Time in England right now

Andrew Strauss and Kevin PietersenThe differences between Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen have dominated the build-up to the Test series against New Zealand – a far cry from the 2010-11 Ashes win in Australia. Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA

The English have never much liked referendums even though they appear to be back in favour. Andrew Strauss, in his first outing as cricket director, outlined one of the problems encountered by Peter Moores. “He very quickly got to the stage where every game was a referendum on whether the coach should stay or go, ” he said, explaining the decision to sack Moores. The implication was that this burden would somehow disappear along with the departure of the England coach.

Strauss, the ultimate pragmatist, had himself disappeared into a rare flight of fancy – just as he must have done when he came up with the brainwave of inviting Kevin Pietersen to be a one-day cricket adviser even though he was not trustworthy enough to have in the team.

Related: Andrew Strauss insists on new England coach accepting stance on Kevin Pietersen

There will still be plenty of referendums this summer, starting with the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on Thursday, but this time it will be Strauss under the spotlight. Lose to the Kiwis, fall behind in the Ashes and there will be no respite; the unprecedented polarisation that has beset English cricket will not magically disappear. Nor will the peculiar pressure on the players to justify the decisions of their employers vanish into thin air just because Moores has gone.

Timing is everything in cricket and for 15 months or more the ECB has been horrendously out of kilter: in the sacking of Pietersen rather than being so conventional as to just drop him; in participating in those ridiculous confidentiality agreements; in the sacking of Alastair Cook as one-day captain (a sound idea in August, a desperate one in December): in the remarks of Colin Graves, who has finally taken over as ECB chairman, that intentionally or not revived Pietersen’s hopes of a comeback before leaving him “devastated” and suddenly looking like a victim of the abuse of trust rather than a perpetrator; in the sacking of Moores, who learned of his fate via the media; and finally – and I suppose least culpably since batsmen don’t score 355 not out that often – in the timing of Strauss’s meeting with Pietersen to inform him that it was all over with England unless he fancied coming on board in some sort of advisory capacity, which was as likely as Nigel Farage agreeing to lend a hand to Nicola Sturgeon.

“Trust” has been the buzzword of the week. And we soon learned that it had broken down between Pietersen and the amorphous body that is the ECB. Petrol had been poured into a diesel engine and there was no breakdown service in sight. Now, trust is a fine thing to have in a cricket team or, indeed, in any walk of life but I found myself nodding at a Peter Trego tweet – I never thought it would come to this – which read: “Has trust ever won a game of cricket? I thought it was runs and wickets.” Trust was not that rewarding throughout the World Cup. It is quite handy to have the best players in the team if at all possible.


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