Cricket news from ESPN Cricinfo.com

Friday, 27 February 2015

Morgan to sing "Dirty Old Town" during national anthem

England captain, Eoin Morgan, today defended his decision not to sing the national anthem at the World Cup and announced he will from now on be bawling out Dirty Old Town instead ahead of all future matches. Morgan, whose scowl has been known to make doves fall from the sky, has largely kept his counsel about the affair on the grounds those questioning his stance were "just twats". The under fire skipper today, however, chose to face down his detractors by saying he'd be singing the folk classic made famous by The Dubliners at full volume over the top of God Save The Queen before England fixtures. Speaking from Wellington as his side prepared for their next game against Sri Lanka, Morgan explained his controversial strategy:

"To be perfectly honest, I hadn't really paid much attention to the criticism because it was coming from the sort of pricks who'd like to share a pint with Nigel Farage while giggling about something that upset the locals on a Top Gear special. Then I just thought, sod it. If these what I suppose I'm expected to term 'eejits' want me to be all oirish just so they can blame England's failure on a lack of patriotic singing rather than the chronic mismanagement and anachronistic absurdity of the ECB, then so be it. The song's actually about Salford, not Dublin, by the way, but whatevs." 



Piers Morgan, one of the fiercest critics of his namesake during the outcry, was understandably apoplectic at the latest news:. "Our captain not singing the anthem is the single biggest reason English cricket is ten years behind the leading sides at this World Cup. As I've said, I'm Irish - part of the famous East Sussex Morgans - and if I was England captain I'd sing the anthem. Why can't Eoin see that his entire family upbringing and international sporting career is near analogous to mine and that he is thus completely in the wrong? It's baffling." 

Mail Online readers were quick to join the debate with one commenter, ProvenceExpatNO2EU, suggesting that during the tournament the England ODI captain also "shouldn't be allowed to drink Guinness" or "love the craic" and "any other cliches which define someone as Irish in my limited head", adding later in the thread that "I don't like that beardy one either". 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Pakistan to fit bionic arms to Akmal brothers

Following the news the world's first mind-controlled arms have been successfully trialed, the PCB today announced they would be buying a couple of pairs and fitting them to the Akmal brothers. Fed up with the continually hapless wicket keeping of both Kamran and Umar, board president Shahryar Khan said that this was the most obvious way to improve their performance:

"We've long hoped scientists might come up with a cure for acute Akmalism, but until now nothing has done the trick," he explained. "The beauty of the technology is that the mind and bionic hands don't actually have to belong to the same person so we've decided to employ Adam Gilchrist as Kamran and Umar's brains. It's perfect. Whatever Gilly thinks they should do with their hands they do it. No more spilled chances, no run outs fluffed, no more embarrassments. The manufacturers have also assured us it's only their hands not their legs which are mind-controlled, though, so he can't make them walk if they nick one."

The PCB are also believed to be looking into whether the technology could be used on Moin Khan to stop him picking up his phone and calling taxis to take him to casinos. "The potential is endless," Khan said. "If we can rig Misbah's brain up to Shahid's body we'll be laughing."

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

A Parody of Human Decency

As someone who frequently makes efforts at satire, there are a number of thoughts that accompany any attempted lampooning of those in either power or the public eye: Is this funny? Is this too cruel? Is this somewhat cruel but nevertheless funny and justified by the poor behaviour of those at which it is directed? One thought that obviously never goes through your head - and, of course, it's a near comically ludicrous juxtaposition when the focus is on cricketers' foibles - is whether this will see you murdered in cold blood. 

Regardless of subject, however, be it sport, politics, celebrity, dog shows or religion, the idea that death is the legitimate response to a satirical ribbing is utterly and sickeningly repulsive and cuts to the very heart of the basic human dignity of being able to pass judgement on and laugh at those who hold sway over our lives in whatever capacity. Personally, and entirely irrationally given my relentless joy at watching The Life of Brian, the notion of ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad in a cartoon doesn't sit terribly comfortably - it somehow seems just a little ungallant - but the slighted offense of the fervent believer is nothing next to the affront on enlightenment and progress if religion's still immense and not infrequently vituperative influence over the planet cannot be challenged in whatever format or media.

Ostentatious displays of faith are a regular facet of cricket, most obviously because perhaps such a high proportion of the stellar players are devout Muslims. The fact this axiom has been subsumed in the main so seamlessly is a strength and a source, even surely to the most cynical, of pride for our game and, natch, for all other sports, which so thankfully override humanity's boundaries of so many ilks. Every time a Pakistan player kneels in praise on the turf after making a century while his opponents of whatever religion or none applaud behind them is a heartening snapshot of simple respect and decency, as was every Inshallah that accompanied so many of the expressions of sadness and support in the wake of Phillip Hughes's tragic passing. These things don't need to be overthought. They are just nice.

Peshawar, Sydney, Glasgow, the ocean off Borneo. The world recently has seen a near intolerable and relentless parade of grief and grief-stricken friends, family and loved ones. Getting slightly older (as I am) only heightens the empathy with bereaved strangers because death or its spectre - be it in relation to relatives, acquaintances, colleagues or fortunately only very occasionally mates - starts to encroach ever more frequently on your own life. As the Indian and Australian players take the field and take with them their various faiths or none, we will all on Twitter, with our various faiths or none, joyously take the piss out of them. None of it will have the remotest connotation with religion, but if we now live in a world where you deserve to die for mocking a faith we may as well start to believe we live in a world where you deserve to die for mocking Shane Watson's front pad. Pathetic, puerile, misguided, murderous hate, raping the decency that it is absurd not to acknowledge religion can imbue in so many will never win. Reposez en paix. 




Saturday, 27 December 2014

Siddle Appointed India Team Chef

After Ishant Sharma and Suresh Raina were forced to leave the Gabba during the Second Test to forage for decent quality vegetarian food, the BCCI today confirmed that Australian bowler, Peter Siddle, would be joining the squad as its full time chef. The paceman, famous for his non-meat diet, said he was “thrilled and delighted” to have been given the role, and was looking forward to trying out some of his spicy soya cutlets on Murali Vijay. 

Although the move was broadly welcomed by observers, some warned Siddle that he'd have his work cut out to meet the exacting standards required by team captain, MS Dhoni. "Everyone knows how MS can be if he doesn't get his food exactly as he specifies," said a BCCI insider. "In fact, he actually wanted Rayudu's mother to take up the role - he loves her biryanis - but Ambati vetoed her appointment because he's still bitter about that T20I against England back in the summer. 'If you starve me of the strike, I'll starve you of my mum's home cooking,' he said. It got so heated they had to be pulled apart by Virat and Shikhar, apparently.”

Speaking from Melbourne, India head coach Ravi Shastri, who had accompanied the two ravenous players on their search for culinary satisfaction in Brisbane, explained the thinking behind Siddle's new job: “For me, the fact that no decent quality food was available for our guys was the biggest insult to Indian cricket since Peter Moores gave Jaddu a signed photo of Jimmy Anderson for his birthday. Peter Siddle is a cool customer in the kitchen and, importantly, has got a bit of time on his hands due to this big man Hazlewood. As a team we're so thrilled he'll be our cook. The new potatoes will be crucial.”

Siddle himself said he was relieved to finally be involved with a nation that didn't believe you had to eat steak tartare for breakfast in order to bowl a cricket ball. "When I missed a match against South Africa in 2012, many of my fellow Australians suggested it was because I wasn't eating enough KFC Zinger Burgers in between overs. I personally thought the reason was more to do with the fact I'd bowled 64 overs in 100 degree heat the previous Test, but there you go. I'm also so sick of standing around awkwardly at barbecues. I just hope I can do Duncan's salads the way he likes them.”



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Friday, 19 December 2014

Captain Cook's Ultimate Sacrifice

There's a terrific Beyond the Fringe sketch, building on Wilfred Owen's poetic exposés of flawed patriotism and later drawn heavily upon by Blackadder Goes Forth, about how in wartime it's always one of the ordinary men that has to take the fall for the errors of their seniors and betters. In it, Peter Cook, ever the maestro of puncturing pomposity, plays an RAF officer addressing one of his pilots, portrayed by Jonathan Miller. Cook, adorned with that wonderful voice for lampooning privileged bluster, explains thus why his charge has to throw himself on the pyre of symbolism:



Cook Perkins! (Jonathan Miller breaks away from the singing) Sorry to drag you away from the fun, old boy. War’s not going very well, you know.
Miller Oh my God!
Cook  …war is a pyschological thing, Perkins, rather like a game of football. You know how in a game of football ten men often play better than eleven?
Miller Yes, sir.
Cook Perkins, we are asking you to be that one man. I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war. Get in a crate, Perkins, pop over to Bremen, take a shufti, don’t come back.
Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going too.
Miller Goodbye, sir – or is it – au revoir?,’ 
Cook No, Perkins.

In the case of Alastair Cook's sacking, it is neither a mere gesture nor futile and England have no shortage of eleventh men with which to replace the fallen. It is undoubtedly the correct decision but, nevertheless, one which, by dint of the ECB's tediously foppish prevarication and cowardice dressed up as loyalty, irrefutably gives the impression that the now ex-England skipper has belatedly yet hastily been made to get in a crate solely to human shield the reputation of the high brass. Cook himself has not been unselfish, clinging to power and harming the development of younger players, but it is a sweet and beautiful thing to captain your country and one which is understandably hard to give up. Ultimately, he has been doomed ever since his generals decided to send him into battle without his finest piece of artillery by axing Pietersen and then proceeded to further torpedo his steadily sinking submarine with their numerous, near inconceivable, barrages of the wrongest sort of cack-handedness. 

However late it has arrived, Cook's departure will undoubtedly raise the whole tone and morale of England's World Cup campaign, but no one should take any pleasure in seeing a man who has scored 11,688 runs for his country reduced to the haunted, ashen husk he seemed following defeat in the Seventh ODI, however self-centered he may have been in not resigning. The real ire here should be for those at the ECB, who through their obstinance and dopey, analogue propaganda, have turned the last twelve months into the most bitter, most divisive and, frankly, saddest of the twenty-eight years I have been watching England play. Cook had to go, but he had essentially and unfairly become an impotent pawn in the silly games of English cricket's silly, portentous politics. Any England fan who cares about the side should welcome, albeit with some regret at the eventual circumstances, his departure whilst tenfold echoing the sentiments of his comic namesake in modified form:

Pop over to the city bank you came from, Mr Downton. Take a shufti. Don't come back.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

An Open Letter To England Fans From Paul Downton

Dear Fans,

Hi. I'm Paul, but you can call me Mr Downton. You might remember me from the bank, which, regrettably for you, I no longer work at. You didn't meet me recently - I keep my interactions with people outside cricket as infrequent as possible - but earlier this week some of the gentlemen of the press started going on at me about public dissatisfaction and the welfare of the England cricket team. But what mattered to me wasn't public dissatisfaction or the welfare of the England cricket team; it was my pride and ego, so I didn't address those questions.

Which is a shame, because the points you weren't able to make do actually deserve answers. Although not - and I can't emphasise this enough - as much as I deserve not to have to eat any humble pie, especially as it's been going cold since the day I started my new job. Now, before I go any further, I should clarify exactly what my current position is because, having spent the last year being  a faceless yet incredibly damaging influence which has brought misery to millions, many still seem to think I do actually still work in the banking sector. I don't. I work full-time running the ECB.

So, for the people who weren't at the press conference, let me describe the kerfuffle. With no warning except a call from my exemplary head of media a day earlier, people with microphones and voice recorders burst into the room where I was trying to get some work done and started asking me questions. What were they hoping to achieve? I expect they hoped to find me leading Giles Clarke around on some diamante leash as we both quaffed champagne. And then, instead of doing something educational, like altering my words so that they made some sort of sense and didn't come across as the deranged rantings of a man whose business bookmakers would kill to secure, those very same press men then aggressively decided to print my words verbatim. I'm sorry, fans. That's not basic journalism, but a global conspiracy to make me look an elitist ninny.

You also claim that the ECB have propped up a failing captain with public school money. But here's the thing about the Alastair Cook bailout, fans. The plan was never to bail out Alastair Cook so that he could continue to make huge losses. That would be asinine. The idea was to support Alastair Cook with public school money, wait until he became profitable again, and then stick two fingers up at anyone who disagreed with us. People who, incidentally, are going to look pretty silly when we get the returns on that scheme sometime in 2018.

And that is the key thing you need to know about being an England cricket fan. It comes with conditions attached, namely that the game is still run by a group of rich, pompous men like me that would rather have to eat a plate of cold sick than admit that those beneath them might have been right all along. 

I'm off for a quinoa paella.

Yours,

Mr Downton

Friday, 28 November 2014

Cricket, Australia

It felt so wrong, so screwed, so illusory, to see David Warner outside a hospital raising his hand to his eyes to futilely try and stem a flood of tears. This is the jock of jocks, the Aussie epitome. The joker, the lovable brute, the puncher. You just don't want to see him having to be held upright by Candice, this bristling lion of a man you've so often watched prowling and pouncing about a cricket outfield reduced to such a state of impotence by grief. It is a macabre fantasy. 

Ten minutes later Malcolm Conn, the resolute CA head of media, iconic ex-journalist and a soul who loves to josh, bait and squabble on Twitter - not least famously with Warner himself - arrives on a BBC radio news bulletin, his voice crumpling into a heap as he tries to pay tribute to Phil Hughes and his infectious smile. This isn't what cricket is. This isn't what Australia's men of cricket are. This just doesn't take place in my understanding of the game or them.

We can all over egg our perceptions, of course, but Australia vaunts the notion of unbowed machismo in its cricketers probably more than any other nation. The country's present captain had to battle for many years against the idea that he was, despite ever mounting greatness, not quite to be trusted. The peroxide, the photoshoots, the model girlfriend and accompanying scandal greeted with a hint of schadenfreude by his detractors. Full, unadulterated acceptance was, to an outside observing pom, only fully granted after his innings in Cape Town earlier this year when he walked off the field with 161* to his name and a graffiti of bruises and pain tagged all over his body. South Africa, and Morne Morkel in particular, had earlier subjected him to a short-pitched barrage of such piercing violence that you feared, well, we all now know just so precisely and devastatingly what anyone watching cricket at its most viscerally thrilling and gladiatorial can legitimately fear. Except back then we didn't. Because, at the time, the concept of a fatality was, regardless of Morne's ferocity and the basic logic of knowing what a 150kph rock could do, just a peripheral, distant thought compared to the irresistible, pugilistic magnificence of the cricket to which we were privileged to witness.

Watching Clarke sit in front of the media on Thursday to read, with a dignity and stoicism near impossible to conceive, a statement on behalf of Phil Hughes's parents, I couldn't but think back to that knock at Newlands. The relentless targeting from Morkel, the balls rearing up like leather grenades, Australia's leader taking the blows, reeling slightly at times and at others seeming near broken and literally if not figuratively on his knees, but making his stricken muscles, bones and flesh carry on. I have rarely, if ever, seen a cricketer endure such intense and sustained brutality, but it was an irrelevance compared to the horror which Clarke must have been feeling as he sat there having to somehow force out the beautiful yet heart-crushing words of his close friend's family to a despairing and numbed country, sport and world. 

Phil Hughes has left us and left us all broken. Watching David Warner's tears and hearing Malcolm Conn's, it still seems a sadistic trick the gods have played, a spiteful toying with decency, goodness and our comfortable normality to bolster the case of any atheist. Australia and its cricket, its summer pearl, lifeblood and compass, is traumatised with sadness. But its machismo, whether you interpret that through the prism of Chappell, Border or Clarke, will inevitably drag a nation up again from the bed of grief on which it presently lies distraught and agonised. This is cricket. This is life. And Australia just simply doesn't stay on its knees for long in either. And that is surely exactly how Phil Hughes would want it. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Thud of a Cricket Ball

The thud of a cricket ball can swiftly remove anyone from humanity. The savage damage it can inflict. The initial momentary shock, then the sharp, acidic pain, followed by the blackness on the turf just a prelude to the potentially and, from the armchair, easily forgotten consequences. Cricket is a sport for the bold, however fey it is categorised by those who fail to comprehend its valour. The gut-slicing but wholly unnecessary guilt and nauseating despair of the bowler who struck the blow. The terrible, recognisably unique, beckoning gestures of the players standing over their fallen peer with their faces already slightly pallid and gaunt with horror as the life of their contemporary hangs in the balance. The rush and panic of the medical staff, those professionally trained to remain calm in the worst of circumstances, but whose unadulterated concern betrays them. Mouth-to-mouth on a cricket field. The sheer awfulness of it and later the lives of the batsman's friends, family and dependents also suspended in a heartless, intolerable limbo, waiting for news outside an Intensive Care Unit. It is existence's worst manifestation of despair, stripped to its soul and devastating everyone involved. Phil Hughes's mother and sister witnessed it all in person from their seats in the stadium to the hospital in which he now lies, fighting to survive. It is unimaginable. 

The thud of a cricket ball also brings us closer to humanity. The responses it provokes. The unified outpourings of grief and empathy from around the world. The "Thoughts and prayers with you, Phil"s, the "You're a fighter, Hughesy!"s, the numerous "Inshallah"s rendering anything as objectively seismic as the schisms between oppositions, faiths and nationalities utterly trivial. As Hughes battles to overcome one of the most sickening injuries the game has known, the period since he was struck has been and remains probably the most upsetting purgatory of hours for cricket I can ever recall. It has also been one of its most elegant, dignified and uplifting, reminding us about the very nature of sport: That it is, of course, a fantasy forum for quashing our faux-hated rivals but is in reality a thousand times over, with apologies to music, the world's premier means of brokering the simplistic yet undeniable notion that the best of people is brought out by shared interest. It is perhaps shallow and grasping to try to make any point about what happened yesterday beyond the fact that a man is fighting for his life. For me, though, the thud of a cricket ball, while undeniably showing how terrifyingly parlous life can be, has also revealed life at its most beautiful and decent. And that is the most fitting and deserved welcome possible to which Phil Hughes, a sportsman, son and brother, will wake up. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ukip "appalled but thrilled" by Moeen booing

Looking to further bolster electoral popularity following on from their by-election victory on Thursday, Ukip today moved to firm up support within the British Asian community by stating their official policy on last summer's booing of "sort of" English cricketer, Moeen Ali, was one of "horror and delight."

Mark Sendhambach, deputy leader of the party and nauseatingly self-satisfied prick, elaborated on the stance: "The booing of Moeen was born of an immensely complex set of circumstances involving the nature of Britishness, colonialism, race and immigration. As the most unnuanced and thick as pigshit group of people on earth, we feel we are best-placed to sort it all out. So we condemn outright the darki...sorry, can't say that these days....we condemn outright the 'British' Asians who were booing that other darki...sorry, ha, my mistake....booing that other British Asian, yet applaud the refusal to bow to political correctness of those foreigners who booed that other foreigner. Let's be honest, if none of them were here we wouldn't have this problem. Or that funny smell you get from their houses. Know what I mean? I love a curry. But you know what I mean? It is a bit, y'know?"

Wading into the debate, popular Wigan FC chairman, Dave Whelan, said that he was equally torn because he had "thousands of friends with those big beards like those funny fuzzy ones they all have" but that "no one chases totals like those Indians". A joint statement from Labour and the Conservatives was unambiguous in its shite cowardice: "We'd rather not comment, to be honest, because our strategy of not facing down outright prejudice dressed up as legitimate grievances and allowing racism to dominate the British political agenda is working incredibly well for both of us." A spokesman for those Indian fans who booed Ali last summer said, "Yeah, Farage is a bit of a fuckwit. We'll probably have a think about things." 

Meanwhile, a Sky correspondent stationed close to Basil D'Oliveira's grave reported "a strong element of turning", whilst large swathes of British people with an iota of global awareness and sense of history just shot themselves in the head out of utter fucking despair. Enoch Powell was unavailable for comment. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Pressing the case for ECB Reform

For better or worse, Alastair Cook is a nice man. That seems, to me, fairly irrefutable. Even as the whole Pietersen ECB portaloo of chaos turned on its side and drenched all those inside in a slurry of bitterness, it was apparent that the England captain's main crime was one of anti-Blairite, non-interventionist passivity rather than Brutus-type assassination. The main accusation levelled at him was that he stared at his shoes in the meeting when Pietersen got served his bullet, rather than any suggestion he himself pulled the trigger. But when good men do nothing etc... 

The problem with Cook - in the sense of redressing the antipathy so many fans have towards the England side and governing body who have kept him in situ - is that he does share Tony Blair's propensity for empty sound bites at every opportunity, but literally none of them land with the public in the way that the ex-premier's, love or loathe him, undoubtedly did at times. Watching him today in his press conference ahead of the Sri Lanka tour, he sat there in his breezily pleasant way, going through his roster of disarming aphorisms, his rosy, chiseled cheekbones as ever giving off the air that England are led by a Stepford Wife rather than a cricketer. He suggested England were in good shape heading to Sri Lanka, that the boys were looking forward to the tour and batted off the inevitable Pietersen question by saying the squad had not spoken about the book or situation and that the "camp was a better place" because of it. Tick, tick, tick. 



Cook, along with those left to toe the line (with some honourable exceptions), has been hard-wired into this media-trained monotony by his seniors and it grates for two reasons. Firstly, because it does Cook and the players themselves no favours in the bad times, when fans want to hear guttural despair rather than empty platitudes. And secondly, and most damningly, because, as any English cricket journalist honest enough to admit will acknowledge, the ECB media operation is run by those whose methodology is about as far removed from Cook's projections of quiet decency as imaginable.Sven-Göran Eriksson, admittedly not a paragon of virtue himself, would undoubtedly concur.

In twenty-five years of being obsessed with sport, I simply cannot recall any individual who has been briefed against by their own national administrative body as much as Pietersen has been. Every member of the press pack knows what's gone on. In many respects, it is just normal. It is a normal relationship between those defending power and those needing access to it, and it inevitably gets a bit rough and mucky. It is naive to think otherwise, but it is simply impossible to conclude that the ECB, or Cook himself, have ultimately been well served by how their press office has operated in the last year. You can criticise Pietersen's own behaviour, silly post-textgate YouTube video and ultimately unhelpful alignment with Piers Morgan, but this became a turf war the ECB could have chosen to deal with via a dignified aloofness but instead opted to counteract with whispered smears to trusted journalists, who were then left twisting in the wind when the allegations turned out to be utterly false. In fact, that itself is not quite true. They did deal with it with aloofness - repeatedly refusing to explain the reasons behind the sacking - but still managed to be fully engaged with media incompetency on numerous occasions. Even their much trumpeted Weapons of Misdemeanour dodgy dossier only actually materialised in a truncated, savagely ridiculed form via a botched leak, which for me should have been the signal for a senior head to roll in that media operation. If your whole autobiography fire-fighting strategy - which you've had six months to prepare - is geared around acting as a colander for a spittle of dubious accusations and you can't even leak that properly, then what on earth are you doing there?

The damaging paradox in all this - especially for those of us engrossed in Twitter - is derived from the fact that the papers which wield the most power, The Sun, The Mail, and The Telegraph, are those which have also taken the most anti-Pietersen stance. However much those of us online bleat about anachronistic incompetence, the ECB high brass can look at the coverage their media team has secured in that triumvirate and convince themselves - when do you think Clarke or Downton last checked Twitter? - it's been a job well done. It hasn't been, and the parallel strategy of just posting tedious videos of footballers playing cricket - imagine such a thing!!?? - and Graeme Swann titting about interminably is simply failing to engage people. A mediocre online operation (it is painful to admit how smooth Cricket Australia's is compared) as a corollary to those in seniority whispering sweet nothings to complicit hacks will inevitably come unstuck the more and more news moves away from its traditional roots. Pietersen's near immediate tweeted response to the trophy story is the best possible illustration of the way the wind is blowing.  At the moment, the ECB media team are pissing into it. 

Alastair Cook, whether or not he should be playing ODI cricket for England, is a nice man and undeniably a tremendous servant to his country. He deserves a lot more than being a media strait-jacketed hoover, to borrow a word, for the disgust of England fans, myself included. It's not his fault he's from a nice family. It's someone's fault no one stopped Clarke from saying it. It's not his fault chief selector James Whitaker couldn't even give a politburo style one-on-one interview with a friendly journalist without his phone going off. It's someone's - a press minder's - fault it was allowed to happen. It's not his fault Downton couldn't even keep to the terms of the ECB's own gagging order about Pietersen's book. It's the fault of those who prime the players to speak like automatons but allow the gaffe-prone hierarchy free rein to look  and sound and read like pompous nincompoops. It's not his fault someone printed a nonsense story about Pietersen not attending team lunches, which his wife scathingly refuted. It's the fault of the person who picked up the phone and lied through his teeth about it.

I don't envy anyone in the ECB press office who's had to deal with the vitriol of the last year, but the simple fact remains that the relationship of the England cricket team with the public as a whole - not just people who get their news from those three vaunted outlets above - has never been lower. Results have obviously been a factor, but time after time after time the ECB's media operation has shot itself in the face when taking aim at Pietersen's groin. It has been, by anyone's standards, a parade of shambles to rival even FIFA. People think Cook has got some chutzpah for clinging on to his position, but if I was the person responsible for crafting the most disastrous reputation of an English sporting outfit since - well, the Faria Alam scandal - I'd be embarrassed to still be in my job. 

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