So it appears that Kevin Pietersen will never again take to the field in an England shirt. Pietersen has undoubtedly been the best player I have ever seen play for England, and the thought of him being pushed aged just 33 just doesn’t sit right with me. I can vaguely remember the bad old days of English cricket in the early 2000’s but since a young batsman with a terrible ‘skunk’ haircut wreaked havoc on a glorious afternoon at the Oval in 2005, all has seemed right with English cricket. Sure, there have been bad times; 59 all out in Jamaica, the Peter Moores saga and a pair of Ashes whitewashes. But whenever England have performed well during the past nine years, Pietersen has been at the forefront. He stole back the Ashes in 2005, was man of the tournament as England won the World T20, led the way during four successful Ashes campaigns and scored three breath-taking hundreds in 2012.
To sum up all my thoughts about the career and apparent sacking of Pietersen would be impossible so soon after it’s all happened. But the way I see it at the moment is that whatever people think about the ECB’s decision, they are being short-changed by the lack of explanation. It’s clear that Pietersen has not been sacked due to on field performances. His average has dipped over the past 12 months but he was still England’s top scorer in the recent Ashes whitewash and appeared to remain a model professional in terms of fitness and practice. If, as must be the case, the cause of his sacking was a matter of character then the public must be told exactly what has happened. Until the ECB release the full details, England cricket fans will resent both the ECB and also Pietersen himself.
Today, the day after the news broke, social media has been awash with differing perspectives on the whole saga. Piers Morgan, has been unsurprisingly forthright with his opinions, including attacking Matt Prior for alleged comments made in the wake of the Ashes defeat in Melbourne, has obviously been a staunch defender of his mate. But until the ECB release the details of the meeting yesterday and the reasons behind Pietersen’s sacking, the media will only report rumour and gossip, and this can’t be good England cricket going forward.
It appears that Alastair Cook was instrumental in the decision to let Pietersen go, and this comes as a surprise after he was the main player, alongside Prior, who helped his re-integration into the side during 2012. Cook ,while not currently at the height of his popularity, is absolutely the right man to lead the England test side for the foreseeable future. But until the ECB tell the fans something then Cook will become the object of English supporter’s frustration.
Pietersen may well have been difficult to manage, and hard to relate to at times, but surely a good team coach and support staff are able to coax the very best out of their talented players; whatever the situation. All teams, whether it is at professional level or in the amateur game, have unpopular players and difficult characters, but if the player is of sufficient quality to be in the side then surely a place must be found for him. Pietersen was the most gifted, naturally talented batsman in the England side and a batting line-up without him looks considerably weaker. He was the only man with the ability to change a match, or even a series, in the space of one session.
Looking at the stats, England actually only won marginally more tests with Pietersen in the side, but regardless of that, if I was England’s new head coach, I would want my most talented player coming at number four for his 105th test.
Pietersen’s test career ended with a superb average of 47.28 and he scored 23 test hundreds – second only to Cook on the all- time list. He will be remembered for his off field antics of course, but what he did on the pitch can be unquestionable. His three superb and differing hundreds in 2012 at Headingley, Mumbai and Colombo showed the skill of the best England batsmen of his generation.
I’m sure the full details will emerge in the next few months via press releases and book deals, but for now I’m just sad that I will never again see such an audacious talent pull on the Three Lions and destroy opposition bowling attacks.