England in a fine mess: KP punishment riles players but Strauss focused on series win
22:39 GMT, 24 May 2012
It is hardly ideal to risk alienating your star batsman and upsetting his team-mates on the eve of a Test but England managed just that with their ill-judged disciplining of Kevin Pietersen.
England do not get much wrong these days but fining Pietersen for his mild Twitter criticism of Nick Knight’s commentating as they prepared for their attempt at defeating West Indies and winning the Wisden Trophy at Trent Bridge is a rare error.
Andrew Strauss distanced his team from the move by making it clear it was an ECB decision to fine Pietersen what is believed to be 5,000 with half suspended, and privately the players are disappointed and concerned it sets a worrying precedent.
Shocked: Kevin Pietersen must pay for criticising Nick Knight
There are enough anodyne comments made by sportsmen without the ECB encouraging more by punishing an opinion which did not offend the amiable Knight. The biggest irony of the whole affair is that he is hardly the most provocative of Sky pundits.
The players see Twitter as a valuable way of communicating with their supporters but they will be worried that even the most innocuous views may be frowned upon by Lord’s after this.
There are no plans for the ECB to stop them using social networking sites but clearly the players will only be talking about ‘bowling in the right areas’ and being ‘delighted with my hundred’ now.
Pietersen was taken aback by the size of the fine but made light of it as he walked off Trent Bridge after England practice. ‘Just so you know, Botham, Gower, Hussain, Atherton and Bumble are legends. I love them,’ he said, smiling.
Playing it with a straight bat: Andrew Strauss in the nets at Trent Bridge
Strauss was more serious as he found questions about his own form ahead of his century at Lord’s last week being replaced by an interrogation around a very modern communications phenomenon.
‘This is a difficult one. Twitter is a great way for individuals to express opinions and it can garner positive publicity for the game,’ said a man who considers himself ‘too boring’ to have a Twitter account.
‘But we have conditions of employment that don’t allow us to talk about anything and everything. We can’t criticise the ICC, nor umpires and in this case the board wasn’t happy with Kevin’s comments with regard to our broadcaster.
‘This is an issue between the board and Kevin more than the players. We’ve not been particularly involved with it. But you can understand that the board are concerned with making sure their broadcasters and sponsors are happy.’
Handy: Strauss speaks to Andy Flower ahead of the second Test
The England players have their own Twitter code of conduct and Strauss was not even sure that this ‘offence’, which was first highlighted by Charles Sale in Sports Agenda on Tuesday, contravened that.
‘That’s a tough one,’ admitted Strauss. ‘It’s a shade of grey but the fact is the board were unhappy about it.’
All of which took attention away from the prospect of a second Investec Test starting today at sun-baked Trent Bridge which should perfectly suit the swing of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
West Indies looked much happier with the sun on their backs yesterday but they will be even bigger underdogs here than on the flat Lord’s wicket where they took the first Test to a fifth day.
Picture perfect: Trent Bridge in Nottingham will play host to the second Test
Michael Holding launched a passionate attack on the inadequacies of the modern West Indies in Sportsmail but captain Darren Sammy defended the attempt by himself and coach Ottis Gibson to create a new, more professional outfit.
‘Everybody is entitled to their opinion but coach Gibson and I are trying to build something here for the future,’ said Sammy. ‘Everybody might not like it but the team have been responding in the last few series.
‘Ottis came on board with new ideas about working hard for ourselves and the team. We are trying to build a brand of cricket where Caribbean fans can see our determination and passion. So far we’ve been able to compete against the higher-ranked teams and anyone who comes into this set-up has to abide by what we are doing. We just need that first victory to get our dressing room pumped up.’
It will be a surprise if West Indies get that elusive victory here, even though they have never lost a Test nor even a first-class game at Trent Bridge.
Mind the windows: The ebullient Tino Best has replaced Shannon Gabriel
West Indies were joined by the colourful Tino Best as a replacement for the injured Shannon Gabriel, who turned up for breakfast at the team hotel wearing a Chelsea shirt with ‘Drogba’ on the back. There really is no accounting for taste.
Best will not play today but spinner Shane Shillingford will and Ravi Rampaul is pressing hard for a place, meaning West Indies may leave out their one real swing bowler, Fidel Edwards. The obvious candidate to stand down, as Holding was saying, is Sammy but the captain can hardly drop himself.
Pietersen is too professional to be distracted by ‘Skygate’ but at least his nemesis will not be at Trent Bridge to upset him again.
Former England batsman Knight was instead at Hove commentating on a CB40 game for Sky and was never due to work at Trent Bridge. Instead the commentators Pietersen does approve of will almost certainly be talking about another England victory.