Saturday, 24 May 2014

Here are three questions Jonathan Agnew could have asked Paul Downton, if he'd been arsed

I've been following the KP situation closely and refrained from writing on it because a) I don't have time to do much this blog this year at all, and b) Every voice I've heard thus far has been, to a greater or lesser degree, speculating on the situation. You don't need me to do that.

However, I did hear Jonathan Agnew's interview with Paul Downton (available for six days at time of writing), and have to say it made me feel far less comfortable about what's gone on than I'd felt previously.

To put it mildly, this was not a very good interview at all. Agnew accepted all of Downton's points with barely a hint of challenge. It wasn't Agnew's job to argue Pietersen's case. It was his job to probe inconsistencies in Downton's story. He simply failed to do so.

Here are some points where Agnew could have raised issue with what Downton said, if he'd been doing his job properly.

1. When Downton said he felt KP was batting badly/disinterestedly in Australia and it was time to make Cook and Bell the core of the team, might it not have been worth pointing out that KP was still our top run scorer?

If you're going to sack KP for being an unlikeable and divisive character, fine. But it seems a dubious argument to put to fans that a man who averages just under 50 was sacked because he had one bad series. My God, we've stuck by underperforming players for entire Test calendar years in the past.

2. When Downton said he couldn't find a single member of the side who supported KP, was it not worth mentioning the fact that the media has found around half a dozen who say they have no problem with him?

Maybe they're just being diplomatic. Maybe KP's got incriminating pictures of them all. It's still a point that needed challenging.

3. When Downton said KP initiated the split, rather than saying "that's interesting", might it not have been worth pointing out he knew at that stage he wasn't to be picked for the World T20?

Which had implications for his career, as per his subsequent statement.

Those are the first three questions that occurred to me. No doubt there are more. Here's the thing. I actually have no problem with the ECB deciding a very good player is, behind the scenes, more trouble than he's worth. I have no problem with them deciding that it came down to Captain Cook or a team with Pietersen in it and picking one.

It might well be the wrong decision, it might be ludicrously unfair on Pietersen, or we may find, come October, that he'd done things that meant he couldn't continue to be a part of the team. It's really impossible to say until we get a fuller account from both stories.

What I do have a problem with is the ECB's managing director putting forth his side of the story without any challenge whatsoever from the BBC's senior cricket correspondent. It either looks like a conspiracy, or that the latter's very bad indeed at his job.

I also take exception to said cricket correspondent's mention of dissenting voices from "people on social media", as if this is some special tribe of cricket fan that doesn't represent the majority. He may wish to note this poll of the Telegraph's notoriously radical readers:

Was the ECB right to sack Pietersen?