Quasi-nepotism and the murky lens of hindsight – England’s MD and national selector appraised

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We’ve written about just what a monumental achievement it was for England to get knocked out in the group stages. The more we think about it, the more we’re impressed at how they managed to prevent even one cylinder from firing.

There is talk that Paul Downton may get the boot. We’re inclined to say that he had the greatest negative influence of anyone involved. It wasn’t the sacking of a player that was the issue per se, but the ramifications of that on the team.

The situation led to Downton making a series of preposterous pronouncements on behalf of Alastair Cook and Peter Moores. Intended as props to support them at a difficult time, these statements instead became sticks with which to beat them. The Test captain and coach have been tarred by association, perceived as beneficiaries of some weird quasi-nepotistic approach to man management that defines England’s failing ‘new era’.

This is Downton’s fault – primarily, at least. As the public face of the management team, he has shown laughable aptitude for public relations and this alone means he isn’t really qualified for the job. It’s almost as if he’s spent the last 20 years ‘outside cricket’, working in a bank.

It will be interesting to see how national selector James Whitaker comes out of this as well. The word is he will keep his job and while it’s simplistic to blame a selector for the ills of the national side, we’re struck that he took over following an Ashes victory and immediately before an Ashes defeat and has now overseen two humiliating tournament exits in little more than a year.

Selectors are hard to appraise. It’s partly about picking the right players and it’s partly about timely selection and omission and the impact this has on the individuals in question as well as the team as a whole. Good selections have certainly been made, but England’s choice of pace bowlers for the 2013-14 Ashes was bizarre and ill-informed while few could argue that booting the one-day captain a few months before the World Cup was optimal – particularly as it resulted in further slicing and dicing of the team off the back of that.

Hindsight is of course a great tool when looking back on these things, but Whitaker’s predecessor as national selector, Geoff Miller, seemed to have a happy knack for predicting what would eventually be seen through its lens.


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  1. The selection problems seem to come down to the same statistics-based approach that has infected every other aspect of the game. I remember here discussing Tremlett, Finn and Rankin for the Ashes, and not being able to separate them statistically. This left the selectors with no clue as to how to make the decision, so they prevaricated and oscillated, eventually announcing to the world that they had chosen the least-worst option. A confident selector might have used the stats to help, but he/she would also have been able to pick Player X because it felt right (see Jonathan Trott).

    And Downton out, obviously.

  2. There is another side to the KP dropping/selection problems/Downton announcements that seems to fly eyes of most people:

    In sacking KP for being a bit of a dick (while not actually saying that he’s a bit of a dick), Downton, Whitaker et al said to players “we don’t care how you do as much as what we think of you as people”.

    They talk of loyalty while ditching the bloke who has scored more runs than anyone else in an England shirt. They screw around with the top order at the world cup to make room for a player who hadn’t had a game in months because they think the ODI team needs to look like the test team. They describe people as being “outside cricket” while courting our wallets and only our wallets.

    Basically, they have cocked up managing the England cricket team for past year and a half (actually longer as the team has won exactly 3 series in the last 2 years: home test series against NZ, Australia and India) but nobody can admit that the problem may be managerial. The first rule of England Management Club is you do not talk about England Management Club.

    1. Damn it. That reminds us that we had intended to write that Downton had been ‘outside cricket’ for the last 20 years. Making an edit.

    2. He’s been in international finance for the last 20 years, I’d say that Giles Clarke et al would consider that as inside cricket as it is possible to get.

    3. strictly speaking England are within their rights to “sacking KP for being a bit of a dick (while not actually saying that he’s a bit of a dick)”

      But by nailing their colours to Cook (KP sacked “to make Cook stronger”!) they did 2 huge mistakes
      1) crucified cook to the lightning rod (until he eventually got burned completely)
      2) announce to everybody that they had no confidence in Cook as leader (he is not a strong character as Prior and he will not be able to counter KP’s influence in team)

    4. I can understand sacking KP for being a bit of a dick (I have also referred to him as a power tool, a swinging bell-end and the smiter of all baggry green hopes, none of these are mutually exclusive). The problem I ought to have highlighted is that KP isn’t the only person who was dropped for reasons beyond their performance on the pitch. Nick Compton and Michael Carberry may agree with me on this point.

    5. I think the openers are a special case.

      Cook was not in form but he is captain. So the guy on the other side kept getting the sack till Cook came back to form

      Well, I dont think Cook has come back to full form yet, so Robson might get the sack and Trott? might come in….

    6. Robson didn’t exactly play well, against softer opposition than Carberry. Compton was just the less good stodgy one (and not the captain) in a stodgy pairing.

      Granted, they’ve since tried more stodge in the form of Robson, and contrived to make a great striker in T20 into another stodgy opener.

    7. Your opening pair can Geoff Boycott and Chris Tavare it around for a session or so. Provided that they actually do it. Let’s be honest, Cook/Strauss was hardly going to set pulses racing.

    8. Well that’s the only reason I can think of for not continuing with Compton. A couple of dodgy performances does not a bad opener make.

    9. Compton’s couple of dodgy performances (as well as his best) came against a New Zealand team that, unless I’m forgetting something, hasn’t lost a test series since.

  3. Today’s manga has a grotesque monster shouting “FGAAAHH…” I presume that it was going to midway through saying “AFGAAAHHNISTAAAN”, and is as keen to see more of Shapoor and Hamid as the rest of us are.

    Hey, it’s a grotesque monster. They’re not know for being able to spell.

  4. Downton, Moores and Whitaker should all go. Can’t see it happening, though.

    Alternatively, they should all be kept on until after the Ashes, because it is not a good idea to rock the boat just before the Ashes.

    Even if the boat is holed beneath the waterline and sinking, you don’t ever, ever rock the boat just before the Ashes.

    It’s just not done.

  5. I’ve never read the “Mumbai Mirror” before, but I clicked on the ‘Cricket’ section. On the right is the “Ask the Sexpert” column. Quite how this is related to sport I cannot say, but it’s quite amusing. One guy complains that he’s been married for two years, but his penis has never been entirely erect. Now I can see you shake your head and go “Deep Cower, those are genuine problems and you cannot make fun of them”. That’d be true. But still. One guy asks if it’s safe to shave his pubic hair. Come on, click on it. I know you want to. You can always come back to KC’s slightly less funny piece later.

    1. Fine, Ged. You were first. You can have the honours. I’ll make this official:

      Ladies and Gents of the KC blogging world, I hereby declare that when it comes to matters of sex, Ged Ladd arrives much quicker than most men.

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