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Moores set to lose Pietersen battle

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Mihir Bose | 17:56 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

In 1981, shortly after he was recalled as England's captain, Mike Brearley received a letter which read: "Dear Brearley, there is an old Italian proverb which says that if you want to know that a fish is bad look at its head."

As we all know, Brearley dealt so well with English cricket's head that the national side went onto to record one of their most memorable Ashes triumphs.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the stand-off between Peter Moores and Kevin Petersen suggests that the head of English cricket is quite as bad as it was in the summer of 1981. In any case, that Ashes triumph was a misleading pointer to the future, as successive 5-0 defeats at the hands of the West Indies demonstrated.

The truly worrying thing about the current saga is that an issue that should have been dealt with internally by banging a few heads together has now assumed the proportions of a major crisis.

The only solution is likely to be the departure of Moores, with an announcement possible as early as Thursday.

This is essentially a management problem not a cricketing one. It indicates that for all the talk of how the modern English game is efficiently managed, it remains a cottage industry dressed up with some fashionable management frills.

There are no great strategic and fundamental issues between Moores and Pietersen. Very simply, we have an old-fashioned personality clash. To be fair to Pietersen, he did give hints of this, even before his appointment as captain, when he said he needed to talk to Moores to clear the air. Now it would seem the air is so polluted that the two men can hardly bear to be together.

Inevitably, stories of why they are not gelling that have emerged are a mixture of the trivial and the extraordinary. Among the trivial is one that centres on Moores asking players to practise immediately after a hard, tense victory over New Zealand. The request seems to have caused much resentment.

In the extraordinary category comes stories from well-informed sources who have told me of how Karen, Moores' wife, upset some staff at the England and Wales Cricket Board as well as some players by what has been described to me as a high and mighty attitude. She is also said to have told a player he was dropped before he had been officially informed. Pietersen, I am told, was aware of some the problems she had with ECB staff and told them to keep him informed.

Even if we discount such stories, the like of which often emerge when people who work in such close, almost claustrophobic groups fall out, the fact is that Moores and Pietersen were always likely to make a very odd, disjointed couple.

Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores

Moores is part of the growing number of good-to-average county pros who see coaching as a way of extending their cricketing life.

Like many of them, Moores is given to reading books that aim to teach management success. His recent reading has included Malcolm Gladwell's 'Outliers: The Story of Success'. He might have been better advised to read Gladwell's more famous 'The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference'.

While Moores has his friends among the players, he can be abrasive while his approach could be, some may say, from the Bob Woolmer school of coaching: full of statistics and extensive use of laptop computers. It does not appeal to all the players, certainly not one like Pietersen.

Pietersen has never lacked confidence in his own ability and never needed a laptop to reassure him. I was first made aware of this some years ago when he was in dispute with his first English county, Nottinghamshire. We met at his lawyer Naynesh Desai's offices in London. He had decided he did not want to play for his native country South Africa - he did not like their cricketing policies - and was determined to leave Notts, which he eventually did.

I was struck by his confidence but also his self-deprecating laugh when we discussed whether his off-spin would mean he could be an England all-rounder.

Since then, this confidence has burgeoned so that he now believes he can lead England to great cricketing heights. As we know, he also has the self-belief to invent new cricketing strokes, like the switchblade sweep. It is also this confidence that has made him all but publicly declare that he cannot work with the coach his employers have saddled him with.

The path Pietersen has chosen is certainly fraught with risk for him. England should beat the West Indies easily enough, but unless the triumph includes victory in the one-dayers that follow the Tests it will be a rather weakened Pietersen who will return home for the Ashes battle.

He may become a great batsman but not necessarily the great captain he would want to be.

For the ECB, this whole saga shows the danger of thinking neat management solutions work in cricket. Recall that in removing Duncan Fletcher after the 2007 World Cup the board overruled their then chairman David Morgan, who wanted Fletcher to carry on for a bit before casting round for a new coach. Instead, the decision was made to promote Moores immediately and the position was not even advertised.

The result has meant successive English captains having to adjust to a coach when in other countries, captains are involved in deciding who the coach should be.

It is worth remembering that a cricket coach is much, much less influential than a football manager while a cricket captain is much, much more important than a football captain.

Historically, successful teams like the Australians have got that balance right. This saga suggests English cricket has not.


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