It is sad that Kevin Pietersen, a great batsman and wonderful talent, will never play another international match. But there are reasons why this had to happen.
Kevin Pietersen has this ability to individuate himself and make a crowd of the rest in a team environment. It is always him versus the world, and it’s not a surprise that he has run away with all the public sympathy now. “Oh, they told me to get runs, I did, and now they don’t take me” — it’s a perfect way to open the floodgates of sympathy.
It’s easy to understand KP’s anger. England Cricket Board chief Colin Graves said last year that he had a chance if he went back to play county cricket and scored runs. Having then reduced it to a matter of performance, for the English cricket establishment to now turn around and say it isn’t about talent but actually about “trust”, smells of hypocrisy.
But to blame the new director of cricket Andrew Strauss would be a gigantic error. Strauss has taken the tough call to shut the door on KP, a call that should ideally have been taken by Graves and Co. last year. Considering KP had averaged just 35 in his last 10 Tests, and failed to find an answer to Mitchell Johnson in the last Ashes series, the timing would have been perfect too.
Strauss seems to have asked himself one fundamental question: Is English cricket going to benefit by a Pietersen-led Ashes triumph (if he can do it), or by a loss in the course of which they discover a couple of tough characters for the long term?
Pietersen can probably play for any team other than England. Which is sad for him and sadder for England fans. But so much murky water has flown under the bridge that getting him back into the same team environment was always going to be difficult. He is a perfect fit in an IPL team where he is loved and respected, but those two things are going to be difficult to find in the English camp. It’s human nature.
When things are going to be so dire, why take the risk?
And Strauss hasn’t made his decision in a vacuum. He hasn’t said that Pietersen is going to be a disruptive element in any environment, just that it’s difficult to see him inside the English dressing room after all that has happened. If only ECB’s lawyers allowed Strauss to detail out the trust issues, things might have got clearer and people might have come to sympathise with his side of the story as well.
Sample this from The Guardian’s Andy Bull — written last year — on Pietersen’s autobiography, a book full of such vitriol that there seemed no possibility he could put on an English shirt again. Wrote Bull: “His autobiography is the most comprehensive act of bridge burning since William Holden parachuted into the River Kwai. He has used his book to insult the captain and coach of the side, the chairman and managing director of the ECB and the chief of selectors.
The later chapters are astonishingly, offensively, vitriolic. Broad is “not the sharpest tool in the box”, Swann is a “sad, sad, bastard”, Cook is the “Ned Flanders” of cricket. An entire chapter is spent eviscerating Matt Prior, “The Big Cheese” … Imagine spending a long evening in the pub listening to the single most miserable of your friends bitch about their colleagues and you have an idea of what it’s like to read it in a single sitting.”
How could Strauss have been expected to think that this man could now just shake hands with these same players and the roses would bloom again? KP’s personality perhaps allows him to function in an environment where he isn’t trusted or loved, but Strauss would have had to look at the others too, surely?
KP’s loudest supporter and friend Piers Morgan tweeted: Sack Broad, Sack Cook, Sack Strauss. So, to get one man in, who will probably last just this Ashes series, one has to sack a whole lot of people crucial to English cricket. And Strauss would have worried about the message he would be sending out for all time to come: that you can get away with anything as long as you are a talent.
There is no denying the fact that the ECB have messed up. But when so much sad, silly, immature nonsense has happened between two parties, it is perhaps best to take a bold decision now than regret later. Sometimes, a bitter divorce is better than staying on in a messy marriage.