August 8, 2012

KP's not bigger than England, but he's the biggest thing in the team

Andrew Hughes
Kevin Pietersen leaves net practise, England v South Africa, 1st Test, The Oval, July, 18, 2012
KP: he's got baggage  © Getty Images
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In recent months, ESPNcricinfo has provided us with some compelling video footage. But the highlights of Monday's post-Test grilling with Kevin Pietersen were a bit of a disappointment. Actually, grilling doesn't really describe it. It was more like watching a group of chimpanzees with sticks repeatedly hitting a rock in the hope that it might turn into a banana.

"I know you said you aren't going to talk about it, Kevin, but could you just put it into words for us, the thing that you said you aren't going to talk about."

"I'm not going to talk about it."

"Kevin, it's Dwayne here, from the Daily Drivel, my readers are anxious to know about the thing you're not going to talk about, so can you relate it to us orally?"

"I'm not going to talk about it."

"Is it true that there's something you would like to talk about, but that you aren't prepared to discuss it verbally?"

"I'm not going to talk about it."

And so on. It was like a slow-motion replay of a police interview conducted by slightly dim detectives on their first day of active duty. If the new film version of the Sweeney is anything like this, I'll be walking out and taking my popcorn with me. Had the assembled gentleman of the press been permitted to hold KP for questioning for the rest of the month, I doubt they'd get him to crack. Of course, that won't stop them from pressing charges.

Top of the chargesheet seems to be "Conspiracy to earn a living". The ECB are playing hardball but they don't seem to realise that the bases are loaded and they're 10-0 down at the bottom of the eighth. The day is fast approaching when central contracts will be for rookies and second-raters. The world's best players will decide when they're available. It's already happening in the West Indies and New Zealand, and when Andy Flower has had enough and England's Test ranking begins to slide back to earth like the exhausted winner of a 24-hour greasy-pole-climbing competition, it will happen here too.

The other offence to be taken into consideration is "aggravating egotism". Alec Stewart, who keeps a supply of clichés by his telephone specifically for occasions like these, has informed the BBC that KP is not, and I quote, "bigger than the team". Like all clichés, this contains some truth. The combined body-mass index of Stuart Broad and Steven Finn alone would tip the scales against KP without the need to pile Tim Bresnan on top.

And even if you only take it a little bit literally, it's still true. Team England would be perfectly capable of fulfilling their Test fixtures without KP, whilst Team KP would find itself slightly outnumbered (although opening the bowling and the batting would no doubt appeal to him).

But that isn't the point. KP isn't bigger than the England team. But he is the biggest thing in the England team. Without him, what have you got? A couple of dour grinders, a bit of useful swishing from Prior, some steady seam bowling, and Swann, assuming that his arm still works after the surgeons have finished poking about in it.

There is no one in the England team, nor in the sleepy English counties, nor for that matter in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Falklands, British Antarctica or the Pitcairn Islands, who could have scored the century that KP scored at Headingley, in the manner that he did, at the time that he did it. He is the leading man in a team full of supporting actors and extras. Despite what some journalists seem to think, England 2012 are not like Australia 2000. There is not a queue of Pietersens waiting for their chance, just a collection of Has-beens, Never-will-bes and Maybes. Can they really afford to let him walk?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Controversy

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Posted by Damo on (August 23, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

Quite honestly he should move to Australia & we could work out some sort of quickie citizenship deal & the ECB/England team will have the worry taken off their hands. Apparently no-one liked Bradman either & look how that worked out for everybody.

Posted by Karthik on (August 12, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

It is akin to a situation in which your prize-winning dog keeps trying to bite you. Treat him well and he will reward you. Kick him out and you alone are worse off. (Although as an Indian, maybe that would be good-- But I love KP and seeing him bat is heavenly.)

Posted by SkippyD on (August 11, 2012, 7:40 GMT)

I think this is more an issue about management. Many people in the world manage difficult people for a living - myself included. This is very poor management of KP. Sure he's an arrogant so and so. Sure he has the people skills of an off ripe grape, but the line in the sand has to be drawn. Do England management want him or not? If not - GET RID OF HIM! If they do (and they should), SURELY they'res someone there paid a lot more than me whose entire raison d'etre is to manage situations like this. KP may have himself to blame, but the way he has been dragged across the public coals is despicable. For a team that prides itself on being professional... oh dear me.

Posted by Indian Fan on (August 9, 2012, 17:42 GMT)

Respect for form:

India will gladly take KP. Welcome to India. It is such a shame that the media and the board would stoop to this level to destroy someone who is in such great form.

Respect a cricketer's form please! When a cricketer is in good form and is a joy to watch how does anything ever matter? Boards, nationality, country, all go out of the window.

Only few people can evoke such reaction. Dale Steyn, KP are recent examples.

Posted by Cav Davidson on (August 9, 2012, 13:20 GMT)

I normally read long handle and end up having a good grump at Andrew for saying stuff I disagree with. Not this time.... to my chagrin I fully agree. Shame the views expressed in the article are too subtle, intelligent and flexible for the ECB..

Posted by Dan on (August 9, 2012, 7:18 GMT)

You kind of missed, there's always South Africa to look for, besides all those places "without".

Posted by It's Complicated on (August 9, 2012, 5:35 GMT)

Great article. Ross is correct. Pietersen beat the real Aussie team in 2005. That made cricket "cool" again. It was glorious to see Warne et al being thrashed all over The Oval. That was a proper Aussie team: Hayden and his beautiful, little friend Alfie. A battered but unbowed Ponting. Not this drivel: Bailey, Warner, Smith, Forrest.

So anyone who cares for test cricket, must support Pietersen playing for England. He could well have 5 Ashes victories if he plays test cricket in 2013. Test cricket will die a much quicker death without him.

He is materialistic and egotistical. He sees what Ronaldo,Tendulkar and American quarterbacks make: anywhere from $5 to $20 million a year. He wants a piece of that. Who can blame him.

He is as English as a piece of biltong. He doesn't care about Ashes records. He laughs at impoverished cricket tragics. (He likes the wealthy ones like Jagger)

England did a deal with the devil when they chose him in 2005. So do another one: No NZ, yes IPL & Ashes.

Posted by Abid on (August 9, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

One of the better articles I have read in a long time...I'm an Indian n I support my team wholeheartedly, at the same time I support good cricket n cricketers across the spectrum...KP has been betrayed, n mismanaged, it will be a great loss to the game if KP stops playing test cricket which is already on wane....hope better sense prevails in ECB...

Posted by pulkit10 on (August 9, 2012, 1:57 GMT)

Great article, as always. The ECB needs to realize the issue here, the issue isn't that KP is trying to goof about, feed his ego and hog the limelight by causing a rift in the dressing room, it is just that he genuinely feels marginalized. Whether or not his problems are warranted is another debate altogether but if he feels uncomfortable in his current role then every attempt should be made to make him feel better. That's what employers are supposed to do anyway. I'm not saying this just because he is an amazingly talented stroke maker, I'm saying this because he put England before himself. He could have easily made it to the SA line-up (eventually, that is) but he moved to England expecting fairer treatment, battled hard for them, adjusted to their culture, won them games, helped his peers & did what Strauss/Flower wanted him to (even opened the batting for the team). Not saying he doesn't have an inflated ego, but that doesn't be-little what he has done for England. Kudos to him.

Posted by Denis on (August 9, 2012, 0:50 GMT)

The atitude of the ECB is the same of West Indies Board, obviously advised by ICC. Chris Gale was treated similarly as KP. Sports has change , no longer officials decide the fate of sportsmen in other forms of sport. Cricket officials cant accept this yet. 35 years ago a footballer playing for a european club was transfered for sums of money, today the player signs his own contract. KP has to look after his career, the ECB officials dont play any cricket. Look at Mark Boucher injury and there is no career.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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