Incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves has already kicked up quite a fuss, despite his role not officially starting until May, 15. In several interviews, Graves has indicated the direction he wishes to take English cricket, including promises of a systematic review of English cricket from club level all the way up to the international sides and the tantalising prospect of a return for ostracised England superstar Kevin Pietersen.
While Graves has certainly announced his arrival onto the international cricketing scene with no shortage of aplomb and bombast, it is perhaps worth taking a step back and considering just what it is he hopes to bring to the ECB and English cricket as a whole, and how his proposals might affect England’s fortunes over the next few years.
Graves’ willingness to talk to Pietersen, in stark contrast to current ECB policy, is perhaps the most eye-catching and intriguing of his proposals so far. Pietersen has been excluded from consideration for England selection in recent times, much to the chagrin of large sections of the England support.
Pietersen is undoubtedly one of, if not the most talented English cricketers of his generation and his absence continues to cast a shadow over England’s performances, particularly in the wake of their abysmal 50-over World Cup performance.
Whether Pietersen’s return would be a step forwards or backwards for English cricket is completely open to discussion but Graves’ readiness to consider all the options available to him is a welcome sign of a more flexible and pragmatic ECB as opposed to the uncompromising and principled stance that has been seen in the past.
The idea of a full-fledged review into English cricket in its entirety is also a deeply heartening sign. For too long English cricket has refused to move with the times, as so painfully evidenced by the turgid brand of cricket displayed at the recent World Cup. If Graves can push England’s cricketing infrastructure into the 21st century then that would be a huge step towards England reversing the decline of the past few years and regaining their position as one of the true powerhouses of global cricket.
Graves has also expressed his confidence in Test captain Alastair Cook, whose poor form saw him dropped from the 50-over side after a run of disappointing innings. While some may question Graves for placing such faith in a player who has looked desperately out of touch, Cook is a proven Test player and has shown his class time and time again as his career stats will testify. With the right balance in his side and just enough luck to rediscover his form, Cook could be crucial to the next few months for England’s Test side.
Interestingly, Graves has also talked at some length about the “pathetic” state of women’s cricket in England. While perhaps not the most flattering description of the women’s game, it will no doubt be greatly reassuring to those within the women’s side of the game that the new ECB chairman has stated his determination to develop women’s cricket in England.
As the standard of women’s cricket continues its steady improvement throughout the world, it is crucial that the ECB provide the right support to ensure that the England women’s team have the chance to maintain their position within the world game and make strides towards greater parity with the men’s team.
All in all, Graves has given fans of English cricket every reason to believe that they might finally be seeing the kind of sweeping change the ECB and the English game have so desperately been calling out for. Who knows, we might even be celebrating an Ashes win soon enough…
Photograph: Nic Redhead