You would not think that it would matter too much to a governing body that launched its 100-ball tournament so badly that the words “PR disaster” hardly do it justice.
But ever since the infamous events of Bristol 2017, when Ben Stokes and Alex Hales were involved in a notorious night out, the ECB seems to put image, and how it looks to families, women and children in particular, inordinately high on its priority list.
Not that these things are not important, of course, but it has all become a little over the top in my view.
Players failing tests for recreational drugs? No problem... unless, like Alex Hales, who was not a first-time offender, the story then gets out into the public domain, at which point the ECB only then deselected the Nottinghamshire batsman from their provisional World Cup squad.
In announcing that move Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men’s cricket – who admitted that Hales would not have been deselected had a national newspaper not published the story – made clear that “we have worked hard to create the right environment around the England team”.
Drug-taking, in other words, is not a good look – although the ECB still managed to come out of the sorry episode, in my opinion, looking even worse than Hales himself, with Giles and chief executive Tom Harrison having known of the transgression long before Hales was picked in the provisional party.
My particular interest in this week’s column is not with Hales, however, but with Tom Kohler-Cadmore, the Yorkshire batsman who found himself caught up in the recent Alex Hepburn rape case.
When they were team-mates of Hepburn’s at Worcester, Kohler-Cadmore and Joe Clarke, the now Nottinghamshire batsman, were part of a WhatsApp group that the Hepburn trial judge described as a “pathetic sexist game to collect as many sexual encounters as possible”.
Be that as it may, and it must be immediately clarified that neither Kohler-Cadmore nor Clarke were involved in any criminal wrongdoing themselves, both men were deselected from the England Lions tour to India earlier this year because the ECB was concerned by the content and tone of the WhatsApp messages – in other words it was concerned with how the ECB itself looks to the wider public.
Now we have an ongoing situation with the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission, which is debating whether to bring any further sanction against Kohler-Cadmore and Clarke amid suggestions that neither will be eligible for full England or Lions selection until such deliberations have finished.
Yorkshire, who must surely have hoped it would have been sorted by now, have made no public comment, presumably because they do not want to make the situation worse for Kohler-Cadmore.
I am in the fortunate position of being paid to comment for a living, however, and regardless of any lewd messages exchanged in any WhatsApp group, I simply cannot understand what Kohler-Cadmore and Clarke did first of all to warrant deselection from the Lions tour and now the current Cricket Discipline Commission deliberation.
Is the ECB now making moral judgments on players, surely a highly subjective and dangerous exercise?
If so, will it be considering taking punitive action against any player found to have cheated on his partner, for instance, or who has sowed his wild oats with promiscuous abandon?
Surely the ECB should not be making ostensibly moral judgments in this manner; otherwise where on earth do you draw the line?
The ECB might not like the WhatsApp messages that have materialised in this particular instance, but if no law was broken then surely Kohler-Cadmore and Clarke – young men of 24 and 22 respectively, it should be noted – should be left to learn from the unhappy experience and concentrate on getting on with their careers.
Indeed, it is bizarre, is it not, that both players were dropped from the Lions tour whereas Hales, who has twice failed a drugs test, would still be part of England’s World Cup plans but for good journalism?
What we are seeing, in my view, is an overreaction to Bristol 2017, and a governing body too concerned with trying to protect an image that it has systematically destroyed of its own volition.