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.