Friday, January 30, 2009

Legal Matter

1. Gloucester and England World Cup winning centre, Mike Tindall, is arrested for drunk driving - three times over the legal limit. Despite hiring one of those morally dubious lawyers who tries to get people off of charges purely through 'technicalities' like mis-spellings, he receives a three year ban.

- A month later he is recalled into the England squad.

2. Bath and England prop forward Matt Stevens tests positive for cocaine.

- A week later he is banned from professional rugby for two years by the RFU.

Points to note -

Number of people killed by drunk drivers in the UK in 2008 - 546
Girlfriend of Mike Tindall - Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Phillips
Girlfriend of Matt Stevens - who knows?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jobs for the Boy

Being the chairman of the ECB should be a pretty much full time job for any normal human being. As a paid up member of the master race, however, Jonathan Marland (Let’s give him his real name – not the 11th century throwback) is planning, if elected, to combine the role with his other work. We aren’t talking evening work in the local pub, or stacking shelves in Sainsburys here –

  • Chairman, Heriot Ltd.
  • Chairman Clareville Capital LLP
  • Director Janspeed Ltd
  • Director Hunter Boot Ltd
  • Director WH Ireland Ltd
Oddly, there’s nothing to specify which one of these is the ‘day job’ so to speak. Away from the mad mad mad mad world of business, he also finds the time for -

  • Tory Peer in the House of Lords
  • Chairman of Harnham Water Meadows Trust (Very Beatrix Potter that)
  • Trustee of The Peggy Guggenheim Museum (UK)
  • Trustee of the Churchill Society
  • Fellow of Royal Society of Arts
  • Chairman of The Sports Nexus
  • President of Salisbury FC
  • Treasurer and Trustee of the Atlantic Partnership

With all those taking up his valuable hours, it’s hard to see how he’s going to make the time to chair the ECB. It doesn’t strike me as the sort of organisation where you can simply breeze into the office once a week, bandy around some meaningless platitudes and then go off for a good lunch, before stumbling back into the office at four-thirty to mutter incoherently and drool over a secretary.

In the next couple of years some, or more likely all, of the following are going to be on the ECB agenda requiring positive action and forceful and committed leadership –

  • Relations with the IPL,
  • Ongoing relations with other boards, most importantly the ICB,
  • The worldwide recession and potential sponsorship contraction resulting from it,
  • The long-running Kolpak debate,
  • Ashes 2009 and post Ashes strategy,
  • Ashes 2011/12,
  • Appointing a new head coach,
  • Reorganisation of ECB structure,
  • Holding an inquiry into the leaks during the Kevgate affair,
  • Determining a satisfactory balance of 20/20 with other cricket.
On top of that, there’s the day to day issues arising from the workings of a highly dysfunctional organisation like the ECB. Such is the turmoil that you wouldn’t be at all surprised if it suddenly declared war on Honduras or signed a sponsorship deal with Kalashnikov Rifles.

Rather than signpost any radical change from the Clarke Agenda, Marland’s manifesto seems to be, ‘I’m not going to change much – just try and do things in a more sympathetic manner without frightening the horses’ – liberally laced with gin and tonic I suspect.

It reminds me of the early 80’s when the Tory Party were split between ‘wets’ and ‘drys’. The drys were Giles Clarke – pushy businessmen, aggressive and results orientated – not concerned about whose toes they trod or, more literally, how many working class communities they trashed or how much of the social fabric of society they shredded.

The wets were very much of the same mind, but just a bit more squeamish about it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rotten Borough

I suppose you should be careful what you wish for... I was hoping for a contest, but had in mind a slightly less 'establishment' figure to carry the standard for everyone appalled by the way the ECB has handled itself recently.

Instead, we now hear that Lord Marland is going to challenge Giles Clarke for the chairmanship.

Let's see: -
  • Tory
  • Peer of the realm
  • City financier
  • MCC member
Mmmm - he certainly ticks all the right boxes for me...

If successful I make it that it will be his third job - just what you need at the head of such an important body in the coming years.

The electorate consists of 18 county chairman, and the head of the MCC. That's nineteen people, totally unmandated, deciding on the future direction of an organisation in which all English cricket fans have a stake. At least it won't take them long to count the ballot papers - though with the ECB in charge I'm not going to hold my breath, just in case.

By the way, I presume that 'Lord' isn't Marland's real first name - either that or his parents were incredibly presumptive.

Friday, January 16, 2009


“Anyone looking at the situation rationally would realise even a Don Bradman figure couldn’t win an election against Giles now”

(Andy Nash – Chairman, Somerset CCC, speaking about the upcoming election for ECB Chairman.)

Let's leave aside the sheer sycophancy on display here - a level of obsequiousness that would make even Prince 'Sooty' blush.

Let's also ignore the fact that, based on simple statistics, Don Bradman is one of the greatest sportsmen of all time, and the greatest batsmen in history.

No - let's compare their records as cricket administrators - only fair really, because as far as I know Giles Clarke has never even played first class cricket.

Bradman was widely recognised as a positive force for attractive cricket during his term as an Australian selector. (Link) According to Jack Fingleton in his book 'the Greatest Test of All' it was Bradman who persuaded Richie Benaud to go for the runs on the last day of the first test against West Indies in 1960 - thus prompting the first ever tied test match. (At the time of their conversation, Australia were 92-6 chasing 233 to win...)

Later in his administrative career, Bradman won the respect of many in cricket for his work in reconciling the two sides of the Packer controversy.

Even better than that though, is his successful campaign after the 1958/59 Ashes tour, to eradicate 'chucking' from the game - well, for at least thirty five years anyway...

As for Clarke, two images keep coming into my head. First - the sight of England players wives lapdancing for Sir Allen Stanford in Antigua. Second - the newly deposed England captain, who made the mistake of assuming that the contents of a private discussion with the Chairman of the ECB would remain confidential, walking back through Heathrow Airport with an armed guard.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Born Again Irritant

Hands up who's going to miss Matthew Hayden?




Sunday, January 11, 2009

Call a Plumber!

So if KP didn't leak details of his meeting with Giles Clarke (Link) then who did?

Presumably the ECB will be holding an internal inquiry to find out the source of the leak - after all, it's prompted the biggest crisis in English cricket for over thirty years.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Silly Games

What has happened in the past 48 hours simply proves beyond all doubt what a totally dysfunctional organisation the ECB really is.

In any big commercial organisation, if there is a crisis – such as the one currently enveloping English cricket, the PR Department will immediately issue an internal note to all employees advising that all media enquiries are referred immediately to the Press Office - who will issue a formal company statement based on the agreed company line. It’s a sort of ‘lock down’ – waiting for the dust time to settle, giving everyone a chance to get their brain in gear and, most importantly, prevent any legal comeback further down the line. Often there’s an additional comment suggesting that if anyone goes beyond the agreed process and starts coming out with their own version of events, they’ll be liable to a disciplinary charge.

Presumably the same doesn’t apply to the ECB – which itself is a farcical situation bearing in mind the power they wield and the relationships they need to develop within the game in order to function effectively.

In the current situation – ‘Kevgate’ - there are two important constituencies in the equation. The England squad and England cricket supporters. For both, the ECB appear to be leaking stories deliberately designed to undermine the one world class player in the England squad.

For example, as a statement, can you think of anything more likely to make Pietersen’s return to the England dressing room more awkward than the comments made by ‘senior ECB officials’ quoted in the Guardian this morning advising that, as well as Moores, he also wanted to get rid of Andy Flower?

At a lower level, there’s the steady drip, drip of comments from unnamed members of the England team, or those ‘close to the England squad’ giving their take on the whole affair. I appreciate that saying ‘no comment’ when someone asks you a question is terribly boring – but maybe people start looking at the wider situation rather than puffing up their own egos.

Someone at the ECB is playing silly buggers. Remember these are the people who run the game here in England for heavens sake – so why are they suddenly acting like the hysterical first-jobbers working in the PR department for X Factor?

It’s so counter-intuitive. The strength of English cricket, and therefore the perceived success of the ECB, is based around the strength of the England team. Without a fully motivated KP in the side, England have no chance whatsoever of beating Australia this summer. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’ll conclude that his position in the England dressing room is untenable after the rumours that have been flying around – think to himself ‘f*** this for a game of soldiers’, and throw his lot in with the Indian 20/20 circus for a couple of years.

Four final points –

- I suspect that Moores was sacked, not because the ECB wanted to get rid of him, because for him to have resigned would probably have prevented any financial payoff package.

- Credit where credit is due – Strauss played a blinder at his press conference yesterday. He’s got a thankless job over the next month or so but, based on what we saw yesterday, he’s got a chance of pulling it off. He just needs to keep those meddling ECB kids away from the dressing room.

- Having reviewed sensible press analysis of the past couple of days, it does seem to me that KP did little wrong in terms of procedure. Everything started to unwind when his meeting with Giles Clarke was leaked.

- I wonder how the ECB will make a mess of the new coaching appointment? Note that it's very much a matter of 'when' rather than 'if'.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Crawling from the Wreckage

So there we have it - KP becomes the Lady Jane Grey of England cricket captains.

In simple terms, he thought Moores wasn’t up to the job and said so. But obviously it goes far deeper than that.

There's been comment that he should have taken his complaints through the proper channels, but think that through for a second. Who were the proper channels? Hugh Morris - a close personal friend of Peter Moores since they played in the same junior side together over 25 years ago. The ECB committee - the very same people who appointed Moores in the first place. At this time it's worth pointing out that they appointed Moores without bothering to interview anyone else for the job - way to go lads!

For the ECB to have deferred to Pietersen, however correct they thought he was, would have been an admission that their initial judgment was wrong, and, tacitly, that the process through which Moores rose through the coaching ranks was also flawed.

In any event - who's to say he didn't try taking his compliant to the people he was supposed to, and just got the standard establishment brush off.

So, because he realised that the presence of Moores as coach was likely, in his view, to prevent England fulfilling their full potential, he spoke out publicly. I’m not sure if he quite realised the ultimate impact of what he said.

If he did realise, then what he’s done is extraordinary – effectively given up his cherished job as England skipper for the sake, in his eyes, of England getting a better coach (he's played under Fletcher so he knows what a good coach can do) and a chance of beating Australia this summer.

Somewhat inevitably, there has been press speculation of a divided England dressing room - and you can imagine that the ECB spin doctors haven't been doing much to dampen down those rumours in the past few days. I say inevitably, because most of the England team don’t strike me a being instinctive rebels, and a lot of them aren’t particularly confident about keeping their place, so would be loath to do anything to rock the boat – and you can’t rock the boat much more than try to get rid of your coach.

Then there's Strauss’s role in the whole affair. Excuse me if I'm overplaying the conspiracy card here (just point me in the direction of the nearest grassy knoll) but how about this. He was clearly miffed he didn’t get the nod when Vaughan retired. He's part of the cricketing establishment – plays for Middlesex, posh school, posh accent - unlikely to put a word out of place, and happy to toe the party line without fear of him starting any fires. In short - he's a safe pair of hands. Is it too far fetched to imagine him being the source of the 'leaks' about divisions in the ranks?

Handily for the ECB, he scored runs in India, so when they came to announce the replacement he’s someone safe in the side and it's a simple choice that everyone can rally behind.

Of course, KP as the folk hero, Strauss as the scheming villain, Moores as the dumb fall guy and the ECB as the incompetent authorities are handy labels to attach to the affair - and much too glib and simplistic to stand up to much analysis (apart from the ECB label) but, hey, we can have our fun.

When all's said and done though, it's all one hell of a mess.

One small crumb of comfort. Ask yourself who Australia would rather face this summer. A KP weighed down by the cares of captaincy - or one who can devote himself entirely to scoring a stack of runs, and winning back the urn - which was what he was trying to do in the first place.

This Town Ain't Big Enough...

Excellent piece by Mihir Bose on the BBC website - a must read.
This is essentially a management problem not a cricketing one. It indicates that for all the talk of how the modern English game is efficiently managed, it remains a cottage industry dressed up with some fashionable management frills.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Room at the top

An interesting idea from Scyld Berry in the Torygraph this morning - appoint the King of Spain as interim coach.

Here's another suggestion. Get rid of Moores, whose position now is surely untenable, and let the ECB find him some sort of paid sinecure within the organisation - something they seem to be pretty good at. Then offer Michael Vaughan the job up until the end of Australia series, on the understanding that he's not going to get paid much, because he's already getting a pretty decent salary through his central contract.

Vaughan can then reapply for the job, if he wants it, once his central contract comes to an end.

Of course, an even better option would be to bring back Duncan Fletcher - but even if the ECB were to consider it, I reckon Fletcher is too proud to accept bearning in mind the way his was treated.

Friday, January 02, 2009

No More Mr Nice Guy

It's only when you read books like Duncan Fletcher's Ashes retrospective that you realise quite the impact a good coach can have on a test team.

He encouraged, probably ordered, the England team to think and act aggressively throughout the 2005 series - get in the Aussies faces and stay there. Starting with the 'Jones v Hayden' spat, which turned into an 'Entire England XI v Hayden' spat they managed to follow that to the letter. He looked for every possible angle to take the Australians out of their comfort zone, even down to making sure they had to take the field through a guard of honour consisting of England flags.

I suspect that there's a lot of things that went on that even Fletcher isn't owning up to - no hot water in the Australian changing room? Sorry, the plumber's got caught in traffic. Fire alarm at 2 o'clock in the morning at the team hotel? Damn those hotel wiring systems

If anyone wants to whinge about gamesmanship - well, that's exactly what happens on Ashes tours down under. Only when England tour Australia the whole of the cricketing system is at it - not just the coach. That's why the last tour started with minimal warm up games, that's why the Barmy Army trumpeter was banned from the Gabba, and that's why most series start in Brisbane, the most uncomfortable ground for unacclimatised English tourists.

Compare that with previous Australia tours here when they were given a warm up game at Canterbury before the Lords test. Why Canterbury? Because they asked for it specifically because it has a similar slope to the one at the home of cricket.

If there was a test match ground in Australia where the Aussies hadn't beaten England since 1934, like Lords over here, then they wouldn't play Ashes tests there anymore.

So what's the point of all this? Well, with the best will in the world, can you imagine Peter Moores doing any of that? No - me neither. And I don't think Kevin Pietersen can either.

But I think Michael Vaughan would...