Alan Higham

My thoughts on topical issues

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

Let’s talk about KP, baby!

I’ve read so much about Kevin Pietersen in the last few days that have made my toes curl I wanted to put my thoughts down here for posterity. I’m sorry it does go on a bit.

KP has just been sacked. Not only has he lost his job for good; he can no longer do his job for anyone else.  He has been banned for life from International cricket.

Pause, imagine how it might feel to lose not only your job but also your career.

Many will say but KP will make millions of $$ at the IPL and the various other T20 leagues across the world.

(Those wonderful T20 leagues that have barely had a whiff of corruption around them nor have they posed the tiniest threat to Test cricket.)

A great actor has been denied any roles on the big screen or on stage but instead is able to make millions doing jingles and voiceovers on adverts.  Who is the better for that?

Not only has KP lost, but the paying public have lost, cricket has lost and we are told that the England cricket team are to be the winners. Time will tell and those who made this decision will have to accept the sack should this move not improve the England cricket team.

So if the decision to fire him was based on cricketing reasons then why can’t the ECB say so?

It is precisely because they are not cricketing reasons. But what reasons are they? Almost a week later, the ECB aren’t saying anything beyond some vague messages around team “ethics” and “trust”.

The hypocrisy of the ECB knows no bounds. For whilst England were being beaten in Australia, ECB officials were poodling up to the BCCI to secretly stitch up the running of World Cricket. Flying in the opposite direction to the recommendations of Lord Woolf on how to run the game for the good of the sport.  Instead, the game was to be run for the good of the BCCI, CA and ECB coffers.

The ECB as well as being hypocrites are also cowards. They have cancelled a man’s career; refused to give him nor anyone who loves cricket a reason for it.  We are told that there are legal reasons.  That of course is just rubbish. The law here is a civil, contract where two parties have agreed services for money with conditions. It suits the ECB to stay quiet. Its penalty for talking in law could be damages, perhaps as much as £1m should KP successfully sue for breach of contract.  What is £1m to the officials of the ECB when they have sold the game’s future to the BCCI for billions? The penalty that the ECB are afraid of is total ridicule. Their reasons for sacking KP are likely to be ridiculous.

It is better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

But what of KP’s role in his own demise? He can’t be blameless.  I don’t have any difficulty in accepting he was an awkward, arrogant and annoying man to manage in a dressing room. I don’t like to use the word ‘team’. Cricket is not a ‘team’ game in any meaningful way.  The closest it comes to a team game is when the two batsmen co-operate in rotating the strike tactically.  In every other respect it is a duel between a batman and a bowler with a supporting cast directed by a captain.  No-one had any problems with KP when he was winning games for the team.  We lose 5-0 and KP has to go. Better KP goes than Cook some would say, no doubt Cook would agree.

In 2012, had England wanted to fire KP for the ‘textgate’ stuff then they would have been within reasonable bounds to do so.  I wouldn’t have agreed that it merited cancelling a man’s career.  I never sacked anyone who worked for me and moaned behind my back to his/her colleagues. But, I can see why some would see it as a betrayal too big to forgive. Except, though, England did forgive KP, or did they?Did they really?

Much is made of KP’s history of leaving devastation behind him in every dressing room. Even the greatest cricket journalist of our time – Mike Atherton – has listed them: Natal; Nottingham; Hampshire & now England.

Let’s look at it a bit closer. Natal told KP he wasn’t good enough to be playing more regularly for them and that he had no chance of international honours in South Africa when he was a teenager.  He left the Natal B team to play for Notts before he was 20.  Whatever dressing room disarray was created in Natal, it can hardly have been serious and it certainly can’t be said to have been all KP’s fault.

KP’s career at Notts went from 2000 to the end of 2004; but he asked to be released from his contract at the end of 2003 when Notts were relegated despite KP’s 1500 first class runs. So KP is clearly guilty of putting his own personal ambitions above those of the club he was playing with. On the cusp of playing international cricket, KP did not want to be playing 2nd division cricket. Which of us would have done the same? Who hasn’t moved jobs to better themselves?

Matt Le Tissier became famous for staying with Southampton even at the cost of his international career. Many have applauded his loyalty and many have questioned his ambition.  Alan Shearer left Southampton to play for Blackburn and then Newcastle. Matt was famous because it was so unusual to eschew opportunity. In cricket, you were expected to stay at your county; to know your place and remember that it wasn’t so long ago that professional cricketers had to change in a different room to the gentlemen whose patrons owned the club and ran the game.

KP had already left his country; leaving Notts was always going to happen when they were relegated. Just list all the other England players who have moved counties like Swann and Broad to guess where? No Notts can’t complain about a system that was designed to concentrate quality in a smaller number of counties and bring about competition to toughen up the domestic game.

KP plays under Shane Warne at Hampshire at the start of 2005 season after making his ODI debut for England earlier that year. Later he plays in the 2005 Ashes and becomes a fixture in the England side. The relationship between KP and Hampshire has to be viewed in the context of England’s relationship with the counties.  Under Duncan Fletcher, the counties were getting used to the fact that their best players were no longer their players. On the rare occasions that an England player was available for their county, the county then had to move someone out of their spot.  It wasn’t always comfortable as Hussain relays about his time when Essex preferred not to play him. KP asks to leave Hampshire saying it was too far away from London; but there clearly was some conflict in the dressing room and perhaps KP wore the robes of success too flamboyantly.

If you are being fair, you have to observe that Surrey isn’t listed amongst those clubs where devastation has been left. In fact Adams, Stewart and Gould have all gone on record to commend KP’s role at Surrey.  It is a matter of fact that the day after KP was sacked by Cook et al that he ran a coaching session at the Oval, in the face of all the press waiting to be told officially what they had been told unofficially that KP was done. How many others would front up in those circumstances?

So, sorry Athers et al, I find your list of devastated dressing rooms unconvincing.

The other charge is that he brought Peter Moores down. The facts are conveniently forgotten.  First, KP should never have been made skipper. His flaws were known as was the fact that he didn’t see eye to eye with Peter Moores.  Peter didn’t get on with Vaughan either. Moores treated his international superstars like a county B team.  The work ethic that brought success at Sussex and Lancashire (then relegation) didn’t work at International level. Re-read the old news stories from Moores regime.  The press liked him because he was a nice man and gave them interviews unlike the horrible Fletcher and of late Flower. Moores thus enjoyed an easy ride until the beatings became too frequent.  Moores last Test in Mohali followed the Chennai Test where KP’s tactics were blamed for India scoring a massive last innings total. KP felt he hadn’t the right players alongside him – he wanted Vaughan back – and he didn’t get the tactical support from the coach he needed as a novice captain.

KP told his boss that he couldn’t carry on with Moores. He didn’t tell his ghost at the News of the World (who probably hasn’t forgiven him). He told his boss, in confidence.  His boss could have said: “KP, that’s my job to pick the coach not yours. Resign if you want but I pick the coach not you.”  Instead, KP was asked to set out his blueprint to take English cricket forward in writing for consideration.  KP did so. It was leaked to the press.  I have it from the journalist who broke the story that the leak did not come from KP or people close to him. KP was on holiday when the news broke.  In the media frenzy that followed, both Moores and KP were sacked. It is KP who was blamed. But for what? Speaking his mind, properly, confidentially and with thought? It stank then, it stinks even more when it is added to the list justifying his sacking now.

Just to finish with comments on a few odd articles written in the last few days.

Mark Nicholas has written that Graham Swann might still be playing Test cricket if it wasn’t for KP. He doesn’t say ‘Why’ because there is no link to Graham Swann’s elbow joint and KP.

Ed Smith says that the ECB need give no reason to cricket fans for why they have fired KP because Alex Ferguson didn’t explain why he sacked David Beckham. David Beckham went to play for Real Madrid in a better league and for a better team.  It isn’t as though KP can just go back to South Africa and play International cricket.

Why are intelligent men like Nicholas and Smith writing such nonsense?

Nicholas is a well known sycophant. You only have to listen to him in Australia, if you can bear it, throwing his newly acquired ‘Aussieisms’ around as he greases up to the cheerleading, one eyed former Aussie Test players in the Ch9 commentary box.  The ‘Lord Haw Haw’ of English cricket. Is Mark Nicholas settling some private (Hampshire) scores whilst toadying up to support the establishment? Or is he just being Toad of Toad Hall as per normal?

Smith is also an academic and perhaps he has a historical line like Peter Oborne of the Telegraph.  Lost in the beauty of historical paradigms with references to neo-liberalism (whatever that might mean) & exiled kings, they have perhaps lost sight of an important fact. It is this.

This decision has deprived Test cricket lovers of seeing one of the world’s best players.  Test cricket is on its knees and sinking fast. The most thrilling game in New Zealand versus India was watched by fewer spectators than in team England’s support retinue. At a time when Test cricket needs all of its supreme entertainers, the ECB apparatchiks have removed its only remaining star. Removed him before a World Cup, against the wishes of the World Cup team captain (apparently) and have refused to say why.

For the ECB to vaguely cite loss of trust and team ethics is beyond parody.

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