Kevin Pietersen autobiography: ECB offers a study in how not to handle a crisis

It can only hope (and pray) that after Pietersen has made all the running for another two days or so and done wonders for his book sales there will be room for a more considered reaction to his allegations

With that book spewing forth its stream of vitriol, with emotions fully charged, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced its new boss. Boy, it knew how to pick a day to bury good news.

Tom Harrison, either the happily successful candidate for the job as chief executive, or the poor sap recipient of the poisoned chalice, will not start until January and has plenty of time to ponder what it is he has let himself in for.

The Kevin Pietersen saga and the furore created by his incendiary autobiography, KP, will no doubt have subsided by then. England will be preparing for their ritual hammering in the World Cup.

But what will not have receded and what will be the first item in the affable Harrison’s pending tray is how poor the ECB, the game’s governing body, has been made to look. It has remained steadfastly silent in the face of Pietersen’s allegations that the England dressing room was ruled by fear and bullying.

Perhaps it was damned if it did say something and damned if it did not, and on balance a resolute refusal to be drawn into what would have become a slanging match seemed the only realistic choice. But it has been more worried about the strictly legal ramifications of its former employee’s claims rather than the concerns that truly matter, connected to morals and principles.

 

It can only hope (and pray) that after Pietersen has made all the running for another two days or so and done wonders for his book sales there will be room for a more considered reaction. There is no question, however, that it appears to have been wrong-footed and the absence of official comment, even of the most innocuous kind, has merely heightened that feeling.

Pietersen’s allegations are so extreme and so repetitive that a response was almost compulsory. A body that was not between chief executives might have been able to see that. The chairman, Giles Clarke, about to bid for another term in office early next year, has spoken only to announce Harrison’s appointment.

It has not been simply the book, it is the way in which Pietersen has been allowed to put his point of view virtually without contradiction. This has taken some doing even by Kevin’s standards of brass neckery. He has derided the England dressing room and many of those whom he sat alongside in it.

Yet only last November, on the eve of his 100th Test match in Brisbane, he said this: “I think I’ve seen comments from the players that we all made mistakes last year. And we’ve all grown up and actually grown a lot tighter. If you look at the environment it’s absolutely fantastic and I’m not lying, I’m being dead straight.”

So which Kevin was being dead straight, the one in Brisbane or the one who has been eagerly touring studios and speaking into selected notebooks this week? As the storm grew, the ECB might have offered some of that gentle reflection.

Whether all of it is as bad for the game’s image as some pundits have opined is highly debatable. For three days cricket has dominated the agenda, proving that star quality – and whatever else Pietersen is or is not, he has that – counts above all.

When it is all done and dusted, Pietersen will still not be part of the England team and England will still be shorn of its most alluring player. Perversely, he has offered an unlikely autumnal reminder that this sport can still grab the attention.

By the time he takes over next year, Tom Harrison had better come up with other ways it can continue to do so, on the ECB’s terms.

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