AT around 5.30 on Wednesday afternoon a voice piped up in the Headingley press box.
“Paul Downton’s been sacked.
“Apparently it’s just been on Sky Sports News. They’ve tweeted it and now others are tweeting it. The tweets are coming thick and fast.”
I casually took another sip of the press box coffee and muttered something unenthusiastic.
For while my colleague seemed ablaze with excitement at the breaking news, my only thought was to get back to watching Yorkshire’s match against the Leeds-Bradford students. To clarify, it was not that I was disinterested in the Downton development – nor, indeed, particularly interested in the first-class friendly taking place in front of me; how such games attract first-class status is beyond me, but that’s another story...
It was just that my initial reaction to the news was, “Well, so what?”
For apart from feeling sympathy for the chap on a human level, as no one likes to hear of anyone getting sacked, I wondered to myself: “What does this actually mean for English cricket? Probably not very much,” I concluded as I casually took another sip of the press box coffee and contemplated what type of takeaway to buy on the way home.
Forgive the flippancy, but if anyone seriously thinks that sacking Downton is the cure for English cricket’s ills, they are mistaken. He is a scapegoat, a fall-guy for the bungled sacking of Kevin Pietersen and the World Cup debacle, and although he was never the right man for the job, the question has to be asked: What was his job exactly?
Downton was ostensibly responsible for England cricket at all levels, but he was a suit rather than a tracksuit and a peripheral figure in the national consciousness.
He was not the captain, coach or one of the players – merely someone who looked like he should have been taking the 5.59am train from Kent each morning to go to work in the City.
In the end, Downton’s removal was no great surprise, for he was never likely to survive the new broom of Colin Graves and Tom Harrison at the England and Wales Cricket Board, respectively the incoming chairman and the new chief executive.
But the decision to replace him with a new director of England cricket, a very slight re-wording of Downton’s job title, smacks of yet more unnecessary and costly middle-management.
Do we really need a director of English cricket as well as a profusion of coaches at all levels and age groups?
Michael Vaughan, who emerged as the early frontrunner for the new director job, admitted he would have to find out what the role entails and it seems inconceivable that it would not tread on the toes of the coach, Peter Moores, in some way or other.
Vaughan does not have a happy history with Moores, who looks to be a dead man walking; so much so, it would be no surprise if Jason Gillespie replaced him before the year is out.
There must be a danger that the lines of responsibility will be blurred by having a director of cricket as well as a coach and that England are merely exchanging one problem for another.
By all means get someone like Vaughan on board in some capacity, but until England get the right coach and pick and persevere with the right players, nothing much will change.