One of the most momentous and craziest days in the colourful and controversial history of English cricket came to a bloody conclusion in the India Room at The Oval yesterday evening, when the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed it had accepted the resignation of its captain, Kevin Pietersen, and sacked its coach, Peter Moores.
The only positive news to come from a week that has caused nothing but embarrassment to the English game was that Andrew Strauss has finally been appointed England captain. Strauss will lead the team on its four-Test tour of the West Indies on 21 January and he will be accompanied by Pietersen, who confirmed his desire to play a full part in all England's future cricket. Andy Flower, England's current batting coach, is thought to be the leading candidate to replace Moores.
At the end of a day of feverish speculation, rumour and retraction of earlier comment, the ECB, in an official statement, finally released the news that everyone was waiting to hear. Pietersen slightly stole the limelight by announcing his resignation minutes before the ECB press conference, but the feeling is that he jumped before he was sacked. Pietersen said that it was the media speculation surrounding his public row with Moores that forced him to resign, but the realisation that he did not have the full support of the dressing room must have had a huge influence on his decision. A captain needs to know that he has the respect of his team and it is not a pleasant feeling when this not the case. It will be interesting to see how Pietersen interacts with other England players in the Caribbean.
In a written statement released prior to his returning from holiday in South Africa, Pietersen said his resignation was because of "recent communications with the ECB, and the unfortunate media stories and speculation that have subsequently appeared," but he made it clear he still wanted to play Test and one-day cricket for England (for full statement, see panel, page 54).
In response to Pietersen's resignation and the sacking of Moores – presumably he did not resign so that he will receive compensation – Hugh Morris, the managing director of the ECB, said: "Kevin Pietersen is highly valued as a senior and experienced player and we are delighted that he has indicated he wishes to continue to represent England in all their forthcoming international fixtures, starting in the Caribbean later this month. I have an extremely high respect and regard for Kevin Pietersen but this has become an impossible situation, given the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship between captain and coach.
"With regard to Peter Moores, the board determined that he should relinquish his role as England team director. I have the greatest respect for the dignity which Peter Moores has shown in recent days when he has found himself under extreme pressure. The ECB wish him well in his future roles. I would also like to thank him for his contribution as England team director and his work as National Academy director.
"Andrew Strauss has agreed to lead the team to the Caribbean. He led the England team with distinction in 2006 when Michael Vaughan was injured. The board will announce the coaching set-up for the Caribbean tour as soon as possible and will embark on an immediate search for a coach who can provide England with the best chance of success in the coming years."
For those who have worked with and followed Pietersen since his England debut in Zimbabwe in 2004-05, it will have come as no surprise that his time ended in such a manner. Pietersen is a magnificent batsman, one of the finest ever to wear an England shirt, but he has always been impetuous, a characteristic that has had the potential to make him difficult to handle when things do not go the way he wanted.
The principal reason Pietersen left South Africa for England in the late Nineties was because he did not feel the system there would allow him to achieve his goals. Clive Rice, the former South African and Nottinghamshire all-rounder, brought Pietersen to Trent Bridge where his rise to stardom began. But the departure of Rice, a man he respected hugely, was followed by a falling-out with Nottinghamshire.
Mick Newell, who replaced Rice as head coach at Nottinghamshire and spent two years working with Pietersen, this week admitted that Moores' credentials would not be enough to impress him. Newell felt that only a South African or a superstar player would gain his respect.
In many ways, however, Pietersen has been true to his word. When he accepted the invitation to captain England in August he openly stated that he would pack the job in if it began to affect his batting or personal life. Two hundreds in the three Tests in which he was in charge suggest he coped extremely well with the dual responsibilities.
But the fact that his holiday in South Africa has been ruined by what has taken place, and the criticism he has received in the wake of this row will have made him question his desire to continue. Most would have returned immediately from their holiday to sort out an issue of this size, but his take-it-or-leave-it approach meant that he remained in South Africa. Such an attitude cost Pietersen dearly. It will not have gone well with his employers, as it suggested an unwillingness to sort out the problem.
Geniuses expect a great deal not just from themselves but also of everyone around them, yet a large part of being a good captain is understanding the shortcomings of people less talented than yourself. Great players may not want to, but there are times when they have to do as people not blessed with the same talent ask them.
In cricket there is no more important relationship than that between captain and coach. The pair may not agree on everything – indeed, it is healthy if they do not – but they have to be prepared to tolerate each other's shortcomings and provide a united front to the team they lead and the media. The moment chinks, or in this case huge craters, become apparent the whole system collapses.
This has been the case here. England may have lost the pre-Christmas Test series in India but Pietersen returned, having taken the team back shortly after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, with his reputation at an all-time high. There may have been players in the dressing room who questioned his motives – with million-dollar Indian Premier League contracts floating about – but it was the right thing to do.
Believing his influence to be strong and that the dressing room was behind him, Pietersen probably considered that the time was right to remove a man, Moores, he does not rate. It is doubtful whether he even considered the possible repercussions. These actions, and the fact that the dispute was made public, were enough to make officials at the ECB question whether they had the right man in charge.
As is always the case the ECB is being criticised for the manner in which the incident has been handled, but what was it supposed to do? On realising that the relationship between the pair had reached breaking point, Morris was asked to produce a report and present his findings to the board. Such work, if it is to be done thoroughly, cannot be turned around in two or three days, it takes time.
Much of the criticism is caused by silence but the ECB's investigation should not be compromised by the insatiable appetite of 24-hour rolling news channels, which desire an update on a story every 30 minutes. Indeed, one such network relayed contrasting stories on its different channels. Pandering to these outlets at the expense of providing a thorough report would be unprofessional. With an issue as major as this it is the ECB's job to come up with the correct decision, no matter how long it takes or how inconvenient it may be. The ECB, in the form of the panel that chose Pietersen in the first place, cannot escape criticism. It is clear it made the wrong decision five months ago.
The one person to feel sorry for is Moores, who has done little wrong. It is right to question his suitability for the post – too few players have made progress during the 20 months he has been coach – but throughout this entire escapade he has conducted himself in a dignified manner.
The only good thing is that this sorry saga has reached its conclusion and that England have the opportunity to move forward without baggage. In Strauss they have a good man as the new captain, and if he gets the support he needs from the next coach and England's back-room staff the future may not be as bleak as it has seemed so far this year.
"Contrary to media speculation today, I wish to make it very clear that I did not resign as captain of the England cricket team this morning. However, in light of recent communications with the ECB, and the unfortunate media stories and speculation that have subsequently appeared, I now consider that it would be extremely difficult for me to continue in my current position.
"Accordingly, I have decided to stand down as England captain with immediate effect. Notwithstanding my resignation as England captain, I still intend to be a part of England's Test and one-day squad to tour the West Indies next month and to do all I can to recapture the Ashes during the summer.
"I wish to add that I have principles in my professional and personal life as to how things are done and during my time as England captain I have always been both helpful and direct in my communications with the ECB. At no time have I released any unauthorised information to the media regarding my relationships with the players, coaches and the ECB itself.
"I am extremely sad and disappointed to have to relinquish the captaincy, especially in a crucial year for English cricket, in such circumstances and particularly when I feel that I have much more to offer the England team as captain. However, this decision will not affect my determination to continue playing international cricket for England, doing all I can to win matches for the team and supporting whoever captains the team in the future."
Next man in: Coaches in frame to follow Moores
England's batting coach is well-liked but short on experience. The evidence of his work with the England batsmen – Ian Bell, in particular, continues to frustrate – is not impressive.
Was tipped for the job in 2007 but has subsequently returned home to Perth – where he is coach of Western Australia – and is thought to be keen to stay there.
Giles has been Warwickshire's director of cricket since 2007. A member of England's four-man selection panel, Giles's would be a controversial appointment not least because it would reek of favouritism.
Barnsley-born Moxon played a major role in the rise of Durham, coaching them between 2001 and 2007. He then headed back home to become director of cricket at Yorkshire, who are in the process of bringing through an impressive generation of youngsters. A real outsider.
Coached South Africa to eight Test series wins out of 11 between 1999 and 2002, although he failed to get the better of Australia just before he was sacked. In 2005 he became director of cricket at Kent, who he has turned into a fine one-day side but a less impressive four-day outfit: they were relegated last season. He is reportedly keen, having turned down the chance to coach India last year.
Captain's log: Timeline
4 August 2008 Kevin Pietersen is named as replacement for Michael Vaughan as Test captain and takes over from Paul Collingwood in leading the one-day side.
11 August England win Pietersen's first Test in charge, beating South Africa by six wickets at The Oval, with the new captain hitting a century.
3 September Pietersen's great start continues as England thrash the Proteas 4-0 in the one-day series.
27 November With England 5-0 down in the one-day series, the terrorist attacks on Mumbai force them home. Pietersen shows authority in rallying the team and they return for the Test series, which is lost 1-0.
29 December Vaughan is omitted from the West Indies tour, much to Pietersen's annoyance.
1 January Reports of a rift between Pietersen and the coach Peter Moores surface.
4 January Pietersen says the situation with Moores must be "settled as soon as possible".
7 January Pietersen and Moores both leave their positions.Reuse content