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'Pietersen is being made a scapegoat for England's failure'

February 10, 2014 10:57 IST

'Pietersen is being made a scapegoat for England's failure'

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Manu Shankar

'If KP is really the reason England lost the Ashes 5-0, then the coaching staff should go with him as well as those managing the team.'

'The Ashes was more of a collective failure than an individual one. It started with the selection, planning and execution of those plans. The players then fell apart. The mental side of the Ashes was lost. After that, it was a snowball rolling downhill that no one could stop.'

Former England and Essex player Ian Pont tells Rediff.com's Manu Shankar that the English Cricket Board needs to come out clean, not only on the Kevin Pietersen issue, but also on coach Andy Flower's removal.

After a nightmarish Ashes series, all eyes were on the England and Wales Cricket Board and its reaction to the horror show Down Under.

And what did the ECB do? Dump its best cricketer!

The decision to sack Kevin Pietersen has not only robbed fans of an entertaining cricketer, but also revealed the ECB management's colossal failure.

Rumours were doing the rounds at the end of the Ashes tour -- which England lost 0-5 to Australia -- that Andy Flower would be asked to step down, or Pietersen would be sacked if Flower had to continue. Nobody guessed that the ECB would let go of both men.

With no one bothering to explain the reasons for the duo's exit, former England and Essex player Ian Pont questions the administration's tactics, concluding that the South Africa-born batsman is being made a scapegoat for England's failure.

Pont, who worked with Haryana's Ranji Trophy team in 2011, played for Essex during his career. He was Bangladesh' bowling coach during the 2011 World Cup and also coached the Bangladesh Premier League franchise, Dhaka Gladiators.

Kindly click next to read Manu Shankar's lively interview with Ian Pont...


Image: Kevin Pietersen, out in the cold.


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'KP is a once in a generation player'

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Manu Shankar

Has England lost its most influential player with Kevin Pietersen's departure?

KP is a once in a generation player, a born match winner. It is impossible to replace him in my view.

To win Test matches against the best, you need match winners. I don't know if off-loading your best player is really the answer to improving the team.

Would you say Pietersen is being made a scapegoat for England's failure?

Definitely! I am still unsure what KP has done wrong to deserve being effectively sacked from the team.

The Ashes selection was wrong; the team selection wrong, match tactics wrong and many things the coaches responsible for went wrong.

If KP is really the reason England lost the Ashes 5-0, then the coaching staff should also go with him as well as those managing the team.

Kindly click next to read Manu Shankar's lively interview with Ian Pont...


Image: Kevin Pietersen
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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'Pietersen is not a clone and neither does he always conform'

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Manu Shankar

Pietersen has had issues with the ECB before. Was it the ECB's way of saying enough is enough?

Pietersen is clearly not a clone and neither does he always conform. But that isn't reason to jettison someone from his career.

The art and skill of management is to blend all players together and understand that you cannot box people.

A rainbow is made of many colours. The failure to control a player comes from frustration all round that conforming or being told to conform is restrictive.

It is how you handle a player that is more important than anything.

Kindly click next to read Manu Shankar's lively interview with Ian Pont...


Image: Kevin Pietersen.
Photographs: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

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'This is the wrong time to be destroying the batting line-up'

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Manu Shankar

Do you think ECB will come clean on the matter?

The ECB probably will not, but it would be positive if they did.

It might be easier to keep the facts under wraps than have them expose uncomfortable truths about the situation.

Plus, of course, that would give KP a chance to reply to them, I guess, and whilst he's still contracted I cannot see him making statements to rock the boat.

The Ashes was more of a collective failure than an individual one.

It started with selection, planning and execution of those plans. The players then fell apart.

The mental side of the Ashes was lost. After that, it was a snowball rolling downhill that no one could stop.

What about the ECB's defence of the rebuilding phase?

Not sure you rebuild by losing your best player. It just showed how much England rely on KP to win matches for them.

I cannot see immediately who can fill his shoes and it strikes me with the T20 World Cup, the Ashes next time and the 50-overs World Cup, this is the wrong time to be destroying the batting line-up.

Kindly click next to read Manu Shankar's lively interview with Ian Pont...


Image: Alastair Cook, the English captain.
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

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'Flower has an inquisitive mind and an eye for detail'

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Manu Shankar

Who do you think can fill Andy Flower's shoes?

Gary Kirtsen has a huge reputation and would have been the best option.

It is going to be hard, as the ECB are likely to want someone that fits their mould and that might restrict a choice to a current ECB coach.

Ideally, I would go for a maverick coach, who has fresh ideas and is unafraid to ruffle a few feathers, but can also select the best squads based on form and ability.

We didn't see any of that in the Ashes. But I don't know if that person is out there.

Only the ECB knows exactly who ticks all the boxes, and that's why we might end up with someone safe rather than inspirational.

Flower is known to be an astute coach. Will England miss such acumen?

There are very many astute coaches in the world, but I feel he suited the ECB ethos and helped shape the framework for the squad.

So, as the architect of that, he will be missed.

The question though now is: Does England want to keep that going after such a disastrous 12 months of cricket?

Is it now time to take a slightly different perspective and evolve things rather than keep on doing what isn't working?

I worked with him (Flower) when I was a coach at Essex and he was a player.

We spent a year working together on his batting and I got on extremely well with him.

He has an inquisitive mind and an eye for detail.

Kindly click next to read Manu Shankar's lively interview with Ian Pont...


Image: Andy Flower, then the English coach, and skipper Alistair Cook.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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'I would welcome the establishment of a Test League'

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Manu Shankar

Many coaches have lost their jobs after a poor Ashes series. Is success in the Ashes the criteria for being successful in England?

It seems that English cricket is completely geared up to one bilateral series.

The Ashes, regardless of whether England and Australia are strong teams, is the pinnacle for the ECB.

Players and coaches were rewarded with honours from the Queen for the 2005 success. So, it shows where the priorities lie.

I personally feel the South Africa and India series are often more important and I would welcome the establishment of a Test League. Australia were ranked fifth before the Ashes.

How does one lift the team's morale after such a thrashing?

The answer is to have an HONEST review and identify where it failed. Then start from there.

Allow the players to play some county cricket and get back to their clubs.

Make sure that players know you will select all future teams based on form and performance, so it is fair.

So the West Indies tour comes at an apt time. The West Indies shouldn't be a tough challenge for England in England and so it might be a good time to 'blood' some fresh faces if they are suitable.


Photographs: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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