Apr 192014
 

By Julian Guyer

Kevin Pietersen’s hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end when England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) managing director Paul Downton said there was no way back for the star batsman.

Pietersen, England’s leading run-scorer across all formats, was sensationally axed from the national set-up following the team’s recent 5-0 Ashes series loss in Australia.

At first, the ECB would cite only the need for a new “team ethic and philosophy” and support for skipper Alastair Cook as the reason behind the move, with Cook saying it was a brave call.

But that left unanswered the question of what 33-year-old South African-born Pietersen had done in Australia to deserve such drastic treatment.

However, during a Lord’s news conference on Saturday, where Peter Moores was unveiled as England coach after Andy Flower stood down following the Ashes debacle, Downton gave the most detailed explanation yet by anyone in the England hierarchy for Pietersen’s exile.

“I arrived in Sydney (the venue for the fifth and final Ashes Test) on 31st December, and it was clear that there were two issues: Andy Flower’s future and what we were going to do about Kevin,” said Downton, who was flanked by Moores and Cook.

“I watched every ball of that Sydney Test match and I’ve never seen anybody so disengaged from what was going on,” former England wicketkeeper Downton said of a match the tourists lost by 281 runs, with Pietersen managing scores of just three and six.

“What you need from a senior player is backing, support and everybody working together. We just got to a stage where that was no longer the case.

“We came to the conclusion that if England was going to rebuild after a 5-0 loss, then we had to make a decision for the future and for the side to grow, and let’s remember that we hadn’t replaced (Andrew) Strauss, (Graeme) Swann had retired, (Jonathan) Trott had gone home and is still recovering now (from a stress-related illness), that we had to invest in new players and build a new team with some core values.

“What you see here is the future and I don’t see any going back.”

Last week Pietersen, who is playing for the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, said he still had hope of becoming the first England player to score 10,000 Test runs.

“Yes, maybe I’ll still get to 10,000,” Pietersen told the Indian Express.

But that cut little ice with Downton.

“We had a strong side over 10 years with strong leadership and established captains and coaches, and that side could accommodate Kevin, but that balance has shifted now,” Downton said.

Moores, 51, was previously England coach from 2007 to 2009 before a falling out with Pietersen cost him the job and the batsman the England captaincy.

Rejoining the England set-up from his position as Lancashire coach, Moores laughed when he was told Pietersen had tweeted: “Everyone deserves a 2nd chance!”.

Moores added: “The important point to make is I never fell out with Kevin, Kevin fell out with me. There’s a notable difference.”

AFP

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Apr 192014
 
'I learned from my mistakes,' says Peter Moores after returning to England head coach role

If the managing director, England cricket, is right it will be second time lucky as Moores returns to a role he first occupied in 2007. Then he lasted less than two years before his relationship with England’s senior players declined to such an extent then-captain Kevin Pietersen forced a him-or-me showdown that led to both men losing their jobs.

While Pietersen continued to play for England Moores rebuilt his reputation at Lancashire. Now, just as Pietersen is cast into the wildnerness, Moores is re-appointed.

He is the first man in England’s big three traditional sports to hold the top coaching job twice and given the way his first stint ended it might seem surprising the honour has come his way again. But in 2007 Moores was the coming man, youngish in age (44), perhaps brimming with too many new ideas, and certainly too keen to impose them. Now the blond locks are silver and he is older (51), wiser, and perhaps better able to distinguish between what works, and what is merely fashionable.

There is still a tendency to lapse into jargon with much talk yesterday of ‘connecting people’, but Moores seems more aware that players are individuals and should be treated accordingly.

 

The role of the coach, he said, was to ‘try to help players in a world in which is difficult for a player to be himself and still have his own uniqueness. They can still be real people, have their own view and be part of a very strong team. [Understanding] that is something I have got better at over time.

“Since being England coach I have had five years at Lancashire which I have loved. It has been a great chance to reflect and develop. You ask players to develop, I’ve done that as well.

“I loved my time first time with England. I would do some things differently but I still loved it. You do learn from mistakes, but I am proud of some of the things that happened last time. I had no doubts [about returning]. It’s great to be back. I feel very excited, very proud. I think I have a lot to offer.”

Pietersen’s recall not going to happen, says Downton

Moores still comes across as a coach who likes to work with young, impressionable players (he spoke enthusiastically of Lancashire having “an emerging group”) but it will help that, this time, the senior players – Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and especially his protégé Matt Prior, who can expect a recall, are ones he brought through in his first spell with England.

Downton said England had “interviewed pretty well every leading coach in the world and got down to five outstanding candidates” of whom Moores ‘stood out’.

Ashley Giles, who had been favourite when Andy Flower quit to become technical director of elite cricket after the Ashes debacle, was, said Downton, ‘extremely disappointed’. Giles’ candidacy was damaged by the winter defeats suffered by the one-day and T20 sides under his command though Downton insisted the embarrassing World Cup loss to the Netherlands ‘did not cost him the job’. It was, said Downton – who saw Giles personally to tell him – simply ‘too early’ for someone who has only been coaching seven years.

While Giles departs Paul Farbrace is expected to join as assistant coach. As negotiations continue with a Sri Lankan board unlikely to be thrilled at losing their World Cup-winning coach Downton would not discuss him, but it was intimated that the assistant would, in time, be expected to take charge of occasional tours to relieve Moores’ workload.

A Moores-Farbrace partnership would be an all-English leadership team, the first since David Lloyd departed in 1999. Downton said nationality “was quite important, but not the deciding factor.” He added: “We are very keen on creating an identity, an English side the fans are proud of and are connected to.”

Moores said much the same. Recent England sides, even when winning, have been admired rather than loved with a sense of insularity about them. “I would like to be involved in a team that is connected to the public, is connected to the media, is open and commits totally,” he said. He also wanted them to play in a more attractive style and with a sense of pride.

“I don’t see it as my responsibility to lift them [after the Ashes]. It is their responsibility to be lifted. To play for England is very special, if it ever becomes a normal day we’ve picked the wrong person.”

This sounds like Stuart Lancaster’s approach with the England rugby team. If Moores revives English cricket as successfully as Lancaster, so far, has done the 15-man game it may indeed be a timely appointment.

Apr 192014
 
If there was any doubt over a Kevin Pietersen comeback, Paul Downton makes it unequivocally clear that Peter Moores' appointment ends batsman's career

“The sooner we understand Kevin has had his time the better,” said the managing director, England cricket. “I don’t see any intention of going back.” While Downton said there were no ‘specific issues, no smoking gun’, he stated had never seen a cricketer as ‘disengaged’ from his team as Pietersen was in the Sydney Test, the last in England’s 5-0 Ashes defeat and the last Test of Pietersen’s 104 as an England player.

England are keen to ‘move on’ from Pietersen but he was always going to dominate a Lord’s press conference whose prime purpose was to unveil Peter Moores as the team’s new head coach. That is because Moores is not a ‘new’ appointment, rather a re-heated one, having been in the post between 2007-2009 only to be sacked at the behest of Pietersen, an intervention that cost the latter the captaincy.

Moores was at pains to stress yesterday he held no grudge against Pietersen citing “one of my strengths is that I move on quickly” and insisting “I never fell out with Kevin, Kevin fell out with me, there is a notable difference.” However, his return to England made sure there would not be a difficult stand-off for Downton with a coach who wanted England’s highest ever accumulator of runs back in the side.

 

Not that this would have been negotiable as far as Downton was concerned. He explained: “I arrived in Sydney on 31 December and it was clear from meeting [then-coach] Andy Flower there were two major issues [Flower’s future] and ‘what are we going to do about Kevin?’

“We had a senior player who had got disconnected with the team. I watched every ball of that Test and I have never seen anybody so disengaged from what was going on. What you need from a senior player is backing, support and everybody working together. We got to a stage where that was no longer the case,

Peter Moores was criticised for failing to handle top players when he last led the England teamPeter Moores was criticised for failing to handle top players when he last led the England team “I spent two to three weeks speaking to several senior players, all the coaches on that trip, James Whitaker (chairman of selectors) and Cookie [captain Alastair Cook]. We came to a unanimous conclusion if England are going to rebuild we had to make a decision not for three months, but for five years. For the side to grow we had to invest in new players, build a new team with some core values. We decided that wouldn’t happen with Kevin in the side, so we decided not to select him going forward

“I don’t see any intention of going back.”

“The sooner we understand Kevin has had his time the better, that we are moving on without Kevin. We talked through it over a number of hours with Kevin and his advisers; he is the one who, in the end, wanted to terminate his contract and we agreed with that. He is free to play wherever he wants around the world, the sooner we can focus on young players coming through, what the England team will do, the more everyone will enjoy it.”

Intriguingly Downton then went on to intimate he believes the current leadership set-up of Cook and Moores is not strong enough to manage a personalty as big, and ‘difficult’, as Pietersen. He said: “There is no smoking gun, no specific issues. This is ten years of Kevin scoring very well for England but getting to a point where the balance shifted. When we had a strong side with strong leadership, with an established captain and coaches, it could accommodate Kevin. That balance has shifted now with a new side, new players and coaches. That side cannot accommodate Kevin.”

Pietersen tweeted, when Moores’ appointment was revealed, ‘Everyone deserves a second chance’. When this was mentioned Moores said ‘a good tweet’ and he, Downton and Cook all laughed. Pietersen, however, has already had his second chance, having first been axed after the text-gate affair. A third looks to be out of the question.

Apr 192014
 
Peter Moores announced as Andy Flower's replacement in England coaching role following Kevin Pietersen saga

“The sooner we understand Kevin has had his time the better,” said the managing director, England cricket. “I don’t see any intention of going back.” While Downton said there were no ‘specific issues, no smoking gun’, he stated had never seen a cricketer as ‘disengaged’ from his team as Pietersen was in the Sydney Test, the last in England’s 5-0 Ashes defeat and the last Test of Pietersen’s 104 as an England player.

England are keen to ‘move on’ from Pietersen but he was always going to dominate a Lord’s press conference whose prime purpose was to unveil Peter Moores as the team’s new head coach. That is because Moores is not a ‘new’ appointment, rather a re-heated one, having been in the post between 2007-2009 only to be sacked at the behest of Pietersen, an intervention that cost the latter the captaincy.

Moores was at pains to stress yesterday he held no grudge against Pietersen citing “one of my strengths is that I move on quickly” and insisting “I never fell out with Kevin, Kevin fell out with me, there is a notable difference.” However, his return to England made sure there would not be a difficult stand-off for Downton with a coach who wanted England’s highest ever accumulator of runs back in the side.

 

Not that this would have been negotiable as far as Downton was concerned. He explained: “I arrived in Sydney on 31 December and it was clear from meeting [then-coach] Andy Flower there were two major issues [Flower’s future] and ‘what are we going to do about Kevin?’

“We had a senior player who had got disconnected with the team. I watched every ball of that Test and I have never seen anybody so disengaged from what was going on. What you need from a senior player is backing, support and everybody working together. We got to a stage where that was no longer the case,

Peter Moores was criticised for failing to handle top players when he last led the England teamPeter Moores was criticised for failing to handle top players when he last led the England team “I spent two to three weeks speaking to several senior players, all the coaches on that trip, James Whitaker (chairman of selectors) and Cookie [captain Alastair Cook]. We came to a unanimous conclusion if England are going to rebuild we had to make a decision not for three months, but for five years. For the side to grow we had to invest in new players, build a new team with some core values. We decided that wouldn’t happen with Kevin in the side, so we decided not to select him going forward

“I don’t see any intention of going back.”

“The sooner we understand Kevin has had his time the better, that we are moving on without Kevin. We talked through it over a number of hours with Kevin and his advisers; he is the one who, in the end, wanted to terminate his contract and we agreed with that. He is free to play wherever he wants around the world, the sooner we can focus on young players coming through, what the England team will do, the more everyone will enjoy it.”

Intriguingly Downton then went on to intimate he believes the current leadership set-up of Cook and Moores is not strong enough to manage a personalty as big, and ‘difficult’, as Pietersen. He said: “There is no smoking gun, no specific issues. This is ten years of Kevin scoring very well for England but getting to a point where the balance shifted. When we had a strong side with strong leadership, with an established captain and coaches, it could accommodate Kevin. That balance has shifted now with a new side, new players and coaches. That side cannot accommodate Kevin.”

Pietersen tweeted, when Moores’ appointment was revealed, ‘Everyone deserves a second chance’. When this was mentioned Moores said ‘a good tweet’ and he, Downton and Cook all laughed. Pietersen, however, has already had his second chance, having first been axed after the text-gate affair. A third looks to be out of the question.

Apr 182014
 
Cricket: Morgan eager to fill Kevin Pietersen void after snubbing IPL’s riches

Morgan had committed himself to a fifth season in the Indian Premier League, a tournament suited to his innovative batting style that has provided lucrative consolation for international ambitions never totally fulfilled. Pulling out would have legal implications. He faced a dilemma with which he wrestled for a number of days. But he knew, two years after the last of his 16 Tests, that he had an opportunity too good to pass up.

“I was at the interim stage between applying to go into the IPL auction and the auction itself,” he said. “You are legally bound at that point to go into any contract offered. But with what happened to Kev and other positions being in question I think everybody sees it as a huge opportunity.

“I spent a bit of time thinking about it. Then I had a meeting with Paul Downton [the England and Wales Cricket Board’s managing director] to discuss the possibility of withdrawing from the IPL auction and it sort of went from there. The ECB were very accommodating, they worked with the Indian board in getting me withdrawn and that was pretty much it.

“That was the purpose of the meeting, not for them to encourage me that there was a place. But we talked about the Test team and that for anyone who scored a lot of runs in county cricket there was a possibility they might be picked and I certainly wanted to throw my hat in the ring.”

Those who have followed Morgan’s career will not have been surprised at his pragmatic approach, even at the moment of a friend’s misfortune. He lost his Test place after a poor series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where he struggled – not uniquely, by any means – against the spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, and admits there have been times in the last two years that he has wondered if there might not be another chance. Yet he remains steadfastly sure that playing in the IPL each year, when others have focused on impressing the selectors by scoring red-ball runs with their counties, has not undermined his prospects.

Even now, eight years after his Middlesex debut, he has played only 46 Championship matches, compared with 161 one-day and Twenty20 internationals, for Ireland and England. The last of his nine first-class hundreds was his second in Tests, against India at Edgbaston in 2011. The one he missed when he was dismissed for 86 against Nottinghamshire last week would have been his first for Middlesex since 2009.

“No, I don’t regret not playing more county cricket,” Morgan said, somewhat incongruously, at a day set aside to launch the new NatWest Blast T20 competition, which begins next month. “From a young age one-day cricket was always my strength and that’s because I played a lot of one-day cricket. They were the skills I honed up.

“I was a late starter into red-ball cricket and I am still learning and trying to improve but I don’t think a lesser stint at the IPL or an extra couple of April months in England would have helped me. Playing in front of 80,000 people under pressure helps you more than worrying about your technique on early-season English pitches.

“In that series in the UAE I struggled in a part of the side where we all struggled to score runs. Ajmal was exceptional, Rehman was exceptional and their seamers did a job. We found it difficult to play a ball turning both ways. At some stages, yes, I have wondered if I might not play another Test. When you are out of the side you feel so far away from playing, but I also look back on how I got there.

“Now the appetite for county cricket is there. The opportunity is there for everybody, which is brilliant. If it was just there for me there wouldn’t be a challenge as there would be no prize there. It is unique. There is going to be a new coach appointed and things are going to change.”

Apr 172014
 
Starc makes winning start at IPL

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AUSTRALIA paceman Mitchell Starc got his Indian Premier League campaign off to a winning start as some Virat Kohli heroics got Royal Challengers Bangalore home with eight wickets to spare against a Delhi Daredevils side missing Kevin Pietersen.

AUSSIES IN ACTION

Starc helped Bangalore make a strong start in its first match, picking up the wicket of Delhi opener Mayank Agarwal in the third over of the match.

The left-armer finished with figures of 1-33 from his four overs.

Nic Maddinson could only manage four runs for Bangalore. Picture: Mark Evans.

Nic Maddinson could only manage four runs for Bangalore. Picture: Mark Evans. Source: News Limited

His economy rate of 8.25 was a bit too high for his liking, but he’ll be pleased with a return to form after a poor showing for Australia at the recent ICC World T20 in Bandladesh.

The news wasn’t so good for the other Australian in action for the Royal Challengers, with New South Wales batsman Nic Maddinson dismissed for four in the second over of the run chase.

He now faces a battle to hold onto his spot, with West Indies superstar Chris Gayle likely to return to the line-up soon.

MATCH SUMMARY

With skipper Kevin Pietersen sidelined with a finger injury, Delhi made a disappointing start to the seventh season of the IPL as their total of 4-145 proved easy for Bangalore to surpass.

Royal Challengers captain Kohli led from the front in the run chase with 49 not out from 37 deliveries, while fellow India teammate Yuvraj Singh blasted an unbeaten half-century.

Virat Kohli continued his brilliant form from the World T20.

Virat Kohli continued his brilliant form from the World T20. Source: AFP

They did lose Nic Maddinson early at the start of their reply, but Parthiv Patel (37) and Kohli — who was dropped twice in one Wayne Parnell over — combined to put on a stand of 56.

Although Patel perished when advancing down the pitch to leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, Yuvraj came out to blast Bangalore to their target in a hurry. The left-hander struck five sixes and three fours on his way to 52 not out from 29 deliveries.

Kohli cleared the boundary three times himself to help his team ease home with 20 balls to spare thanks to an unbroken third-wicket alliance worth 84.

WHAT THEY SAID

“It was about getting used to the wicket. I was trying to hit the boundary, but kept hitting the fielders. It was a 170 wicket, so the bowlers did well. Overall, I’m very happy with the performances.” – Virat Kohli

Apr 162014
 
Anti-climax as new Kevin Pietersen era is put on hold by injury

Delhi are playing Royal Challengers Bangalore in Sharjah on Thursday afternoon, the second game of this season’s competition. Pietersen was due to captain Delhi, who secured his services in the IPL auction in February for a fee of £880,000. It would have been his first serious match since the fifth and final Ashes Test of the winter, which ended in Sydney on 5 January.

Pietersen’s controversial sacking by the England and Wales Cricket Board in the wake of the Ashes whitewash has left him free to focus on Twenty20 cricket around the world. As well as being able to play in all of the IPL, he will be representing Surrey in the English T20 competition this summer and then the St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League.

The injury, which he picked up while training at Surrey, has put paid to that. “Kevin is still a few days away, so he won’t be considered for tomorrow,” said Delhi assistant Eric Simons last night. “It is obviously a setback because he’s an important player in our set-up and an important player in any team. It is a difficult situation.

“I think we’ll take it one day at a time and see how it progresses each morning but he definitely won’t be considered for tomorrow. He has done some work with the bat, some drills but nothing too strenuous. It’s obviously as disappointing for him as it is for us.”

Delhi could have done with Pietersen leading them against Bangalore, who have the strongest batting line-up in the competition, featuring captain Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers.

Pietersen is now racing to be fit for Delhi’s second game, against Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday afternoon. Dinesh Karthik will captain Delhi instead today.

Pietersen was fit enough this morning to tweet an “IPL captains selfie” with him, MS Dhoni, Kohli, Shane Watson, George Bailey and Shikhar Dhawan.

Kolkata began their season with a win last night, beating the Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the opening game of this year’s competition. Kolkata batted first and scored 163 thanks to a second-wicket partnership of 131 between the legendary South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis and Manish Pandey.

Mumbai never looked like reaching the target after some excellent bowling from Kolkata. South Africa’s Morne Morkel bowled with testing accuracy, his four overs going for just 16 runs, while West Indies mystery spinner Sunil Narine was almost unplayable, finishing with figures of 4 for 20 from his four overs. Mumbai ended their 20 overs on 122 for 7.

Apr 152014
 
The Light Roller: Test return or not, Kevin Pietersen in whites would be great for the county game

Kevin Pietersen’s apparent suggestion in comments to ESPNcricinfo that he might yet play again for England was interesting but not necessarily a great surprise.

For a start, Pietersen does not like being out of the limelight. He is a man who finds it necessary to wish his twitter followers a “Happy Monday”.  A provocative remark to a media outlet is more or less de rigueur.

However, the mooting of a return to Test cricket was almost inevitable because of the structure of international and domestic cricket – not just in this country – as this column noted a few weeks ago. An England cricketer might have a central contract which affords a degree of stability, but a county player doesn’t need one to get picked for his country. Big runs by KP for Surrey could make things very tasty indeed.

The County game is wide open

The opening rounds of the LV= County Championship have suggested that a raft of teams in each division are likely to be competitive this season.

In the top tier, Yorkshire and Notts both have the kind of strength in depth that looks attractive on paper but, as Lancashire showed in 2011, the title is winnable with a small and unsung group. Durham will be well-marshalled again by Paul Colllingwood.

As for the second division, Surrey’s opening defeat by Glamorgan was a sign that they may be aiming to make a hash of things once again. Graeme Smith might wish he had retired from the game as a whole before the season is out, unless KP rides to the rescue.

The Roller’s predictions? Yorkshire for the title; Essex or Glamorgan to win Division 2.

The BCCI’s intransigence over pictures is bad for media independence

When the 2014 edition of the Indian Premier League hits off tomorrow, users of mainstream media might find photographs of the action in short supply.

This will be because of the latest skirmish in a lengthy battle between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international media agencies, the latter having been banned by the former from taking pictures of recent test series and other tournaments under its jurisdiction.  The BCCI insists that only the IPL’s own photographers may provide images to news media, ensuring that all profits are retained by the organisers.  The international agencies, working through the News Media Coalition, argue that they should have the right to report on what is a sporting news event and sell the material they gather to their clients (i.e. newspapers, websites and so on).

A fairly unedifying spectacle this may be, but there is an important principle at stake in terms of media independence.  And given how frequently the IPL finds itself mired in debates about corruption, one might have thought that the BCCI would realise it is sometimes wise to put media goodwill before the health of its own coffers.

Hadlee’s vintage kit is this week’s star performer

Bell and Cook have played themselves back into form; Jonathan Trott has made a welcome return to the field of play; some of those hoping for a test call-up have pressed their claims with impressive performances.  On foreign soil, the future king of England has proved once and for all that royals should stick to horse-based sports.

However, the major cricketing highlight of the last week was surely the appearance with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge of Richard Hadlee; or to be more precise, Richard Hadlee’s World Cup ’92-era shirt.  You know the one: light grey with white, red, green and blue trim across the shoulders and with no hint of this skin-tight nonsense they go in for nowadays.  All the other team kits were of the same design in different colours.

New Zealand made the semis of that tournament before being beaten by the eventual winners, Pakistan, who overcame England in a memorable final, despite Derek Pringle’s 3-22 off ten measly overs.  This was also the tournament in which Alec Stewart scored a remarkable 29 off 96 balls as England, despite having already qualified for the later stages, failed to chase down Zimbabwe’s 134 and were bowled out for 125 off 49.1 overs.  How times change.   

Twitter: @willjgore

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