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Kevin Pieterson to maintain silence on his exclusion

Friday, 7 February 2014 - 10:35am IST | Place: australia | Agency: Daily Telegraph
The England captain has sided with the bureaucrats who lack the will to explain why they dropped Pietersen, writes Paul Hayward.
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As much as any pattern in the Kevin Pietersen yarn, we see institutionalised avoidance. From the moment England's players started to tire of Andy Flower's dictatorial style, we observe a prissiness that recalls those Harry Enfield spoofs of the Thirties, when everything was said with a nudge and wink.

"I am not at liberty to say," belongs in that category. This was uttered by James Whitaker, the national selector, when he was asked why Pietersen had been chucked out. It was the sort of response you expect from someone at the Foreign Office when the scent of war is in the air.

And talking of Whitehall, what about the Prime Minister's comment: "I will let the England selectors pick the England team. I think I had better stay out of this one." David Cameron made this concluding remark after emphatically NOT staying out of this one. Specifically the PM made Pietersen sound like one of his oldest chums as he eulogised KP's talent for "tonking the ball over the park", a phrase that provoked a kind of national cringe.

This tale has become an epic of people not speaking clearly, or honestly, or not speaking at all. Andy Flower, the England coach who has helped dispatch Pietersen from beyond the grave, left his post with barely a word. Inscrutability had become Flower's modus operandi until the end of the Ashes series, when he began to appear on television saying he would be willing to stay on to save this team from itself.

This bold offer to clean up an almighty mess partly of his making came, we now know, after Pietersen had challenged Flower and captain Alastair Cook about the way England were preparing for matches, as well as the coach's autocratic style. According to one reliable account, Pietersen told Flower the players had felt cowed by him for months and urged him to drop the headmaster act.

This is all very fascinating from a theatrical perspective. But it points as well to a certain softness in the dressing room. Under Flower, England had become cautious and grinding and a shade insincere in their public dealings. You could almost here them sniggering off camera. Urinating on the pitch at the Oval was indicative not of laziness or high spirits so much as a detachment from reality.

So, when Australia applied pressure to England's weak spots they all blew at once. According to the evidence produced so far, only Pietersen had the nerve to challenge Cook and Flower about the way they ran the team. The others, presumably, were cowering, attending to their own loss of form and perhaps using Pietersen as a lightning rod.

Graeme Swann, who quit at 3-0 down (and claimed to be acting for the good of the nation), has suddenly emerged as a Pietersen fan, writing in his newspaper column, "I saw or heard no issues with him in Australia this winter, his approach was exceptional", which will have surprised his friend Cook, who might have been counting on his support.

We could go on and on with this. On the day the story broke, Paul Downton, the new managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said: "The time is right to rebuild not only the team but also the team ethic," adding, "everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore, we have decided the time is right to look to the future."

Pietersen has the Piers Morgan megaphone in his corner. The ECB has borrowed the tones of Neville Chamberlain.

Salvation arrives in the shape of recent former captains and players, who are having no truck with this doublespeak. Wednesday night's Radio 5 Live debate between Michael Vaughan, Steve Harmison and Phil Tufnell was a broadcasting classic, packed with insight and honesty. It must have made horrible listening for Cook, though, because it illuminated his own man management failures, and his about-turn in first welcoming Pietersen back and then turning on him when it all went wrong in Australia.

You have to feel for Cook. He stands before a Mount Rushmore of recent captains who would surely transform England overnight. Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Vaughan must privately wish Cook would rise above platitudes and defensiveness and really impose himself on the role.

By supporting Pietersen's eviction and aligning himself with bureaucrats who lacked the will to explain the decision to drop England's best player, Cook's authority is bound to be weakened in the eyes of those younger players who still wanted KP around as a game-saver. The captain showed himself to be a company man, despite the fact that Flower had already departed, and before the new coach had been offered the chance to make his own mind up.

This constant talking in code and whispers is dismal. Can everyone just speak clearly?




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