England cricket, May 2015: the tying of oneself in knots

Down here on the Great Southern Land, footy season is well underway. And yet we would do well to remember that this is an Ashes winter. Tuning in to see bright green striped outfields under overcast skies, with darkness and cold all around, is a special type of treasure.

What’s going on with the two countries?

Australia hasn’t been up to much. Some individuals have been piling up their income in the Indian Premier League, others have travelled to England for the County season. But no national matches of significance have been held.

England arrived here for the World Cup in a state of unreadiness, exacerbated by the (relatively) late selection decision to remove AN Cook from the 50 over side. Plenty of unrest, of course, had gripped English cricket since their tour to Australia two (southern) summers ago, during which GP Swann (retired) and IJL Trott (retired hurt) were lost to the game, and KP Pietersen was lost to English decision-makers.

==

The KP Pietersen situation has devoured limitless hours of the attention spans of otherwise high-functioning adults. Children, too. For adults and children alike understand the reward/consequence dichotomy of human behaviour. Carrot and stick, I suppose.

“If you behave in the way I specify, you will be granted a luminous reward.”

We get that. (Notwithstanding the obvious psychological traps of behaviour for behaviour’s sake, Pavlov and his dogs, and the sense of entitlement that can rapidly develop; into which parents of young children routinely slip).

“Go back to the first class cricket and score runs, KP” – he was apparently told.

Batsmen through the years could no doubt attest to the utter confidence(?) such a proclamation should have given a vindictive KP.

England, fresh from a World Cup embarrassment, then ventured on tour to the West Indies. The West Indies themselves had recently struck upon troubled times, with pay disputes, international relations and player ego all fraying an already patchwork fabric of collegiate cricket across the islands.

What happened?

1st Test, Antigua
England 399 (IR Bell 143, JE Root 83, KAJ Roach 4/94)
West Indies 295 (J Blackwood 112*, JC Tredwell 4/47)
England 7d/333 (GS Balance 122, JE Root 59)
West Indies 350/7 (target 438) (JO Holder 103*)
Match drawn
West Indies were 5/155 and 6/189 when JO Holder entered, young man batting at #8. He saved the match.

2nd test, Grenada
West Indies 299 (MN Samuels 103, SCJ Broad 4/61)
England 464 (JE Root 182*, AN Cook 76, D Bishoo 4/177)
West Indies 307 (KC Braithwaite 116, DM Bravo 69, JM Anderson 4/43)
England 144/1 (target 143) (GS Balance 81*)
England won by 9 wickets

3rd Test, Barbados
England 257 (AN Cook 105)
West Indies 189 (J Blackwood 85, JM Anderson 6/42)
England 123 (JC Buttler 35*, JO Holder 3/15)
West Indies 194/5 (target 192) (DM Bravo 82)
West Indies won by 5 wickets

While ECB Chairman Colin Graves labelled the West Indies mediocre, England managed to fluff the fourth innings in Antigua, before winning comfortably in Grenada to take a 0-1 series lead.

England’s second innings in Barbados brought the walls down, however, as the West Indies chased a modest yet challenging total with typically attacking abandon. Series tied at 1-1.

==

10 May

Returning to England, then, facing home Test series against New Zealand and Australia, England officials fire head coach Peter Moores and appoint Andrew Strauss as director of cricket. It is reported that the move followed private conversations between chief executive Tom Harrison and Strauss, whose appointment was confirmed half an hour before Moores’ departure announced.

==

11 May The Guardian

“Surrey’s Kevin Pietersen achieves career-high 326 to boost England hopes” – Richard Roe

The first hundred, completed shortly before lunch, was greeted by the familiar, exuberant and perhaps ever so slightly ostentatious two-footed leap into the air, an indication to some extent of the personal significance of the landmark but more, surely, of how hard Kevin Pietersen had been made to work to reach it.

The fist-pumping that marked the 200 was more restrained but carried a more obvious message – and one happily chanted by a group of supporters in the crowd: “Are you watching, Andrew Strauss?”

The third hundred, however, was sheer carnage, finished with yet another six over midwicket. Again the bat was raised and the smile was unaffected: it was that of a great athlete, at something like the height of his powers, as it was when he left the field, tired but happy, having scored 326 not out, off 373 balls, 34 of which he hit for four and 14 for six.

Timing has always been a feature of Pietersen’s career, both in terms of his individual shot-making and the context in which he has played his most important innings. This extraordinary knock for Surrey at an appreciative Oval appears to have been in vain, however, largely due to his tarnished relationship with Strauss, who officially starts his new role as director of English cricket on Tuesday .

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
Certainly a perfectly timed innings by @kp24. Makes Strrauss’ appearance at Lord’s tomorrow very interesting indeed…

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
So @Stewiecricket confirms to @bbc5live that @KP24 has left The Oval to meet Andrew Strauss and Tom Harrison. The plot thickens…

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
I gather Strauss has confirmed to KP this evening that he will not be selected for England again.

 

(All headlines from The Guardian)
“Andrew Strauss to confirm Kevin Pietersen’s England career is over”
“Andrew Strauss tells Kevin Pietersen England career is over – report”

==

12 May

“Andrew Strauss confirms no immediate recall for Kevin Pietersen”
“Talent is talent – England needs Kevin Pietersen” – Simon Jenkins
“Australia will be delighted by England’s Kevin Pietersen Ashes axing” – Russell Jackson
“Andrew Strauss means business but ECB must shake Pietersen shadow” – Mike Selvey
“Kevin Pietersen ‘devastated’ by England snub but Andrew Strauss stands firm”
“Andrew Strauss contradicted himself over Kevin Pietersen, says Alec Stewart”
“Kevin Pietersen rails against ‘deceitful’ ECB after England’s rebuff”

 

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
No player can be banned, or barred from England selection. But can be told they don’t fit in going forward, team planning, team ethic etc etc

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
Apart from Strauss we should hear from Graves to clarify his comments. Clean slate and past in the past. That moved goalposts entirely.

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
Strauss: Not banned from the team but a massive trust issue

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
Cook has his full support. Root new vice captain. Strauss to look at selection process.

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
(KP) picking up this advisory role offer which Strauss did not mention in my interview. Does seem bizarre given that a loss of trust is the issue.

 

==

13 May

“Jason Gillespie concerned over balance of power after Pietersen affair”
“Kevin Pietersen ruled out of IPL return by achilles injury in Surrey game”
“Kevin Pietersen, not the ECB, is where the public now put their trust” – Owen Gibson
“Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss saga plucks at the heartstrings on BBC”
“The Pietersen obsession: why we cannot stop talking about Kevin” – Marina Hyde
“Ashes 2015: Australia bowlers stunned by Kevin Pietersen’s England exile”

 

==

14 May

“Ian Bell sticks to the script as Pietersen issue gets another airing”
“Ian Bell praises Kevin Pietersen”
“Ian Bell: Kevin Pietersen could still make England return”

 

==

15 May

“Dominic Cork calls Kevin Pietersen ‘a bad egg’ and defends ECB position”
“ECB’s Colin Graves faces bouncers on day one but needs to get past KP mess” – Owen Gibson
“ECB chairman Colin Graves denies deceiving Kevin Pietersen over England recall”

 

==

16 May

“Andrew Strauss insists on new England coach accepting stance on Kevin Pietersen”
“England’s tough time could get trickier against strong New Zealand” – Vic Marks
“Kevin Pietersen insists ECB’s Colin Graves said batsman had a clean slate”

 

==

17 May
“Stuart Broad: victory over New Zealand vital after Pietersen furore”
“Australia captain Michael Clarke: England will be weaker without Kevin Pietersen”
“Kevin Pietersen: is this the end for cricket’s great maverick?”

 

==

19 May
“Kevin Pietersen power show a reminder of Ted Dexter’s outrageous dominance” – Mike Selvey

 

==

20 May
“Alastair Cook says he did not issue ultimatum over Kevin Pietersen”

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
Cook re KP: “I was not consulted. There was no ultimatum.” Would he have played with KP? “Not a relevant question.”

Johnathan Agnew @Aggerscricket
Is trust an issue? “it wasn’t and isn’t my decision. I trust those that made the decision. I have to let management manage.”

 

==

21 May
Day 1, 1st Test, England v New Zealand, Lord’s
(England with deputy coach standing in as replacement).

 

New Zealand win the toss and elect to bowl

England
1/17 (A Lyth c Waitling b Southee 7),
2/25 (GS Balance c Southee b Boult 1)
3/25 (AN Cook c Waitling b Henry 16)
4/30 (IR Bell b Henry 1)
Lunch 4/113

 

==

So what’s going on here?
Selection rifts have happen before and will happen again. Likewise the appointment and sacking of coaches. But from this supreme vantage point of 24,000 km away, it’s the absence of clearly articulated plans, expectations, roles and responsibilities from the ECB that is most obviously missing.
Maybe there are parallels with Carlton FC to be observed.
JN Gillespie, mooted as a potential successor to Peter Moores, may need some convincing.

 

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. Jeez ER that’s a few hours of your life you’re not going to get back. The Magpies must be travelling poorly to be thinking about the internal machinations of English cricket.
    Gillespie to Carlton. Malthouse to ECB. Pietersen to Collingwood.
    Problems solved.

  2. E.regnans says

    Might just work, PB.
    I find this quite public split in English cricket to be a fascinating glimpse into power/ control/ psychology.
    So many little men, so many egos.
    The mentality of the elite performer, the role of *informed sources*, the absence of a coherent message, the positioning for public sympathy, media reporting/ opinion and on and on…
    We see this game played out in footy, in politics, in just about every sphere to be truthful.

    Must be something to learn from all this.
    Maybe easier to spot when our connection to the subject matter is less emotional.

    BB McCullum to bat tonight at Lord’s
    Maybe one day we’ll invite him to play Tests in Australia?

  3. ER

    Interesting that the Poms recovered nicely, Root looks like the future, but top order continues to be a mess.

    I think the Australian players have managed this really well, heaping praise on KP, saying they can’t believe he isn’t in the team. Privately, I think they’d be relieved he isn’t going to face them in the upcoming Ashes, as he’s their only world class talent, but skilfully done to say they are surprised and turn the screws on the English team and administration.

    I doubt Gillespie will take the coaching role now, if there’s this sort of interference from Strauss etc.

    Sean

  4. E.regnans says

    Yes they’ve recovered splendidly Sean. JE Root 98 and BA Stokes 92.
    I agree with the gamesmanship of Australians’ reaction. Messing with heads.

    From limited clues, it seems that J Gillespie runs a player-centred kind of model at Yorkshire, encouraging fun times, hard work & honest feedback. Almost a D Lehmann model.
    I thought like you – administrator over-reach may paint the job as unattractive.
    But it seems increasingly likely that he’ll be appointed as England coach.
    I wonder how the wheels (Lords, eggs&bacon) of English bureaucracy will deal with him.
    And where does this all leave KP Pietersen?

  5. Two of the best English batsmen of my life, G Boycott, and K Pietersen almost mirror each other, though not re runs scored per 100 balls. Self centred, disdainful of their team(mates), though clearly the ECB’s best batting option for much of their careers .

    I don’t know how KP can rerturn, certainly not with Andrew Strauss as Director of Cricket. Pietersen has proven himself to be a person who is not/was never a team player, in the proper sense of the word, though Boycot was pretty much the same . Goodness knows what havoc Boycott could have caused with a mobile phone.

    If you were Jason Gillespie you’d be excedingly wary of taking the poisoned chalice of being their head caoch. Maybe if/when KP has moved on it might be worh considering but as long as he is playing competiitve cricket his presence wil loom large over English cricket.

    Glen!

  6. E.regnans says

    England 389
    New Zealand 523
    England 3/78 on the morning of Day 4..,

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    KP is probably the best batsman in England. Matchwinners don’t grow on trees. The English Test team has enough good batsmen to be competitive and give their bowlers a chance much of the time. Not the case with their ODI team, where the Poms have no player near his class as a game changer. As the World Cup showed.
    What a pity we won’t see him in the Ashes.

  8. E.regnans says

    From a technical batting view, it’ shard to argue with that, L Reynolds.
    It’s a tricky one though, as while no one doubts his technical cricketing skills, it’s the teamwork skills required in cricket where he seems to come unstuck.
    And that’s just another skill set.
    One that a top player needs to have.

    A reverse example in Test cricket (on form anyway) would be GJ Bailey. A teamwork genius, but without the required runs on the board to justify continued selection.
    ==

    England 389
    New Zealand 523
    England 478
    bowled out on morning of Day 5. Ahead by 344.

    Will NZ have a crack?

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Excellent comparison using GJ Bailey. Fitting into a team off field is of huge importance.
    Watching this game keenly. England left their declaration too late. NZ will bat it out.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    And then NZ slump to 2/0. Not ideal. Still backing the draw.

  11. E.regnans says

    Whoops.
    NZ 13/3 after 6 overs…
    It’ll be a fine win from here.

  12. Luke Reynolds says

    Well, that was ordinary Kiwis….

  13. NZ make over five hundred in their first dig and lose! Cook gets runs. Solid English bowling. That’ll give them some confidence.

    PS- 67 extras in the first Kiwi innings is just short of the record of 76 set in 2007 by India.

    Nice article David and good thread!

  14. Well the Kiwis have come back to earth. After a good twelve months in all forms of the game, this collapse was a disaster.

    When did a side score 500 in the first innings and lose? Sri Lanka vs us in Sri Lanka 1992, when Warney first came to the fore, Australia vs India in Adelaide, 2003-04, am i correct with those two ?

    Glen!

  15. E.regnans says

    I can’t answer those, Glen.

    England have played a “turn the corner” kind of match here.
    KP Pietersen talk relegated to yesterday’s news.

    BA Stokes a new rallying hero.
    92 from 94 balls in the 1st.
    and 101 from 92 in the 2nd.
    And then knocks over Williamson and bowls McCullum (first ball) on the final afternoon.
    3/38 from 11.
    England tails will be up.

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says

    KP is interesting in that no 1 denies his talent but to be accused of giving tactics to
    South Africa is basically treason ( match fixing ? ) and makes it untenable to play him in my book.OBP agreed this was a huge win by England and we are not over the line by any means.Cook has previously got on a run of scores so that is ominous also

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