|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Fantasy||Mobile|
Pietersen's has been among the most sparkling yet controversial stories of all
June 8, 2012
News : Pietersen blames schedule for one-day exit
News : There's life after Pietersen - Gooch
News : Trott dead-bats Pietersen issue
Ian Chappell : Cricket's schedule is unsustainable
Features : Workloads and players need careful managing
George Dobell : Pietersen impasse demands ECB rethink
News : Pietersen retires from international limited-overs cricket
In Focus: The Kevin Pietersen controversy
Players/Officials: Kevin Pietersen
Matches: England v West Indies at Birmingham
Series/Tournaments: West Indies tour of England
There is not much to do at Edgbaston except talk more cricket. The amount of rain is staggering, apparently it is the thing Britain is most recognised for abroad. Not Churchill or Shakespeare; Buckingham Palace or Her Majesty; not Westminster, Wembley or any of the Cathedrals and not even fish or chips. This land is best known for rain.
Cricketers know rain well, those out of nick pray for it. Rain brings release from expectation, albeit temporarily, and allows the mind to wander irresponsibly through card games, iPods, Xbox (I'm told) and endless reruns of matches past. Today Fred Flintoff and Steve Harmison have been causing havoc in Barbados and Marcus Trescothick knocked off the winning runs. That series was back in 2004 under Michael Vaughan's savvy leadership and became the foundation upon which the monumental Ashes win of 2005 was built.
Two thousand and five, the summer when Kevin Pietersen first caught our eye. It was the haircut - skunk and streaked. He had joined Hampshire from Nottinghamshire, a glamorous move at the time, which ended unsatisfactorily. He loved the lights of London too much and so Surrey, where he plays now, may be the last resting place. Back at the Rose Bowl, in one of the few county matches he played for Hampshire, a selector saw him make an efficient 20-odd on a tricky pitch. This little acorn, in the company of three breathtaking one-day hundreds for England in South Africa the winter previous, was enough to cull Graeme Thorpe's Test career and launch one of the most sparkling and yet controversial stories of them all.
Goodness, these South Africans! Think back for a minute: Tony Greig was hardly the retiring type; Allan Lamb had a capacity for mischief and frolic like few others; Robin Smith was a crackerjack fellow, so popular that there simply weren't enough hours in the day. And Pietersen is off the chart really. Barely a moment goes by without, well, a Pietersen moment, and thus he has been top of the pops these past 48 rain-filled hours.
Sure, he says some stuff that is too self-fulfilling for its own good, but for a long while he travelled on rocky ground, a man bent on redemption in another man's land. His achievements are every bit as remarkable as those of Greig before him - once "ordinary" in the shirts of Eastern Province and Natal respectively, then monumental in the three lions of their adopted land. Pietersen hates the "adopted" thing by the way, he just wants to be plain old English.
The trouble, KP, is that there is nothing plain about you, and not much that is English. Not since Denis Compton has an English batsman played with such carefree spirit and jaw-dropping panache. David Gower had the range and Ian Botham the bravado but even they were not quite so original. And you are up there with Geoffrey Boycott when it comes to a stir.
All of which is box office and worth a mint to both Pietersen and his employers. As many as 600,000 follow him on Twitter; that is a big number. The vast majority are fans but the few who are not really niggle, and he hates that too. There is the problem with social media: as easily your enemy as it is your friend.
Quite why he has pulled out of all limited-overs cricket is a mystery. Clearly he has had a bellyful of the 50-over game and hates the time away from his wife and young son. But it is still a big call, one with which the ECB could not get to grips. The timing alone is bizarre. Probably he made some demands on a pick-and-choose basis and was told to lump it. They need a mediator, these two opposites who don't attract. Or perhaps the damage is done. It did seem a bit daft to fine him three grand for an uncomplimentary tweet about Nick Knight's work on television, and it seems even dafter to be just 31 years of age and packing in the game that draws you the biggest audience. What a far cry from heady 2005.
And it is no good bleating about the IPL sucking his oxygen from our grasp. If someone offered any of us a couple of million dollars (because that is about what it adds up to, endorsements and all) for six weeks in India, we would bite their hand off. There was always one rule for one and another for the others - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. As hard as we champion the team ethic, it is individuals who make the team.
Pietersen's "retirement" is not based on revenge for the loss of the England captaincy or retaliation for the tweet fine, it is based on overkill and disaffection. This is only the beginning. The quicker everyone who runs the game realises that the IPL heist is here to stay, the better. Give it space and give those who play it respect. Work with it, not against it. Pietersen may not have used the charm offensive when dealing with the ECB, and he surely owes English cricket more than he cares to acknowledge, but there has to be another way, there has to be. Otherwise it is a terrible waste. And it is still raining in Birmingham.
Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UKFeeds: Mark Nicholas
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
|Comments have now been closed for this article
Rewind: Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it
Review: Gideon Haigh comes out with another set of essays that sound uncannily prescient about the way the game is headed
Despite recent successes, visually impaired players are not getting the backing that could turn them into professionals
Numbers Game: The Indian T20 tournament presents an opportunity to both to show their class once again
Hassan Cheema: The Emirates have been Pakistan's home away from home for three decades. To see the IPL being played there must feel like betrayal
The controversy surrounding the IPL has done little to deter fans in UAE from flocking the stadiums, as they gear up to watch the Indian stars in action for the first time since 2006
ESPNcricinfo picks five players for whom this IPL is of bigger significance
The Plays of the day from the match between Kolkata and Mumbai, in Abu Dhabi
It's difficult to beat a huge talent base exposed to good facilities, and possessed of a long history of competing as a nation
The Plays of the day from the match between Chennai and Punjab in Abu Dhabi
Two talented young West Indies batsmen, full of promise when they arrived on the scene, are in danger of falling by the wayside
A coach and former first-class cricketer outlines his vision for how to turn the game around in the UK
If they are to live up to their potential in next year's World Cup at home, they need to look within and search for inspiration pronto