Friday, 22 May 2015

Column 15, 2015 – Massive trust issue

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 118, Friday May 22, 2015.
[Full text below]

In a grimly ironic mirroring of Downton’s disengagement charge against KP, over the last year or so there’s been a creeping feeling of disconnect from team England among fans.

Some of it is to do with selection: clinging on to Cook as ODI captain until giving it to Morgan was a poisoned chalice; the stupefying refusal to pick promising young talent like Hales and Rashid.

And some is an ongoing frustration with a kind of wilful conservatism of thought, an obfuscation of truth and reality with tedious, meaningless, cliché-ridden platitudes, and the apparent conviction that the way to run something ostensibly joyous and fun is through tracksuited Stasi whose main function seems to be calculated press leaks.

Cricket fans among my teammates, friends and family, colleagues and twitterati, probably quite accurately represent the general spectrum – from a passing interest if there’s no football or rugby on, to statistic-chewing fanatics who will get up at 3.30am to watch Pakistan v Bangladesh. There has been a marked shift in attitude among them of late. Many don’t feel that the England cricket team represent them anymore.

Another factor in the loss of hearts and minds has been the consistent and prolonged lack of respect, for both their employees and their public, shown by the ECB.

Paul Downton and Peter Moores both probably deserved to lose their jobs, but neither deserved to find out the way they did. Moores was actually in the middle of an international fixture when journalists told him he’d been fired. Who, precisely, did that benefit? What does it say of an organisation that they think so little of their own people? Something for potential employees to be mindful of, be it a new coach or a new chef.

The great irony of KP-gate this time around is that it’s not about KP. It is indeed, as Andrew Strauss insisted, about trust. Just not in the way he thinks. It is again ironic that he used the word and hid behind the concept so heavily last Tuesday.

Colin Graves told the cricketing public: forget personalities, if Pietersen went back into county cricket and scored lots of runs, the selectors couldn’t ignore him.

10 weeks later, Pietersen makes his extraordinary front-page-grabbing 350 for Surrey, and with jaw-dropping hypocrisy, even by his new employer’s standards, Strauss publicly declares once more that Pietersen will not be considered for selection regardless.

You’re damn right there’s a “massive trust issue”, Straussy old bean.

For the first time I’m aware of – perhaps ever? – many English cricket fans are actively willing England to fail. They’d rather see McCullum with his foot on Cook’s throat. Because it might lead to change? Because they prefer that stripe of cricket? Who knows.

I’m personally not feeling quite that disenfranchised yet, but I understand why people are.

Graves, Strauss and whoever they recruit as coach have some serious work to do. And the most important stuff is nowhere near the field.

- ends 490 words -

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