If England were asked whether they would want to fly back home, after the Test series against Australia, without even appearing in the limited formats of the game, I reckon Alastair Cook would have gladly accepted the offer. By the end of the final Test, English players looked like a bunch of spiritless cricketers, who were left bruised by a fearsome pacer called Mitchell Johnson.
Prior to the series, even Michael Clarke wouldn’t have thought that his boys would come up with such individual brilliant performances. The Aussies outclassed the visitors in all departments of the game, and while they collectively played as a unit, Alastair Cook desperately fell short of match-winners.
Cook’s confidence was further dented with Jonathan Trott’s early departure and Graeme Swann’s shocking retirement. But while many would have thought that the English skipper would get some fresh air to breath when he reaches his country, that wasn’t the case, as the team’s arrival in their backyard, was followed by back-to-back major happenings as a result of the post-mortem.
The selectors began the procedure by sacking Andy Flower as the team’s director. It was the same coach under whose guidance the Poms became the No. 1 side in all formats of the game. England might have lost the Ashes 0-5 to Australia recently, but they won three consecutive Ashes series under the guidance of the Zimbabwean, as well as the World T20.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and a change was the need of the hour for England, considering which, the selectors had to let go of Flower. His terms with Kevin Pietersen had also come under scrutiny and reports suggested he had presented a ‘him or me’ scenario before the selectors. So when Flower was sacked, many thought it was a move by the ECB to back their stylish right-hander.
But in what was a major setback for the English fans, Paul Downton, the new managing director of England along with James Whitaker, the national selector - took everybody by surprise as they decided to sack Pietersen, or probably end his international career for England. Following discussions and meetings with Cook and Ashley Giles - the limited-overs coach, the England team management came up with this move, with the ICC T20 World Cup just four weeks away.
England have had some disciplinary issues with Pietersen in the past, and reports also suggested about his not-so-good terms with both Flower and Cook during the Ashes series, even though nothing was made public. While his sacking would make Pietersen a serious contender for the upcoming IPL auctions, the right-hander for sure would be gutted with this sort of an end to his illustrious career.
England were a force to reckon with in cricket a few months ago, and the same team now finds itself left in tatters. Within a span of few months, England have got rid of Graeme Swann, Andy Flower and now Kevin Pietersen.
Alastair Cook would be wondering what’s next for the English team. His own position is under scrutiny, despite backing from some of the players. While the post-mortem is yet to reach its final stages, if Cook manages to retain his captaincy, the major challenge ahead of him would be to reunite a team, which had done exceptionally well, prior to that one Ashes series.