• Unpacking the ECB ‘vision’

    The Kevin Pietersen issue was an immediate setback for new director of English cricket Andrew Strauss, but it isn’t the only thing to cause England fans concern, writes TOM SIZELAND.

    There were several names in the mix for the new role at the ECB, including the outspoken Michael Vaughan, but when Andrew Strauss was handed the role, the first thing on people’s minds was ‘how is he going to handle the KP situation?’

    Strauss fronted the media on Tuesday, and at the familiar setting of Lord’s he outlined his plans. Perhaps refreshingly, Pietersen wasn’t the focus, which allowed the public to gather some understanding of how Strauss is going to take English cricket forward without KP. His plans however, were surface-level, contradictory and uninspiring.

    This will be discussed later, because inevitably, the Pietersen question was asked.

    The ‘text-gate scandal’ laid the foundations for a plethora of animosity between the two South African-borns, which intensified with Strauss’s use of an expletive in the direction of Pietersen when he thought he was off-air while on live TV.

    In somewhat heroic fashion, he attempted to clear the air, but all he ended up achieving was a thick fog of insincerity.

    ‘There’s been a lot of talk about KP and it’s time to be really honest, and the honest answer about this situation is … over a number of months and years, trust has eroded between Kevin Pietersen and the ECB. It’s pointless denying it. We all know it’s the case and it’s been going on for a long period of time. For that reason he can’t play in the team short term. In the longer term we’ve got to look at ways in which we can regain that trust. I don’t know if there’s any solution to it.’

    The public can only assume that the autobiography was the main reason for the irreparable breakdown in trust, as the issue was, in typical ECB manner, not made transparent. But what was baffling was that Strauss offered KP an advisory role in ODI cricket. Strauss will argue that it is a way to regain that trust, but for KP, it was a severe case of double-standards.

    ‘I’m afraid, as everyone can clearly see, this is the biggest load of rubbish,’ said Pietersen in his column for the Telegraph. ‘I had two phone conversations with Colin Graves (ECB chairman) and he was crystal clear in saying I had to get a county, score runs and that there was a clean slate. He said that when he comes in as chairman he wants the best players playing for England.’

    ‘This is very much a board decision. We are absolutely aligned on this one,’ Strauss said on his level of understanding with Graves and ECB CEO Tom Harrison. Graves is as sheepish as he is quiet on the matter.

    The word ‘trust’ beleaguers Strauss further with the process of Peter Moore’s sacking. The news was leaked by the media a day before he was officially informed. This is negligent from the ECB; the blame can only fall on them for this.

    ‘We needed some different ideas,’ said Strauss on Moore’s second reign as England coach. This is a puzzling one, considering Moore’s ‘ideas’ only lasted a year. Strauss might be new to the board, but the majority of the rest aren’t. ‘We needed to give our players some space and time to develop,’ he continued.  Even more puzzling if you consider that Eoin Morgan was handed the captaincy two months before the World Cup – a decision that Moores played no part in.

    On picking the next coach, Strauss admitted that he didn’t know what the actual process will be, but his goal was to get one in time for the Ashes. What is quite disturbing however, is that he seems to have forgotten that there is a two-Test series and six ODIs before that, against one of the rising forces in international cricket. New Zealand are in fact two places above the English in the Test rankings, but Strauss didn’t mention the Black Caps once in his immediate plans.

    ‘We’ve always got series earmarked that we want to win,’ he said. One wonders if the West Indies series was one of them?

    He raised some suitable points about the captaincy. Alistair Cook will remain as Test captain. ‘Great to see him back in form. I think the players play for him,’ Strauss said. Fair enough. Joe Root has been announced as vice-captain. ‘I think it’s time to give Joe Root a leadership role. I’ve asked him to take over the role from Ian (Bell), who incidently has done an excellent job,’ he continued. Again, fair enough for a talented young player who is being tipped as a future captain.

    Eoin Morgan meanwhile, will resume his leadership in the ODI side. ‘It’s time for more separation from the Test and one day team. Eoin Morgan is an excellent candidate to take the side forward … he knows a lot abut the IPL, he can help drive the one day team in a very different direction.’

    Morgan came under scrutiny for his captaincy during the World Cup. While he was given little time to prepare, he has been an established player in the side for some years now, and he was unable to pick up the mood and the confidence in the side when they hit rock bottom, and his own form was the worst he has experienced in coloured clothing, scoring four ducks in eight innings.

    While Morgan has some experience in the IPL, it doesn’t make him a good captain, it buys him a bigger house. Strauss has indeed been an advocate for England players to play in the IPL to enhance their shorter format skills, but he also said that players must be ‘willing to put their interests of the ECB and English cricket above their own.’ Since the County Championship starts at a similar time to the IPL, it’s confusing as to what he wants his players to actually be participating in.

    As Delhi Daredevils coach Gary Kirsten aptly put it on his Facebook page, ‘from a coaching perspective, IPL is very different to any other forms of coaching I have come across. The key focus is putting a team and strategy together that can beat a different opposition every other day in different conditions.’ Experience in the IPL is unlikely to help the captaincy of an international side.

    It’s a matter of when, not if, Root captains the Test side, and picking him as skipper for the ODI side would have been the bold, brave, resourceful option. It would have instilled some excitement into the public’s abating imagination. Instead, Strauss has gone for the cautious, uninspired route.

    ‘My goal is to take England cricket forward. To me success would be to produce a sustained environment for high quality cricket,’ he concluded. Time will tell as to whether this vague forecast will lead to something substantial.

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