Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel 9's cricket coverage

Let's talk about Kevin

Pietersen's has been among the most sparkling yet controversial stories of all

Mark Nicholas

June 8, 2012

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

Kevin Pietersen soon came down the pitch at Shane Shillingford, England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day, May 26, 2012
Kevin Pietersen: no ordinary cricketer © PA Photos

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 UK

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Posted by RandyOZ on (June 11, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

KP retired before the Australia series because he knew his career would've been ended by Pattinson then anyway.

Posted by WickyRoy.paklover on (June 11, 2012, 2:40 GMT)

One of the most self centerd plyr ever to play crickt.But a prolific match winer n easily poms best odi,t20 batter n they gonna mis him big big time

Posted by JG2704 on (June 10, 2012, 21:16 GMT)

@Debashis Basu on (June 10 2012, 01:55 AM GMT) I actually feel that KP has been no more or no less important than any of our batsmen. He was part of a huge success in our batting vs India and Australia and part of the batting unit's dismal failure in UAE and the SL 1st test. I think the main reason we're number 1 is the consistency of our bowling unit and our batsmen have by and large been equally equally responsible for our success and failures and I would not put KP on a pedastel above any of the other main 4. The problem is that I don't feel we have so much batting depth so if we lose a batsman it makes a bigger difference to the side compared to losing a bowler

Posted by Nutcutlet on (June 10, 2012, 21:07 GMT)

The quota system effectively exiled KP from SA, but believing in himself (he appears to have phases of complete non-self doubt followed by periods of intorospection and uncertainty), he took himself to England where, by turns, he tested the patience of Notts, then Hampshire, as he carved out his career. Surrey has now provided him with a nominal county home, but as they haven't seen too much of him, we can assume he is persona grata at the Oval for the time being. It must be obvious to anyone thinking about KP's mind-set that he is, like all of us, conditioned by his experiences. One thing he learnt early on is that he only has himself upon whom to rely. Any institution that he signs up to (3 counties, the ECB and his IPL contract) are only good so long as they're good to KP - the moment he feels that he cannot go when and where he wants, he'll sever the tie. This is a man who has one defining loyalty only: to himself. His talent is awesome; his loyalty undoubted! We must live with it.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2012, 16:42 GMT)

WI FAN-I feel sorry that KP will leave the ODIs this guy is an intertainer and by all means ENg. should have done more to keep him. IPL is to blame and i cant believe IPL show it is above Pounds.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

A cricketing mercenary if there ever was one. England gave him the opportunity but when he had a better IPL deal, he turned his back on England.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2012, 13:22 GMT)

When I first heard it, I immediately assumed the real reason for Pietersen's ODI retirement that he wanted to free up some time for a nice, juicy Big Bash contract next Christmas but he actually does have a point. There are far too many ODIs. Fewer people are going to matches because there are simply too many and they are stereotyped due to the number of playing conditions, eg fielding restrictions, power plays etc. The boards turn to television more and more to make up their revenue and the tv companies want more matches to full up their schedules, not less, so even fewer people go to the matches and interest falls even further. When investment in stadiums, needing even more matches to fund their cost is brought in this accentuates the cycle even more. Something is badly needed to break this cycle but I'm lost as how it can be achieved due to all the conflicting interests.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2012, 1:55 GMT)

Agree fully with 'Insightfulcricketer'...KP is ONE HUGE REASON that England are the no.1 side in Tests and the World T20 holders. No doubt England have a fantastic bowling attack and a good captain. But the batting has revolved around KP. I can understand no one player can be bigger than the team, and ego has been, and will always be, a major issue vis-a-vis KP. But ECB are being too stubborn and short-sighted (my feeling).....

Posted by   on (June 10, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

Mark, you have been very kind to KP and it's nice to know there are still some of you out there in "cricket land". I am so frustrated that no one seems to want to stand up and fight to get KP back. We, the England and KP supporters can't do anything other than write our comments but Andy Flower , Graham Gooch. Cookie and Stuart Broad who will all be affected by his retirement from ODI and T20 should at least try . Surely there can be a compromise between ECB and KP. Let's just put personalities aside. KP needs to play ODI and T20. That's the end target. Maybe a compromise on the ODI games. We all know there are far too many of them. Continue playing so many games and crowds will fall off.Finite amount of money on entertainment. Please someone TRY

Posted by Stevo_ on (June 10, 2012, 0:33 GMT)

6779@49.12 & 4184@41.84 (ODIs)

Pretty ordinary at the end of the day regardless of what he or the media has to say.

Posted by   on (June 9, 2012, 21:48 GMT)

KP is at the top of his career in all formats of the game and to retire prematurely is a big loss to the game, to ECB and to himself. They must iron out amicably rather than fighting like WIB and Gayle !!.

Posted by pragmatist on (June 9, 2012, 20:54 GMT)

He's a wonderful player, yes, but is he really overworked? When you think of the overs that Maco used to bowl in the Championship. I'd back someone like Robin Smith in his pomp to play all 3 forms of the game and still turn out for Hampshire.

Posted by bigdhonifan on (June 9, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

Kevin retire and play in IPL only.... if you want play in some Ranji Matches.. you will get more money than what ECB pay you....

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (June 9, 2012, 16:18 GMT)

I think ECB is deluding itself if it wants to play the game of one-upmanship with KP.He has been significant part oh shucks the only part in making England the no1 team. There is a good support cast but it is KP.2005 the last test he was the only English player in the park , World Cup T20 final he was the man taming the Aussie attack, beating Aus in Aus he was the man the Aussies really feared.Yes he has an outsized ego but you have to work with it and not against it. He has to nurtured and not hindered.He could take Eng cricket to greater heights just let him be. This was the mistake made with Botham and Gower.Some guys just need a longer rope.One size does not fit all.Cheers!!!

Posted by arup_g on (June 9, 2012, 15:54 GMT)

I find it a joke how he is saying turnin 32, he is only capable of playing test cricket and that there is too much cricket in the calendar year. How did the greats of modern day cricket play test at the highest level, ODI cricket and IPL/T20 cricket - Tendulkar, Dravid, Kallis, Ponting, Sehwag just to name a few. Pieterson is not even an all rounder so what excuse does he have? He is at the peak of his game, so it is selfish to retire. No respect!

Posted by   on (June 9, 2012, 12:56 GMT)

Though Pietersen got lot of talent in all form of game, he certainly lack longativity. He would have heard something like this from Sachin Tendulkar: "It's unfair to retire when you are on top."

Posted by JG2704 on (June 9, 2012, 11:52 GMT)

@Jarr30 on (June 08 2012, 20:58 PM GMT) KP played in the last IPL - ECB didn't stop him. My feeling is that ECB are at fault for being petty about fining KP over Knight remarks and I don't blame KP for snubbing them if that is the reason. I feel that he has let Eng down with his timing but if the NK fine is the reason then I fully understand him. Maybe I would respect him more if he actually risked his Eng future by actually telling folk the real reason why he is retiring from ODIs. I feel there is more s##t still to hit the fan re this one

Posted by msnsrinivas on (June 9, 2012, 11:39 GMT)

If you can't beat it, join it! IPL that is.

Posted by gameaboveplayers on (June 9, 2012, 9:56 GMT)

Hon Mr Nicolas, Wisden 1970, something when Hampshire debut , said you the Hon MCJ Nicolas, respect you as such, or you read this you dispute??, You Playes with lots South African Playerts ,at Rose Bowl, none better tan BA Richards, maybe a few matches, i respect your words KP stuff, but for true blue spirit To Hampshire, England, Smith brothers, higher KP, judge when KP retires,, Barry, and Smith brothers, out class him.....Barry qualified Uk, Gooch still way behind!!!!.

Posted by   on (June 9, 2012, 8:50 GMT)

whats on the hype these days that cricket is another WWE ... planned and executed. how many matches in ipl were finish off on a FULL TOSS ball. like it was more than normal. Maybe its a myth still players like KP who can earn more money in 6 weeks than spending whole year in team can take these decision. Today ICC and Cricket boards are taking players like chess game , so why can't players themselves take steps ...

Posted by JG2704 on (June 9, 2012, 8:04 GMT)

@rk0007 on (June 09 2012, 05:04 AM GMT) - You were saying on another thread about how Eng were patheitic with or without KP in the side. Make your mind up. Which team do you support by the way?

Posted by JG2704 on (June 9, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

@Hassan Shaigan on (June 08 2012, 17:53 PM GMT) There were those on a recent SL/PAK ODI thread who were questioning why MJ and Mallinga weren't playing so I guess not everyone shares your views

Posted by jmcilhinney on (June 9, 2012, 7:07 GMT)

@landl47 on (June 08 2012, 19:29 PM GMT), as we've had disagreements on this matter in previous stories, let me start by saying that I'm not necessarily in favour of KP not playing T20Is but just that I can see the potential logic in the ECB's position. I do have to say though, I find comments like "tossing him from the T20I side" to be intentionally inflammatory. Maybe it is time for the ECB to review that particular condition but KP has been centrally contracted for a long time and, presumably, that clause has been in his contract for much of that time. The ECB has not tossed him out. He has disqualified himself in accordance with the terms of his contract. Perhaps KP should have spoken to the players association and, if the majority of players felt that this condition was not appropriate then they could have approached the ECB about changing it. To expect the ECB to change one player's contract only, or everyone's contract based on one player's wishes, does seem a bit unfair.

Posted by Meety on (June 9, 2012, 5:33 GMT)

@maximum6 - I agree re: KP & a;so on the topic of the scheduling for ODIs. I think the earlier days of ODI cricket were good when you had double headers on a week end. I think that having the 3 day gaps may be in some way detrimental to a bowler, the body stiffens up??? Dunno.

Posted by Philippe on (June 9, 2012, 5:04 GMT)

I guessed.. KP is the only player who could give them some hopes in WC after 3 years thats happening in australia/NZ.. He should have played continually.. otherwise english team as always is pretty pathetic in limited overs game..

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (June 9, 2012, 4:59 GMT)

Mark Nicholas is sharp as knife today. Great article man. KP is super batsman , he was the main player because of which england won T2020 WC.

This is great loss to game of T2020 , too big a loss. Sad to see KP is not going to play T2020 cricket. He is freakish batsman with great match wining talent.

It's like Afridi retired from T2020. Who could you do that at the age of 31. Sad very sad.

Posted by   on (June 8, 2012, 23:49 GMT)

Kevin is the Shahid Afridi of England. So, shall we expect a series of retirement, de-retirement, retirement. ...etc. The only thing we need to bet on is the number of such cycles he will go through, before he finally retires. Any bets?

Posted by sephotrig on (June 8, 2012, 21:39 GMT)

@Jarr30, The ECB does allow its players to play IPL, but the English international summer starts in may, so we cannot have them spending more than 3 weeks playing in the IPL. The ECB seem to take pride in their treatment and monitoring of players, look at the likes of Ishant Sharma, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Ghambir, who over the last 2 seasons of IPL have played through injuries and then missed international cricket because of their injuries.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (June 8, 2012, 21:17 GMT)

Great article. Nicholas has a personal warmth which is easily transmitted here. I am always slightly amazed at the acerbity which some people throw at KP. The guy is a phenomenon. Who apart from Viv,Lara and occasionally Inzy has played quite so destructively in the last 50 years? Just the sheer entertainment value of the guy should stop the criticism. Talent often comes with a singular personality- after all these guys are just NOT grey bureaucrats. In any case it's the boring peronalities that are more dangerous than the interesting ones.In relation to ODI series, if it is time KP is short of, then the obvious obstacle is just the sheer time period ODI series occupy, given the work load of 50 over games. These series can hang around for three weeks sometimes, so that one forgets there was ever a time when the series was not being played. Better spacing ie every 2 days might be one answer, and fewer of them another.

Posted by Jarr30 on (June 8, 2012, 20:58 GMT)

ECB is resposible for KP issue. ECB should allow it's players to play in IPL because it does not make any diffrence to IPL if an Englishmen plays in it or not as IPL has built a huge reputation as the best T20 league in the world for international players to earn good money. It's getting bigger and bigger each year, But it will make a huge diffrence to players if they don't play in IPL.

Posted by landl47 on (June 8, 2012, 19:29 GMT)

Mark Nicholas says (rightly) that the reason Pietersen pulled out of ODIs is a mystery- and then proceeds to tell us why he pulled out of ODIs! I'm bound to say, the overkill and disaffection stuff seems a bit far-fetched. Pietersen has played no ODIs yet this season and the last two he played, against Pakistan, brought him centuries and England two wins. I'll go out on a limb here and say that when players make centuries and their side wins, they are not disaffected. This isn't a rational decision, either by Pietersen or by the ECB in tossing him from the T20I side, and hopefully the two can get together to sort out their differences. If not, although Pietersen might be loving all the attention he is getting at the moment, he's going to find that retirement at 31 leaves him an awful lot of time to fill over the next 50 years.

Posted by Ramski1 on (June 8, 2012, 19:03 GMT)

Andy Flower has taken England to Number 1 in the world by building a team ethic that requires all players to buy into the Team rather than individual.

KP has essentially prioritised the IPL ahead of playing for England. This goes against the team principle. There are big series and smaller series, there is ODI world cups and there are ODI series, yes some have more meaning and weight than others, but the point is that as a team you all put the effort in together. Allowing KP to rest during the summer ODIs would have raised eyebrows amongst Stewart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Swann who also have young children they would like to spend time with.

Andy Flower is basically saying you cant have it all Kevin, he is laying down the law and protecting the team.

I agree with their stance. However this is an issue that is going to grow. The IPL is getting bigger and its pull stronger. Englands hard line stance will not work in the long run. A longterm strategy will be needed sooner or later.

Posted by FreddyForPrimeMinister on (June 8, 2012, 18:34 GMT)

@waza1234 - I agree totally! It seems a logical step anyway when we're rotating our best bowlers. No matter how much we might want to win every ODI series and ultimately the ODI World Cup, the fact is that for us in the UK, it is Test matches that matter most, so actually resting KP for the odd series, would enable players like Bairstow, Buttler, Hayles, Kieswetter, Davies, Stokes etc to get some international experience which will actually help not just the ODI team in the longer term but also possibly the Test team if injuries occur now. Meantime, KP would be free to play in the more important series, hopefully building up to the 2015 World Cup as well as the T20 matches and World Cup. I hope, as Mark Nicholas says, that some form of mediation can resolve this issue both for KP and all the cricket lovers who want to see him now, at his prime.

Posted by   on (June 8, 2012, 17:53 GMT)

Well coping up with the international schedule these days requires real commitment. Look at Mahela Jayawardena for example- still playing every format, taken the responsibility of captaincy and playing in the IPL as well. I think he should be an inspiration for all.

Posted by wnwn on (June 8, 2012, 16:40 GMT)

It would have been better for Kevin Pietersen to ask the ECB to rest him for the odd series here and there and i'm sure they would have obliged. The 50 over world cup is still 3 years away and so the coming ODI's are not that important.

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Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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