England's Pietersen dilemma

Pietersen dropped over text messages

David Hopps

August 12, 2012

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Kevin Pietersen play some expansive drives during his innings, England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 3rd day, August 4, 2012
Kevin Pietersen won't be taking on the South Africa attack at Lord's © Getty Images
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Kevin Pietersen has been omitted from the England squad for the final Test against South Africa at Lord's, the morning after releasing a video where he committed himself to all international cricket, because he has failed to confirm that he did not send derogatory texts about Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower to South Africa players during the Headingley Test.

It was an allegation, according to England's managing director, Hugh Morris, that unless unproven undermined "a unity of purpose and trust." Pietersen made no reference to the text messages in his video apology. A five-hour delay in naming the squad was to give Pietersen the chance to confirm the content of the messages which he did not do.

Presumably he did send them and if South Africa leaked the fact they have now contributed to the removal of the England player they most fear.

A few hours after his omission, Pietersen released a brief statement. "None of this constitutes the end of my career as an international cricketer," he said. "To say I am gutted is an understatement... The entire episode has been demoralising for me and my family.

"The video I released was my way to bring closure to the issues I had at that time. I stand by every word I said in the video. I wish the team - and Straussy in particular - every success next week."

By dropping Pietersen, and dropping him in such an uncompromising manner, England have restated the absolute importance of the team ethic and will convince themselves that they have done all they can to avoid the circus that would have taken place if Pietersen had remained in England's Test side.

But the circus is in town, in any event - and the lack of England's No 1 celebrity cricketer is likely to be just as controversial.

It is Jonny Bairstow, who had an uncomfortable Test baptism against West Indies earlier this summer, and who returns in place of Pietersen after a century for England Lions against Australia A, who will bear the brunt of it.

Pietersen will now have to wait to see if he is selected in England's 15 for World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka next month. That squad has yet to be announced, but that deadline is fast approaching and if he was critical of the likes of Andrew Strauss, his captain, and Andy Flower, the director of cricket, as has been alleged, then after a disastrous week Pietersen still has an awful lot of apologising to do.

England's insistence that the game is bigger than the individual, central to their rise (however temporarily) to No 1 in all three formats of the game, has been impressed in the most rigorous manner imaginable. Pietersen's YouTube apology could hardly have been more clearly expressed, but even that video, published it seems without any prior warning to the ECB, seems to have gone down badly in high places.

Hugh Morris, managing director of England Cricket, said in a pre-prepared statement: "During the past week we have had several discussions with Kevin Pietersen and his advisers. Following a constructive meeting, it was agreed that a number of actions needed to be completed to re-engage Kevin within the England dressing room.

England squad for Lord's

  • Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions

"A fundamental item was to confirm publicly that no derogatory texts had been sent by Kevin to the South African team. This has not been forthcoming despite clear timelines being set to allow the selectors to pick the squad for the third Investec Test match.

"We provided an additional six hours this morning to provide every opportunity for agreement to be reached but regrettably this has not been possible.

"The success of the England team has been built on a unity of purpose and trust. Whilst we have made every attempt to find a solution to enable Kevin to be selected we have sadly had to conclude that, in the best interest of the team, he will miss the Lord's Test."

Morris later added on Sky Sports News that Morris, Strauss and Flower met Pietersen and his representatives on Friday evening, a meeting that Pietersen fondly imagined had solved the issues. "We had a fruitful discussion," Morris said. "We got on the table a number of different issues that Kevin alluded to at his press conference the previous Monday. We have been working through some of those issues."

Pietersen had attempted a career-saving video performance in keeping with his flamboyant on-field displays by unconditionally committing himself to play for England in all formats of the game and apologising for the media conference that led to speculation about dressing room rifts and his premature retirement.

"I want to commit to all forms of cricket for England because I love playing for England," Pietersen said. "I am wanting to play all three forms of cricket again for England: the ODIs against South Africa in a couple of weeks and the T20 World Cup if I am selected. I want to make myself available for every single format of cricket for England."

But after putting back their squad announcement by five hours, to 2.30pm, England's selectors announced a squad without Pietersen, seeking stability and what they deemed normal behaviour above all other considerations.

Pietersen may now be expected to serve his penance for Surrey in the final stages of the County Championship, a return to the roots of English first-class cricket for which he has rarely shown much affection, with the prospect that he will be considered for England's tour of India later this year if he proves himself in a fit state to tour.

It might be a boon for Surrey who, troubled by the tragic death of Tom Maynard and grief-stricken resignation from the captaincy of Rory Hamilton-Brown, are in danger of relegation. It will be a character test for Pietersen that he will not welcome.

"I've realised what is important to be," Pietersen said in his YouTube appearance. "I've realised I can be happy. I've realised how much I love playing for England. I've realised that the last three or four days would be a sad way to go after all the happiness I've enjoyed. I'd hate to leave playing for England and I'd hate to leave all the spectators and fans this way.

"I am fully committed and passionate about playing for England. I want to play for England. That is why I want to get back playing in all three formats of the game for England. I love doing what I do and I don't want to disappoint people.

But that realisation has not brought automatic forgiveness. As much as he said "I can't wait to play in Straussy's 100th Test next week" that is one century he will elude him. As for England, if they do manage to break South Africa's hold and claim the victory to level the series, never will the basics of team unity have been expressed more forcefully.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by baghels.a on (August 15, 2012, 22:46 GMT)

@ashes61, look i am sure for the Indo-ENG test series there will be a good turnout but a full house probably not,but let me assure you that Indians have great love for international cricket because it has 100 years of history to it but i woudn't agree that IPL is bad or evil at all. IPL has been like a boon for all those cricketers who can't make it to the national team,here they get good money plus a spot in limelight,chance for recognition and be applauded by thousand of spectators. You see in Football there is a tier based system where beneficiaries of a financial windfall are many,right now KP might be the only bonafide cricket star in England but if you take a glance at Football world there are dozens,if county cricket and first class scene in India would have been like those of soccer clubs no IPL would have been needed. Future of test cricket is safe in India although there might not be a full house every day but millions watching on TV and internet.Lastly good luck for Lord's

Posted by Harmony111 on (August 15, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

@JG2704: As I sad in my prev post, why should ECB demand an explanation at all? KP said something to someone using his personal mobile device over a private communication channel. Even if there is "something" in the contract forbidding stuff being leaked to outsiders tell me if the leakage has been done by KP? I guess no. Then how can ECB blame KP for something done by someone else? Even if KP had said something nasty in those messages ECB still don't have a locus standi on them, KP is a free man and can say anything. He can be blamed for slander/libel ONLY if he says something in public. Asking KP to show what he had actually said is flawed too. If I say you got a mole in your upper thigh right "there" then it doesn't mean that I can ask you to confirm this assertion of mine by taking your pants off in public. I got to prove it on my own, you as defendant have a right to refuse. CRICINFO, pls publish.

Posted by ashes61 on (August 15, 2012, 12:20 GMT)

Baghels.a@ What was "condescending" or "typical" of the "attitude" you perceived in my post? It was a follow-up to a couple of earlier ones wiith previous posters & should be read in conjunction with those, in which I explained my admiration & respect for India's role in the history & development of cricket. What I felt was that India has taken a disastrous path away from real cricket towards worshipping T20, which of course has a place (a very minor, informal one surely?) but should not be confused with the real thing. IND has long given many good things & people to the game but, let's face it, the IPL is hardly among them! If EVERY ground is full to the rafters for EACH day of the forthcoming IND-ENG Test series I shall be delighted to be proved wrong in my fears for the IND cricket scene. If not, you have a big job on yr hands re-educating the IPL generation, do you not? State of ENG soccer? Agree 100% with you! But cricket in ENG has ALWAYS struggled to command majority attention.

Posted by SuperSharky on (August 15, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

It's not the Saffers style to use propaganda to win a Test series, but they have learned the hard way from Steve Waugh and Shane Warne's Australia, how to manipulate the psychological edge through the media. If KP could have send those text messages earlier (before the 2nd Test) to Dale Steyn and AB De Villiers, then maybe this series would have been the Saffers series-win already.

Posted by baghels.a on (August 14, 2012, 21:07 GMT)

@ashes61,wow mate what a sermon "a generation spoon-fed on IPL ........typical condescending and patronising attitude. A generation spoon-fed on Premiership Football and more football,gutter tabaloids,junk reality TV stars and no world cups since 1966 cannot be expected to understand that real home of Cricket is in India with it's billion plus fans and commercial support it provides to the game. If the ECB and English media had after WW -II promoted and marketed the game to the masses then Cricket woudn't be lagging so far behind Football so much in England,like it or not you guys have ceded that space to India.instead of admonishing us for liking t-20 pls acept there cricket fans afterall.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 14, 2012, 18:15 GMT)

@Harmony111 on (August 14 2012, 09:42 AM GMT) KP was asked to confirm the content of those texts etc by ECB and the squad was announced 5 hours later than planned to give KP to respond. Unless I've missed something here KP has not responded either to plead his innocence , explain the content of those texts or (if they were out of order) apologise. They obviously wanted KP to give his version and he didn't and unless I've missed something he still hasn't said anything. Also who knows what were in those texts - there could be something in Eng players contracts which forbids certain stuff being leaked to outsiders etc. Until we know what was said in those texts then surely none of us are fit to judge whether ECB are right or wrong in what actions they have taken.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 14, 2012, 18:15 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster on (August 14 2012, 00:30 AM GMT) Not so long back , you were saying that you couldn;'t care less about anything but IPL on one of these threads? PS re Olympics which I've not commented on , UK were amazing. Yes USA,Russia and China all trumped UK on medal count but when you look at the size/population differential we did extremely well indeed. Not that I or anyone on these boards had anything to do with that success

Posted by JG2704 on (August 14, 2012, 18:14 GMT)

@RodStark on (August 14 2012, 00:19 AM GMT) Have they not done what you said "ECB just to drop him from the test as a disciplinary measure and then let bygones be bygones" ? - No one really knows. I'm not sure why ECB has not published anything but maybe the texts are so vulgar they want to hear KP's side of events. All I know is that KP was given the chance to confirm/deny/explain the texts and so far has not done so , so unless I'm missing something isn't the ball still in his court?

Posted by JG2704 on (August 14, 2012, 18:14 GMT)

@anshu.s - You wrote "I am upset and shocked that my fellow Indians on this forum are supporting ECB and not KP" - I'll put my post another way. Could it not be that they think KP is in the wrong here? If someone thinks someone else is in the wrong must they agree with them just because they have done right in the past?Anyway KP was dropped over his post match behaviour (behind closed doors) and this was nothing to do with his criticising ECB for fixture overload etc. Also KP was never hauled up for saying about the fixture pile up etc. ECB said take it or leave it to him and KP chose to leave it and then change his mind. I'm sad England have dropped KP but can't back or criticise ECB because I don't know what KP has done/said to/about players/staff etc behind closed doors

Posted by ashes61 on (August 14, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

I watched the video but saw no apology at all. There was none. When asked why he had followed certain actions, he said "that's how I am." That's all. Can't help myself, as it were, always been that way. This man is over 30 with a family & has made many mistakes. But still he says just "that's the way I am." What about learning from one's mistakes? Maturity? Change for the better? Trying to improve as a person? If it didn't work before & caused so much trouble, how about changing? The immaturity is astonishing - so is the gauche belief that talking to "my fans" through the media is somehow a good idea. I fear for KP if he doesn't jettison some of his "advisers." Meanwhile, in the last 4 years his performances have fallen below those of Strauss, Cook, Trott, Bell & Prior. I've never seen a ball bowled in the IPL so I don't know how he gets on in that circus, but in Tests since 2008 he has - on the whole - been struggling badly. ENG lose nothing without him but will gain much.

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David HoppsClose
David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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