Revolt rebounds on fallen Pietersen

Published : Jan 17, 2009 00:00 IST

Kevin Pietersen's departure was the inevitable consequence of a growing mutual mistrust, writes David Hopps.

The enforced resignation of Kevin Pietersen, it was asserted, was inevitable because he had conducted his campaign against the England coach, Peter Moores, in the public domain. Except that is pure baloney. Pietersen had done no such thing.

Pietersen's intention was to undertake a silent revolution against Moores and he might just have pulled it off. But the rift became public on New Year's Eve, two days after the omission of Michael Vaughan from the squad to tour the West Indies. From that point on, Pietersen's chances of one of the most egotistical campaigns ever attempted by an England cricket captain were slim.

Pietersen's respect for Moores collapsed irretrievably after England's defeat in the Chennai Test when India successfully chased 387 for victory. Forgiveness then became impossible after Vaughan's non-selection for the Caribbean Test series, as Pietersen had argued vehemently that his return was essential to mount a concerted Ashes challenge next summer.

It was the chief selector, Geoff Miller, who took responsibility for the decision, but it was Moores - who was held in equally low regard by his previous captain, Vaughan - who suffered resentment. Pietersen's rebellion somehow became public knowledge, but he was justified when he protested: "At no time, have I released any unauthorised information to the media regarding my relationships with the players, coaches and the ECB itself."

It was fpir daus after Pietersen's ultimatum against Moores was leaked that he made a guarded response in his News of the World column. "Obviously this situation is not healthy, we have to make sure it is settled as soon as possible and certainly before we fly off to the West Indies," he wrote. "Everything has to be hunky dory, everybody has to have the same aims and pull in the same direction for the good of the England team." It was hardly a public call for arms.

Pietersen had privately informed Hugh Morris, England cricket's Managing Director, before the second Test against India in Mohali of his reservations about Moores' ability at Test level. Morris, who had been a friend of Moores for many years but who was not blind to his mediocre record, immediately called a meeting between the pair on the eve of the Test to attempt to thrash out differences.

As soon as Christmas had passed, it was clear that all was still not well. Giles Clarke, the ECB's chairman, was the second senior ECB figure to be formally told by Pietersen that English cricket would not progress whilst Moores remained as coach. Clarke's admiration of Pietersen's talent and ambition had also influenced his high-risk appointment as captain and he was of a mind to accept Pietersen's "his or me" ultimatum - even though he had the audacity to recommend several other sackings of the coaching staff. Clarke is not the sort to pass the buck, but he recognised that protocol insisted that the decision rested with Morris.

When the affair became public, Morris's job became infinitely more complex. He was obliged to take soundings from senior players, and senior players, more to the point, who had become appalled by the suspicion that Pietersen was conducting a public revolution and who suspected that his ego had run out of control.

He had wrongly assumed that he had earned enough professional respect among England's senior players that he would gain support, only to suffer from the English notion of fair play. If there was a unanimous view about Moores among England's players it was that he was a decent bloke who might be in the wrong job, but that decision was a matter for the ECB, not a cause for a players' rebellion.

By the time that Morris was obliged because of the growing furore to call an ECB management board meeting, the die was cast. That Morris had to call a management meeting at all, a board consisting of 12 men who, by and large, had little direct knowledge of the main issues, says a lot about the structural problems that still exist in English cricket.

The tele-conference lasted more than an hour and their decision soon became apparent. "Either they both stay, or they both go." The ECB looked at Moores' record. They both had to go. That Pietersen overstretched himself privately is undoubtedly the case. He assumed that he was so invaluable to the cause that the ECB would quietly bow to his wishes. They didn't, but if England begin to win under a new coach, he will still have the audacity to claim victory.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009

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