January 27, 2015

All about KP's new tattoo

And why teams ought not to be allowed to spend on players as they like

Kevin Pietersen was happy to announce he had cloned himself, so there was more of him for everyone to love © Getty Images

Regular readers may be wondering why, a full ten days on from the news that shook the cricket world, I have made no mention of it. I mean, it isn't every day that Kevin Pietersen gets a tattoo. Have I not been reading the papers?

Well, firstly, I'm not a serious cricket writer and when something as big as a new Pietersen tattoo happens, I think it's appropriate to leave it to the proper journalists to cover.

But the truth is, I have also been trying to kick a dangerous habit. They say that acceptance is the first stage of dealing with an addiction, so here goes: I have a KP problem. If I don't write about KP for a few days, I begin to get the shakes. I take on a distracted, haunted appearance, and I find myself actually watching cricket.

It doesn't help that KP stories are so freely available on the open market. You can click on any cricket website and they will happily supply you with a feature on the anniversary of KP's 2005 haircut, or a snippet about what he said to Angelina Jolie at the Australian Open, or a snapshot of his Twitter feed featuring some distressingly ungrammatical utterances.

In recent weeks, global demand for KP has been on the decline, so hopefully, in future, I will be able to wean myself off this harmful satirical substance. But in the meantime, a tiny fix surely won't hurt. So. Kevin Pietersen's tattoo.

It seems that Kevin has been passing the time in between not playing proper cricket by getting someone to scrawl inkily on his flesh. His back is no longer an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, Matt Prior kind of back. It now displays an accurate line drawing of the world, marked with little red stars to denote each location where he fell out with a team-mate.

But sadly, none of England's county cricketers will get to see Kevin's newly refurbished back in the flesh, since the new ECB restrictions on what counties can spend mean that neither he nor his tattoo will be signing for Surrey this year.

Is it right for the ECB to be so strict? Well, yes it is. The counties are like little children, they need clear guidelines. Hand a ten-year-old a million pounds in April, then come back in the autumn and see what he's spent it on: Star Wars merchandise, Kevin Pietersen, and a giant red hospitality oblong full of fizzy strawberry-flavour gobstoppers.

The counties simply cannot be trusted. Last year, for example, relegated Snorechestershire spent half of their subsidy on turning their Victorian pavilion into a gym-hotel-leisure-abattoir complex and the other half on hiring Chris Gayle to open it, which left no money to buy any actual players. Nobody noticed.

Yawnhamptonshire were also investigated after recruiting their entire playing staff at their local job centre. It transpired that their chairman had blown the annual subsidy on paying off Larry the Kneecap, who had generously lent the county a million pounds to build a new state-of-the-art scoreboard/launderette at a very reasonable rate of interest.

The most eye-catching new ECB rule is the requirement that counties have to spend a minimum amount on salaries. This might seem odd, but is entirely reasonable, like insisting that your obese children devote a smaller percentage of their pocket money to sweets. Naturally there will be protests, along the lines of: "It's not fair. You are so mean. I hate you! It's my pocket money, why can't I spend it as I like?"

To which the answer is:

"Because your teeth are falling out, you don't know the value of money and you haven't produced an international-quality England player since 1983."

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. @hughandrews73