Andy Flower is believed to have had problems with middle-order batsman, Kevin Pietersen © Getty Images
Andy Flower (above) is believed to have had problems with middle-order batsman, Kevin Pietersen © Getty Images

 

By James Marsh

 

Megalomania, the poll tax, the sheer animus towards her from large sections of her own party and the public. No one can pinpoint exactly what did for Margaret Thatcher when she was finally deposed as both Conservative leader and British premier in 1990, but it’s long been held that the resignation speech of her deputy prime minister, Geoffrey Howe, was one of the more damning blows. Speaking in the commons, her once loyal lieutenant stood and offered a cricketing analogy for what it was like for government ministers to negotiate with European partners given Thatcher’s general intransigence on all matters Brussels and, in particular, her recently expressed and unyielding stance on monetary union:  “It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease,” said the former chancellor, “Only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain”. Former Labour chancellor Denis Healey may well once have acerbically denounced Howe’s own debating style as “like being savaged by a dead sheep”, but on this occasion his barb wounded deeply, being described by Thatcher herself in her memoirs as “cool, forensic…and poisonous.”

 

To attribute those terms to Andy Flower‘s resignation statement would be to do a disservice to a man who can lay claim to being England‘s most successful coach. To call Kevin Pietersen cricket’s Thatcher seems equally unfair, and is certainly a comparison his detractors at the Daily Mail and Telegraph wouldn’t wish to countenance. There was, however, undeniably a certain political parallel to the former England coach’s words which — if he is to retain his present role as selector as well as some as of yet undefined senior position within the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) — do not make pretty reading for Pietersen supporters.

 

 

Flower states, “it is clear to me that this is now time for England cricket, led by Alastair Cook, to rebuild with a new set of values and goals. The opportunity to start with a clean slate and begin to instill methods to ensure England cricket is moving in the right direction will be an incredibly exciting challenge for someone…” It’s not overtly clear whose values he feels have muddied the present slate but the recent leak of a “KP goes or I go” ultimatum to The Guardian’s Mike Selvey — a journalist and former player hitherto unknown for his commitment to manufactured inauthenticity — suggests that Flower is not talking about Tim Bresnan.

 

The unequivocal endorsement of Cook — another said to have clashed irreparably with Pietersen — also means it is sadly unlikely we’re going to see an end any time soon to Piers Morgan’s faintly queasy Twitter campaign in favour of his chum. Flower concludes by saying, “the priority must now be to establish the direction and personnel needed to ensure England cricket moves forward.” Reading between fairly transparent lines, the message is that change is afoot and, to be realistic, there is no player with a footing less sure at present than, though inexplicably to swaths of England fans, their fourth highest ever Test run scorer.

 

Flower is surely not a petty man. It would be plain silly to ascribe such a characteristic to someone whose world view has been shaped by putting his life and that of his family on the line by once protesting so bravely against the regime of Robert Mugabe in his home nation Zimbabwe. We should therefore accept that he truly believes Pietersen’s ousting from the side is in England’s best interests. While this is wholly wrong in my view, only time and his successor will tell us whether he, like Howe, has managed to simultaneously fall on his sword whilst stabbing it into the heart of a former ally.

 

(James Marsh is a TEFL teacher based in the Czech Republic, although his real occupation is alienating those close to him by wallowing on statsguru. He blogs on cricket at Pavilion Opinions and can be found on Twitter at @PavilionOpinion)