Wisden: English cricket chiefs 'repeatedly lost touch' in 2014

England players and management on the balcony
England suffered a first ever home Test series defeat by Sri Lanka in 2014

England's cricket leaders "repeatedly lost touch" in 2014, says Wisden editor Lawrence Booth.

Writing in the 152nd edition of the yearly almanac, Booth criticises the England and Wales Cricket Board's handling of the Kevin Pietersen affair.

He also raises concerns with the decline of the Test and one-day sides and a fall in grassroots participation.

England internationals Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance are among Wisden's five cricketers of the year.

Yorkshire's Adam Lyth, Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews and New Zealand's Jeetan Patel make up the list.

Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali was praised by Wisden editor Lawrence Booth for filling the void left by spinner Graeme Swann

Criticism of England performances

England's 2014 started with an Ashes whitewash at the hands of Australia, took in losses in 28 matches across all formats, and included a humbling by international minnows the Netherlands in the World T20.

"In 2014 English cricket repeatedly lost touch - not just with things it wished had never happened, but with the basic idea that the national team belongs to us all," said Booth, who went on to link a lack of conviction among ECB decision makers with the team's poor form.

"The power brokers indulged in mutual backslapping... It was a nexus of self-preservation - yet, as the wagons circled, the wheels kept threatening to come off."

The ECB declined to comment on Booth's criticism when contacted by BBC Sport. However, incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves, who is set to take over in May, has already suggested he expects to make sweeping changes to improve the game.

The Pietersen fallout

Pietersen, 34, was sacked by England after the 5-0 Ashes defeat by Australia and, while the South African-born batsman has said he would like to return to the international fold, his future remains uncertain.

"It was typical of a story beyond the ECB's control that their best moment was not of their own making," said Booth.

"Having searched in vain for the words that justified his sacking, they were gifted a 324-page solution: an autobiography so full of rancour that BBC chat-show host Graham Norton suggested to Pietersen, 'Maybe, just maybe, team sport's not for you…'.

"All the while, he kept insisting how happy he was in the land of Twenty20 franchises - and agitating for an international recall. The whole thing would have been sad, if it hadn't been so absurd."

Cook's sacking as one-day captain

Alastair Cook had looked set to lead England into the World Cup - despite a 3-1 one-day series defeat by India in the autumn - after ECB managing director Paul Downton said he would be "surprised" if the batsman was removed as captain.

But he was sacked in December, just two months before what would turn out to be a disastrous World Cup.

Alastair Cook as England one-day captain
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"To leave the sacking of Cook so late made little sense," said Booth.

"Trouble was, Cook had become more than just a cricketer: cast by his employers in the role of latter-day saint to Pietersen's fallen angel, he was now an article of faith.

"England overplayed their hand: the Test win over a supine India did not mean Cook would effect a similar transformation of the one-day side. This seemed obvious to everyone - except to the men who run the game."

Improving Asian participation

The ECB found that the number of people playing cricket in teams fell 7% between 2013 and 2014, from from 908,000 in 2013 to 844,000 in 2014.

And Booth has called on the ECB to do more to advance the game in Asian communities: "The English game needs an Asian player to prosper beyond a few Tests here and there.

"If the England team really want to unlock their full potential, it is perverse to be so reliant on (white) southern Africans and smash-and-grab raids across the Irish Sea, and so ignore the more natural solution on our doorstep.

"There remains a damaging perception among Britain's South Asian communities that its best young cricketers are not wanted."

Cricketers of the year

Gary Ballance
Gary Ballance enjoyed a breakthrough year in the England Test side

All-rounder Ali, 27, was named as one of Wisden's five players of 2014 in a year in which he took 19 wickets in the Test series victory over India, while 25-year-old Ballance registered three Test centuries and averaged 60.75.

Lyth, 27, helped Yorkshire to the County Championship title by leading the scoring charts with 1,489 runs, while spinner Patel, 34, was commended for his 107 wickets for Warwickshire across all formats.

And Mathews was included for his influence in Sri Lanka's first ever Test series victory in England.

Sri Lanka batsman Kumar Sangakkara was named leading cricketer in the world, while Australia batsman Meg Lanning is Wisden's first leading woman cricketer in the world.

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