The chaos wrought in English cricket by last week’s events is getting more complicated by the day. Soon the ECB are going to have to release some form of conclusive flow diagram so we can see precisely who said what, when and to whom, who thought this, who didn’t think that and ultimately ‘oo killed ‘oo.
Kevin Pietersen has claimed that he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t leak the story, he merely submitted a strategy plan to the ECB which contained in it some hard-hitting comments about his inability to work with Peter Moores. Dennis Amiss of the ECB has confirmed the veracity of Pietersen’s claims, leading to the question of what precisely Pietersen did wrong.
Moores remained silent throughout the whole saga. He would surely have been under few illusions regarding the strength of Pietersen’s feelings as the ex-captain is not a man to mince his words (apart from in repetitive, buzzword-laden press conferences). But he kept his counsel and waited to be consulted on his side of the story. He never was, although the ECB praised him for the way in which he conducted himself throughout the week. So, whatever the rights and wrongs of his approach as coach, he has done nothing wrong either.
So what sort of crackpot turn of events has led to two men losing their jobs, neither of whom had done anything wrong? And if what happened truly is as unfair as this makes it sound, who is ultimately responsible?
It seems Pietersen’s only crime was speaking his mind. But the ECB asked him to put together a strategy paper and he did so with typical honesty, therefore including his view that he cannot work with Moores for any longer. He erred in thinking he had the full backing of the team so what he has learned there is that people look after number one first and foremost and will tailor what they tell each individual person accordingly. Therefore what the players told Hugh Morris did not square entirely with what they had told Pietersen. So we can add naivety to Pietersen’s list of ‘crimes’.
The biggest revelations of the weekend however was that the ECB had discussed potential replacements for Moores in India and that Michael Vaughan had expressed displeasure with his coach almost a year ago in New Zealand. When Vaughan raised doubts, the ECB could pass it off as the sort of teething problems inevitable when a new man replaces a successful predecessor in a key role.
But when Pietersen took on the captaincy he insisted on lengthy talks with Moores to ensure he was able to do it his way. The ECB must have been having doubts about their man at this stage. When it became clear in India that the dynamic was not working they must have realised that action was needed soon. They must also have been aware that a man of Pietersen’s assertive character would not let the situation drift.
Therefore it can hardly have come out of the blue when Pietersen made his feelings clear in his strategy document. Not only that, they must have expected it given the discussion they had about replacing Moores. In fact they can be seen as complicit in undermining their coach. There is therefore a strong case that they stabbed Moores in the back by talking about his future in India, and then stabbed Pietersen in the back when he expressed a view which he had good reason to believe was a common one.
However, the ECB, as political a sporting organisation as you will come across, had its own position to defend having promoted Moores from within their own ranks. Ridding themselves of him would have been an admission of error and would have undermined the whole coaching structure within which Moores had been identified as the star pupil. Covering your own back to the detriment of the big picture is no way to run an organisation and the honest and straight-talking Pietersen has been caught in the crossfire of their various agendas.
Finally, there is one piece of this jigsaw which is yet to fall into place – the identity of the leak, the person who released to the media the information that Pietersen had issued a ‘him or me’ ultimatum. This completely sabotaged Pietersen’s position and is the one factor which triggered off the whole nightmare. Everyone has bemoaned that team matters should be carried out behind closed doors and they would have been but for the leak. One Sunday newspaper mischievously pointed out that the story was leaked in the paper with whom Michael Vaughan has a contract. There is no evidence that Vaughan was remotely involved but if and when the person in question is identified, he can expect to be vilified.
In summary, it is all an unfortunate confluence of circumstances. Pietersen’s ultimatum may have been rather ill-judged, but he could not have predicted how ill it would sit with the very same people with whom he had been discussing the coach’s position a few short weeks previously. ECB pride and intrigue is looking like an increasingly large factor and, while they cannot necessarily be held accountable for the actions of individual members, as an organisation its integrity and credibility is looking more and more shaky. And as for the unidentified leak, I hope they are pleased with themselves.
By Stuart Peel