Thursday, 1 January 2009

Who Dares Wins

The working relationship between Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores has been the subject of speculation for some time. Now, however, after a winter in which England have stumbled from one humiliation to the next, rumours suggest it has reached breaking point. Some have even suggested that Pietersen will put it to English cricket’s supremos: him or me.

It is not hard to gauge who is of more value to English cricket. Pietersen is, alongside Andrew Flintoff, the only realistic contender for a place in a World XI in either form of the game. He has shown himself to be a supreme batsman, as well as a fantastic professional, driven by a desire for self-improvement. It is striking that, whilst he has featured intermittently in the gossip columns, in almost four years in the spotlight no tabloid hack has uncovered any story of excess, of the kind Flintoff has been tainted with.

Then there is Moores. He has lost four Test series out of seven, including two at home after England had been unbeaten between 2001 and 2007. Being less obstinate and downright rude than his predecessor Duncan Fletcher may have helped a little with the media’s perception of him, but he has patently failed to impress so far. He is uninspiring in his methods, and has been criticised for aiming to improve fitness over skill levels. And in team selection and tactics he has been distinctly underwhelming, displaying excess loyalty and, especially in the one-day game, a worrying lack of innovation. He blusters the same old platitudes about the importance of keeping faith in players but tangible progress is rather more difficult to detect.

It may be harsh, but ultimately Moores owes his appointment as England coach to Mushtaq Ahmed more than anyone else. Is he the man to lead England to an Ashes victory next summer? Can he conjure up plans to rival those of Fletcher’s? Many are less-than-certain. And crucially Pietersen, whose relationship with Moores was a concern even before he became captain, appears one of them.

It would be almost unprecedented for a captain to precipitate the coach’s exit. And certainly it would provoke major worries about Pietersen’s power, and resentment if he is seen as thinking he knows all the answers.

But England have underperformed for too long, yet they show few signs of changing course, fumbling along with the same players and tactics out of misguided loyalty. Something radical – remember it is three years since England beat a side other than New Zealand or West Indies – may just be the best course. Carrying on with Moores, when coaches of the calibre of Tom Moody lurk, would smack of inertia. As Pietersen believes, who dares wins; if Hugh Morris and co chose Moores over Pietersen the ambition of English cricket would be in serious jeopardy. Whether England stick or twist is a decision that could define their fortunes in 2009.


Rob said...

Interesting item Tim. Moores always has too much 'management speak' for me to take seriously.

Richard Lake said...

Tim - putting aside the hyperbole in the article for a moment (the test loss to India was not even close to a "humiliation"), it's interesting that it seems to be Pietersen who is pushing the "misguided loyalty" which you dislike so much. Without a coach who would stand up to the captain, Vaughan would be back in the team for the WI tour.

To be honest, England have lost to the teams who are better than them at the moment, while beating the teams that they are better than. In One Day cricket, we have progressed (notwithstanding the battering from India), as the dismantalling of SA showed.

Fletcher had seven years to prepare for the 2005 Ashes series and the last two years of that were sublime. However, from that poit on, England lost their most important batsman (Trescothick), their best player (Flintoff) for 2 and a bit years and the rest of the bowling attack to injury (Jones, Giles) or loss of form (Harmison, Hoggard)

Moores needs to continue to stand up to KP if he really is in charge and make sure that the team doesn't have any split loyalties. However, if we are to call for the coach's head after the last test series, it would be akin to the manager of Wolves being sacked for losing 1-0 at Arsenal.

third man said...

That's a real charter of excuses, and I really hope England don't take the attitude that they have lost to superior teams so it doesn't really matter. Both the home series with India and SA were winnable.

Bottom line is that England haven't done anything of note in Test cricket under Moores. There have been some highlights in ODIs, but equally some typically weak performances (I'm thinking more NZ than India here).

He isn't producing results or helping players to evolve their games: we now have a clutch of reasonably experienced Test players - Cook, Bell, Panesar - who aren't pulling their weight and have stagnated badly over the last year or so.

He has also failed to engineer the necessary working relationship with either of his captains, and I can't really see any way in which the team bears his imprint.

In short I don't see what England have to lose by cutting Moores now (other than a bit of money). I'd rather that happen than an unhappy compromise which sees England limp on to an Ashes loss and Moores being sacked then.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where you get unbeaten since 2001.

2001: v Pak 1-1, v Oz 1-4
2001/2: v Ind 0-1, v NZ 1-1
2002: v SL 2-0, v Ind 1-1
2002/3: v Oz 1-4
2003: v Zim 2-0, v SA 2-2
2003/4: v Ban 2-0, v SL 0-1, v WI 3-0

I make that four wins and four losses in the first three years. Two of the wins were against the perennial whipping boys of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and a third against a dismally poor West Indies side. The only team of note beaten was Sri Lanka.

Richard Lake said...

third man
I'm not saying it doesn't matter, but it is unrealistic to expect this England team to win every series that they play. I don't like the knee-jerk reaction which inevitably follows a series loss, particularly a close loss against a very good team as the last two series have been.

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