Change Is Afoot: Downton Sacked

Yates scared the people in the train carriage coming home yesterday as he shouted “Yes!” and fistpumped to his reading the news that Paul Downton has been sacked from his role at the ECB.

After several months of highlighting Downton’s failings the question any of us would like answered is “What tipped the scales?” What finally made Tom Harrison make the right but overdue decision?

Was it the Wisden editor’s notes in this year’s Almanack? A severe written kicking which gave heavyweight backing to what many bloggers have said and continued to say since Downton’s disastrous debut.

Was it ECB England’s pathetic performance in the World Cup?

Was it Peter Moores insisting that “We’ll have to look at the data” after exiting the World Cup?

Was it Tom Harrison reading cricket blogs and realising that the ECB brand is indeed toxic and in need of serious detoxification?

Whichever it was, Tom Harrison deserves thanks for making the right decision and taking the first step towards excellence for England cricket. The Telegraph suggests that James Whitaker, the National Selector is likely to get the chop today.

If so that is another step on the journey towards excellence. Neither Downton nor Whitaker have presented themselves well or spoken confidently and convincingly on the KP issue. Whitaker’s assertion that he will never select KP may well have cost him his job.

Do not feel any sympathy towards Downton. If he had any class at all he would have resigned after his humiliating apology for breaking the confidentiality agreement between KP and the ECB. If he had any class at all he would have resigned after ECB England’s failure at the World Cup.  Downton will have received a nice little pay off and will slide back into a city job thanks to his chums. England cricket is well rid of him.

Downton’s role has been disestablished and replaced by an overall Director of Cricket role. Twitter has been abuzz with suggestions for who might be good in that role. Here are 3 people who should not be allowed anywhere near it:

Andy Flower: The “Mood Hoover” whose control freak tendencies are like OCD in extremis. Nowhere near impartial enough for me and damaged goods now his controlling tendencies have become public knowledge.

Andrew Strauss: Too much establishment of the kind just rejected with Downton’s sacking. Calling KP a cunt on live tv shows he too lacks impartiality.

Michael Vaughan: The latest rentagob from Yorkshire, offers little in the way of enlightenment when commentating on TMS, which does not bode well for any ECB role.  Blatant cheerleader for ISM, a sports management consultancy. On that basis he lacks impartiality and credibility.

Tom Harrison and Colin Graves have the opportunity of a lifetime here. The chance to reshape England cricket for the future. That means appointing a Director of Cricket who:

  • Is independent of commercial cheerleading
  • Is not associated with Flower, KP, Strauss, Downton, Moores or any of the England team since 2005 so can be seen to be impartial in their decisions
  • Has remained involved with the game by working in or around it
  • Takes no s**t from anyone and who can deliver a kicking when it’s needed
  • Is clearly passionate and doesn’t care about upsetting the old boys network because they are not part of the old boys network.

Sound like anyone you know?

This isn’t about how honest, hardworking, trustworthy or any other personal qualities Downton may have.  Honesty, hardworking and trustworthiness are things Yates expects in everyone he works with; these are not qualities possessed by a rare few.  Downton may have been promoted beyond his competence – if he was competent for the post then we would not still be talking about the way he handled KP’s sacking over 12 months ago – he should have recognised this and quietly withdrawn.

This of course begs another question – who appointed Downton in the first place? Who signed the contract of employment on behalf of the ECB?

Giles Clarke.

Someone else Yates has very little time for.  What the hell was he thinking in appointing Downton?  Clarke deserves a thorough interrogation and holding to account for a decision that has caused much damage to the ECB brand and alienated many people.  As Yates has already said, the sooner Giles Clarke is away from involvement in England cricket the better.

It looks like Tom Harrison and Colin Graves are looking to invite those deemed “outside cricket” back into the fold.