The award for World Cricket’s Clown of the Month for February goes to England national selector James Whitaker, whose press conference on February 6 to justify England’s permanent omission of Kevin Pietersen was a particularly cringe-worthy affair.
Despite his first media briefing after Pietersen’s sacking being designed to be a controlled affair, with only rights-holders Sky TV and BBC Radio allowed to ask him questions, it was a difficult outing for Whitaker.
Constrained by the legal restrictions that surrounded the severance package of Pietersen’s central contract, still being negotiated by the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Whitaker said he was unable to reveal many details to the press.
What followed was another embarrassing incident for the ECB, whose spokesman for the day looked evasive and still failed to give an explanation for the decision to remove Pietersen from international contention, England’s most talented batsman in decades.
To add an element of farce, Whitaker’s mobile phone rang at the very beginning of the interview, having already been delayed due to issues with him appearing live on television and radio to face the English media.
It meant more embarrassment for the ECB, who had tried desperately in the previous days to weather what had been a period of very bad publicity for them.
The decision to sack Pietersen and never select him for an international squad again was met with a firestorm of criticism from around the cricket community.
However, the decision has been made, and Pietersen now begins his career as a freelance cricketer who is likely to be in high demand for various domestic Twenty20 leagues around the world.
One thing is for sure: We have not heard the last of Pietersen, however many botched press conferences the ECB and Whitaker give.