It’s about county cricket monopolising the back pages and smothering other sports.
KP Confidentiel – les secrets de Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen’s book is out next week. If you know anything about cycling, you’ll be struck that the book has been written by David Walsh, the journalist who hounded Lance Armstrong for so many years.
Walsh is a pretty driven individual himself and some of his interviewees have said they felt that he exploited them to pursue his own agenda. That approach shouldn’t really be relevant in this instance, but it’s worth noting that this is the man KP has in his corner.24 Appeals