Paul Downton © Getty Images
Paul Downton oversaw Kevin Pietersen’s axing and World Cup disaster © Getty Images

London: Paul Downton‘s turbulent and brief reign as managing director of England cricket came to an end after just over a year in charge on Wednesday when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced he would be leaving his post.

The former England wicketkeeper played a key role in the highly controversial decision to axe star batsman Kevin Pietersen from the national set-up after England’s 2013/14 Ashes whitewash in Australia. Downton also oversaw England’s woeful performance in the recent World Cup in Australia, where the team exited before the knockout stages.

“The existing England team set-up will change with immediate effect, with Paul Downton leaving his position as Managing Director of England Cricket,” an ECB statement said.  “A new leadership appointment, focused on performance will now be created and report directly to the chief executive.”

The Pietersen affair and England’s World Cup debacle made Downton’s position precarious and he appeared to be undermined when incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves seemed to offer an olive branch to Pietersen. The arrival of a new chief executive in Tom Harrison also did little for Downton, who was appointed some 15 months ago when Harrison’s predecessor, David Collier, was in the post at Lord’s.

Harrison, announcing the changes in the England hierarchy, said Wednesday: “The England Cricket Department needs to deliver performance at the highest level and our structure needs to be accountable for reaching the standards we aspire to. The new role we are putting in place will deliver an environment where world class performance is at the heart of everything we do.”

On Downton’s watch, England lost a home Test series to Sri Lanka last season but, after falling behind, recovered to defeat India 3-1 in a five-match series. Harrison, who took up his ECB post in January, had previously spoken of his desire to streamline the national governing body, with Graves too calling for change.

Downton replaced Hugh Morris in October 2013, shortly before the Ashes whitewash. His departure appears as much down to his strident public backing for England captain Alastair Cook, only for the opening batsman to be sacked as one-day skipper and dropped from the World Cup squad shortly before Christmas ahead of England’s warm-up campaign.

England then endured one of their most humiliating World Cup campaigns, failing to beat a Test nation, and defeating only Scotland and Afghanistan in the pool phase. This led to renewed criticism of England coach Peter Moores, controversially brought back for a second stint in charge of the national side with Downton hailing him as the “coach of his generation”.