England in shambles: Strauss in, Pietersen out and Gillespie hovering

Date: May 15, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

pietersenIn the countdown to this year’s Ashes series England is in a state of flux.

There is a new chairman of the ECB; the coach has been sacked with a full-time replacement yet to be appointed; former captain Andrew Strauss has been appointed the new Director of Cricket for the England team; and Kevin Pietersen has been told that he will not play for his adopted country this year … or effectively, ever again.

Later today at the annual general meeting at Lord’s ECB chairman Giles Clarke will stand down after nearly eight years at the helm. Throughout his tenure he has been a divisive figure and whilst he has left England cricket in a better financial position than when he took over in 2007, but his nation’s on-field performance lately has been mediocre, at best.

Clarke hands over the reins to Colin Graves with the latter assuming responsibility for an England set-up that is currently ranked fifth in Test cricket, sixth in ODIs and eighth in T20s.

One man who has felt the wrath of the ECB over the team’s current world standings is Peter Moores. He oversaw a disastrous World Cup campaign earlier this year that saw England eliminated at the group stage.

His fate was then sealed after a 1-1 draw in last month’s Test series in the Caribbean against the currently eighth-ranked and understrength West Indies – a series which incoming chairman Graves said needed to be won.

The axing was a case of déjà vu for Moores as his previous period as coach ended in the same fashion in January 2009 following a very public spat with Pietersen, who was Test skipper at the time. When Moores was chosen as the replacement for Andy Flower in April last year many in the England cricket fraternity questioned the recycling of a man who had been sacked from the role just five years earlier.

Following the World Cup humiliation then managing director of the ECB, former 30-Test veteran Paul Downton stated publicly that Moores was still the right man for the job and would have the responsibility for rebuilding England cricket.

Whilst Downton was a supporter, his replacement Strauss, is not. In his autobiography released last year, Strauss said that during Moores’ first period as coach he “suffocated the players with too much information and energy”.

It was clear in reading Strauss’ tome that he was not a great fan of the way Moores went about things. Not surprisingly one of Strauss’ first actions upon taking up his new role was to remove him as coach.

In the lead-in to the Ashes England has a two-Test home series against New Zealand during which the team will be guided by Moores’ assistant coach, Paul Fabrace.

While he is expected to throw his hat into the ring for the position full-time the smart money is on former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie, who last year guided Yorkshire to the First Division County Championship title.

Strauss has confirmed he is very much on the radar and his predecessor as England captain, Michael Vaughan has stated publicly that he thinks Gillespie is the right man for the job.

Gillespie last week turned down an offer from the SACA to return full-time as Darren Berry’s replacement as coach of the Redbacks and Strikers, citing the fact that his “work is not done at Yorks”.

Such a decision may have also been predicated on the impending sacking of Moores that was heavily mooted at the time SA made its approach.

For a man who was denied coaching opportunities by Cricket Australia and was forced to launch his post-playing career with the Mid-West Rhinos in Zimbabwe, it would be a delicious irony to coach England in the Ashes.

If, as expected, Gillespie gets the nod one thing is certain – he will not be mentoring Pietersen.

On the outer since being dropped in February 2014, Pietersen has never given up hope of playing again for England and has, in fact, been vocal in airing his desires.

After a career-best unbeaten 355 for Surrey against Leicestershire earlier this week he sought, and received, an audience with Strauss and the new CEO of the ECB, Tom Harrison.

He was told by Strauss at that meeting that there was no place for him in the England set-up. Strauss said of the decision that, “Now is the time to be really open about the Kevin Pietersen situation – people have been running away from it for years.

“The truth about Kevin is that he is a phenomenal cricketer. But over months and years, trust has eroded between Kevin Pietersen and the ECB.

“There is a massive trust issue between me and Kevin.”

That said, Strauss then explained how he had offered Pietersen a consultancy and advisory role with the England team. That offer had many scratching their heads. If he cannot be trusted as a player, how then can he be seen as being the right man to offer advice and guidance?

Given Strauss has declared that it is the time “to be really open about the … situation”, perhaps he should provide more detail as to what the trust issues are as there are numerous England fans who are up in arms as to his ongoing non-selection.

Some have said that Strauss’ decision on Pietersen is as much to do with his own feelings toward him as it is to the team he would have returned to.

Pietersen has been openly critical of the way the past week has played out. In a column for the The Telegraph he said he was deceived by Graves.

Pietersen says that Graves was “crystal clear in saying that I had to get a county, score runs and that there was a clean slate. He says that when he comes in as chairman he wants the best players playing for England.

“He told me on the phone in two separate conversations. He also repeated it to the newspapers.”

For his part, Pietersen gave up a lucrative IPL contract to commit to county cricket by signing with Surrey where he rattled off his triple century this week.

Pietersen wrote further, saying, “I have done everything I can. Was I lied to by the chairman? Only he can answer that”.

Graves, who is hours away from being anointed as the new ECB chairman, has not spoken publicly since Pietersen’s column. If Pietersen’s account is correct, and given Graves’ comments to the press it appears they are, regardless of what you think of him and whether or not he should have been welcomed back to the fold, he has been shabbily treated in this instance.,

All in all, English cricket has some problems.

What bearing they will have on the team’s performance in the Ashes series is pure conjecture. But, one thing is for sure, you would rather be in Australia’s position at present.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 14 May 2015, soliciting 33 comments