Posted by: nestaquin | January 9, 2009

The Captain and The Coach – A personal view from The Tooting Trumpet

The Fatal Marriage
By Aesop

THE LION, touched with gratitude by the noble procedure of a Mouse, and resolving not to be outdone in generosity by any wild beast whatsoever, desired his little deliverer to name his own terms, for that he might depend upon his complying with any proposal he should make.
The Mouse, fired with ambition at this gracious offer, did not so much consider what was proper for him to ask, as what was in the powers of his prince to grant; and so demanded his princely daughter, the young lioness, in marriage. The Lion consented, but, when he would have given the royal virgin into his possession, she, like a giddy thing as she was, not minding how she walked, by chance set her paw upon her spouse, who was coming to meet her, and crushed him to pieces.

Moral:
Beware of unequal matches. Alliances prompted by ambition often prove fatal.

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The truly extraordinary events of the last few days in the usually quiet backwaters of English cricket’s off-season reminded The Trumpet of the wise words of Aesop. The mice-like ECB blazers seemed so pleased that KP (lions tattoo and all) had acceded to their wishes for him to give his all in the cause of England that they offered him the England captaincy.

In taking it, KP was forced into cricketing marriage with the England coach, Peter Moores. Like the giddy thing that KP is, not minding how he talks (rather than walks), he did indeed crush Peter Moores, and paid the price of his own job as a result.

But it is Aesop’s moral that is most important in analysing this sorry tale. KP and Moores is an unequal match. KP is a giant of the game, a batsman at the peak of his form able to score the volume of runs 21st century cricket demands at a pace matched by few in history (lest we forget, only Virender Sehwag has a higher average and strike rate than KP, who is England’s fastest ever scorer and sixth on England’s all-time averages list). Peter Moores has no record at all in international cricket and, in his eighteen months or so in post, has done nothing that has improved results, nor influenced his charges to improve their skills discernibly. England have slid backwards under Moores’ regime in all elements of the game.

The alliance between KP and Moores was prompted by ambition – KP’s to lead and stand above those around him and Moores’ to have the biggest, shiniest set of pupils to cajole in that PE teacher’s way of his, all “taking away the positives” and “getting it in the right areas”.

In retrospect, the ECB should have taken Aesop’s advice to beware of such an unequal match of such ambitious men, but they didn’t and now look foolish as a result.

Perversely, The Trumpet is pleased! England have lost a coach who was never subject to a proper appointments procedure which can now be instigated. England have also lost KP as a captain (a regrettable, not welcome, development) but will retain his services as a batsman nonpareil, fired with his very own engine of achievement – the need to prove himself to is doubters yet again. England have gained Andrew Strauss as a captain, a man whose attitude towards returning to India after the Mumbai massacre and subsequent extraordinary twin centuries in Chennai under pressure for his place, marks him out as a man of substance, rather than just another well-spoken, media-friendly, posh but not too posh chap so beloved of English blazers. Wishful thinking possibly, but when England win The Ashes in 2009, we will look back on this cold midwinter week of madness as the start of that long ascent to victory.

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Responses

  1. I tell you what bothers me, Mr Trumpet and I’ll say it here because it’s an awkward thing to say over at that other site.

    It seems there’s a number of journalists involved who know who leaked it that KP went to see Giles Clarke about Moores. (And I agree with Duncan Fletcher, those who think he should have gone to see Morris clearly don’t understand how close Morris and Moores are.)

    Anyway, they know, but for all the usual reasons about “sources” don’t want to say. That’s fair enough. But then something odd happens in their articles:

    1) They imply that it wasn’t KP who leaked about the meeting, some even go so far as to imply that it was the ECB who did.

    2) They then proceed to blast KP for “washing dirty linen in public” etc.

    Something doesn’t smell good.

    Finally, I’ll reiterate what I’ve been saying all along. If KP hadn’t done this, Moores was contract extended all the way through the Ashes and beyond. If I were KP and felt that Moores was holding the team back, I’d have done the same thing. If you actually care about the team performance (which few journos and commenters seem to) then you can’t stand by and watch Moores drive the team into the ground.

    (Not to mention of course, that as captain KP would get a lot of the blame as England slid to loss after loss.)

  2. TTT,

    That depends on how well Strauss can get Pieterson and Flintoff to reconcile and how quickly Pieterson can get over the bitterness over his sacking.

    The good news is that that the village idiot leads Australia so England could yet win the Ashes with a divided house.

    Cheers,

  3. Metatone – I think that the role of the journos stinks. They seemed to hate Stanford and they hate KP too and will undermine him, then, as you point out, claim innocence.

    Moores had to go – KP, perhaps as gauchely as ever, took the highest risk approach, switch-hitting him out of the park. Maybe he should have cultivated a few tame journos and slowly undermined Moores – but that’s not KP’s way and I admire him for that.

    Homer – as long as KP and Flintoff don’t run each other out, I see no problem. On tour it’s different but in the Ashes, they’ll be going home to Jess and Rachael.

  4. TTT, Mike Selvey has written a good article, saying what I’ve been thinking – KP was stitched up.

    I find it sad that others (LB? AB?) have been so keen to make this about KP’s ego and fan the flames about his choice to move to England from SA.

  5. Metatone – Selvey’s piece (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2009/jan/08/kevin-pietersen-peter-moores-england-captain-andrew-strauss) is the most sensible in an avalanche of bullshit. The News of the World on Sunday may be interesting!

  6. Metatone – Who is LB and AB?

    Lovely analogy Toots. The lion and the mouse. I won’t do any speculating, well not too much.

    It appears that Kev wanted to shake things up so the team could reach somewhere near potential. At the very least improve. That is a big tick for the former captain.

    Unfortunately, he went about it with the subtlety of a wombat in a vege garden. And he was on another continent when he made his demands. Once he challenged his masters at Lord’s there was only going to be one outcome.

    One day Kev will learn that no-one is indispensable. Something many of us learn the hard way!

    As long as no-one holds a grudge Kev should be able to continue for a long time to come, however, with the IPL auction looming the ECB should treat Kev with the respect a player of his stature and talent deserves if they want to see him continue in his efforts to carry the England batting.

    The question that needs to be asked (and perhaps someone has already answered it) is why now?

    I’m thinking that KP may have been inspired by his birth nation’s thrilling rise to the top and decided that if Smith can do it he can too (officially Oz are still number one but let’s get back to reality).

    He knew things had to change. He just went about it in a style that is unsuited to English cricket and society.

    Peaceful rebelliousness and challenging authority is seen as a sign of robust independence in many former colonies because in these stolen lands pioneers strove, by hook or by crook, to be master of their own destinies.

    To stand on your own two feet is still seen as a virtue and is in many communities highly respected.

    There is a lyric sung by the late Richard Wright in the Pink Floyd song Time from the epic Dark Side of the Moon which laments,

    “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”

    There is a whimsical wisdom in that infamous line yet you could never attribute such a sentiment when describing KP.

    It’s such a shame that the England dressingroom is so politically charged for the potential is there to challenge the world’s best. They showed that in the heady days of 2005.

    I still keenly remember the 2006/07 Ashes (I doubt I’ll ever forget it) and one thing that stood clear was that Strauss gave Flintoff no assistance whatsoever and seemed to sulk through the entire tour.

    He deliberately undermined him by being a non-participant tactically. Perhaps he tried and was rebuked but I’d wager he was upset at not being skipper after faring so well the in Vaughan’s absence the summer before.

    He now has back what he feels was unfairly taken from him and it will be interesting indeed to see how he fares especially during the T20 World Cup.

    It’s OK to not have any close mates when you are in charge but to have none when you are not is a lonely and tormenting existence. Hopefully, the rest of the team take Kev to their bosom and he and they forgive. Otherwise we may not have seen the last of the destruction and chaos created by Pietersen’s naked ambition and consequent ultimatum.

    And lastly: Great choice of photograph Toots. Sums up the man and situation perfectly.

  7. The photo is pretty much what KP did to Moores!

    The timing seems not of KP’s making. He has said nothing to the Press and went on holiday (I believe) having made representations to his management about the competence of the coach. That was leaked. KP had the right to come back from his holiday and be told that Moores was staying or that Moores was going. Instead, someone (Maybe KP himself, though that’s mighty unlikely) leaked to the Press.

    KP has done many silly things in his time and makes some insensitive comments too, but in this one, I do not consider him the villain.

  8. Nice work Toots.

    This fiasco has some parallels to MaCain – Sarah Palin drama.

    KP as captain was a gamble. I dont think the loss of KP as captain is regrettable. While, KP has the respect of the dressing room as a player that does not translate to respect as a leader.

    The best leaders are often times the ones that serve everyone they lead. KP in my opinion does not do that

  9. “The best leaders are often times the ones that serve everyone they lead.”

    I might be that the best leaders are those that get the maximum from their charges. Some of those charges need serving and some need kicking – the who and the when and the how of that little puzzle has baffled all but a very few. (Me too!!)

  10. Service with a smile and/or with a kick – no?

  11. Dement – dead right!

  12. TTT, thank you, I enjoyed that. And I’m delighted to see this blog up and running again. That photo is perfect, it sums up the man for me, in all his glorious strengths and weaknesses.
    I think you’ve overplayed the idea of Pietersens strengths in your analysis. A cricket team is 11 people, and while KP is clearly head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of cricketing ability, you always need to consider the team. It’s essential in every successful team to have a creative/destructive force, that goads and embarrasses and challenges everyone to greater heights, but there is a limit to that role. Beyond a point, it stops being creative and starts being destructive. KP crossed that line. Driving his team forward was one thing, to try to teach the oldest cricket establishment in the world how to run their business (regardless of how overdue the lesson may have been) was just folly.
    The game of cricket is inherently cruel and unjust. So much luck, so many variables, only one chance (for batsmen at least). So it was for KP, despite his talents, and regardless of the broader context of what he might have contributed to the ECB and English team, he played an impetuous shot, and was caught out. Rough justice, but he selected the stroke. If he was surprised at the response he got, he should have looked at the field placing first.
    Ultimately, it wasn’t realy his fault, they should never have appointed him captain.

  13. Fred – Thanks for those thoughts. I have much sympathy with that view, but I’d use a slightly different analogy.

    I’d say it was more a case of KP batting with a tail-ender. He’s hit a four (win vs SA); a six (team returned to India); and had a certain four saved on the boundary (Chennai). He has now called his tailender through for a quick single to retain the strike and been run out – with the fielding done by his own team!

  14. over at cricket with balls, i noted that emotional decisions regarding the captaincy are often doomed (re: Younis Khan’s refusal of the captaincy and the subsequent tail spin that is Pakistan)

    but the point about the pink floyd lyrics was brilliant.

    thats what the entire 2006/07 ashes seemed to be about. even flintoff.

    KP never was, and never is going to hang around desperately. in fact, don’t be surprised if he goes back to the saffers… hahaha

  15. I think Kevin burnt the bridge between himself and South African cricket long ago.

    The ECB know that Kev needs them more than the reverse. I doubt he’d be content playing IPL and County cricket.

    Never bite the hand that feeds you is probably a lesson in another Aesop fable. If anyone knows which one, enlighten us.


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