July 16, 2012

Pietersen outcry no false alarm

The ECB should be careful before ignoring Kevin Pietersen's complaints about the schedule for contracted England players

Kevin Pietersen has sounded the alarm for English cricket. The only problem is that he is widely regarded as highly unreliable, the sort of upmarket alarm that cost a fortune when it was installed, but which came without a service contract and has become rather temperamental.

KP alarms are the sort that can scream away at 130 decibels, flash multi-coloured lights and even cause virtual reality attack helicopters to appear above the drive without the neighbours taking the slightest bit of notice.

When the KP alarm goes off, you don't sense the danger, you just carry on much as before, grumbling at the disruption and blocking the commotion from your mind. That is pretty much what the ECB is doing after Pietersen's premature retirement from international one-day cricket.

"I can't go on like this," cried Pietersen. "I need more time off. And, what's more, I want to play all the IPL."

"You must go on like this," replied the ECB. "When was your last service? If we can't rely on you never to go off, we will have to replace you with another one."

With that, the ECB believes it has controlled the problem. Andy Flower, the team director, has stressed that the ECB's stipulation that England players must be available for all three formats of the game is intended to protect English cricket "in its entirety," adding: "We have to take personalities out of the equation."

Geoff Miller, the national selector, has growled that England can only pick players who are available, intimating that unless Pietersen returns sheepishly to the fold, with no guarantees obtained, he will not be in England's provisional 30 for World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September.

To rule out Pietersen's involvement now is unnecessary. It would be a generous - and correct - gesture to name him in the squad this week to allow every chance of reconciliation before the final squad of 15 is announced nearer to the tournament.

No player is bigger than the game. The message is clear and necessary. It is a message - embracing team ethic, discipline and the general good - that has carried England to No. 1 in the world and which clearly has much to commend it. But it is only part of the story.

It also takes quite an ego for Pietersen to allow his representatives to float an alternative suggestion that he will make himself available for England's one-day fixtures if he is allowed to fulfil the whole of his $2m (£1.3m) IPL contract with Delhi Daredevils next season and skip England's May Tests against New Zealand in the process.

That is the suggestion coming from sources at the ECB.

But the fact is that the KP alarm has gone off for a reason. New Zealand will probably field a weakened side in England next May just as West Indies did this summer. All because the ICC will not fight for an IPL window and English cricket prefers to pretend that IPL does not exist.

Whether the ECB believes that this strategy is a long-term solution nobody really knows. One of the side effects of England's rise in the rankings is that David Collier, the ECB chief executive, and Giles Clarke, the chairman, now successfully maintain such a low profile that decisions are rarely held up to public scrutiny. Even Hugh Morris, manager director of the England cricket team, prefers to work in the shadows, seeking to keep his meeting with Pietersen's representatives from public view.

One element of England's unspoken policy is simultaneously to reward and make demands of its players to such an extent that their involvement in IPL is discouraged. But Pietersen's alarm call this year could be sounded by Stuart Broad or Eoin Morgan next, especially as all the signs are that a high-profile T20 tournament in England is not about to happen. It is natural to to want to experience the best.

The amount of cricket played by England to protect its corner is simply unsustainable. The English counties are under severe financial strain and the only answer the ECB has come up with is to ask the same 15 players or so to play international cricket until they drop.

It is a good bet that Flower himself will soon be given a tour off. He will not demand it, or threaten to quit like Pietersen, but he will get it all the same and it would be naive to imagine that negotiations, albeit more gentlemanly, will not take place.

Pietersen's cry that he has "never been looked after" was tactless; England's cricketers are highly rewarded and the great thing about rotation is that it does not affect the bank balance. His talk of needing more time with the family is unconvincing when he yearns to spend two months at IPL or jets off, as he did last month, on a weekend return to Johannesburg to watch the rugby.

But Pietersen's game relies on flair and inspiration as much as technical excellence; on an incalculable belief in his own ability, on the chance to be play in the most high-profile tournaments. He constantly needs to refresh his self-esteem, to feel himself a celebrity sportsman in a glamorous life, and however much this may affront national pride he does not achieve that against New Zealand in the drizzle of an English May.

To feel stale and put-upon weeks before a Test series against South Africa will have been enough for the alarm to sound. His reaction can easily be viewed as disproportionate, but that is the thing about alarms. They have two noises - loud and none.

For England to enter a Test series against South Africa with their most celebrated batsman in dispute with the board would normally not auger well. For Pietersen, as his freewheeling double hundred for Surrey against Lancashire at Guildford on Friday suggested, it could be entirely different.

About to face the country of his birth, he is emotional, impassioned, on edge and in need of adulation. He might well prove to be in just the place that he wanted to be. But, whatever the outcome, the ECB should not ignore the ringing in its ears.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sunny on July 19, 2012, 11:58 GMT

    cmon guys you comparing yourselves with us. We revolutionize t20. World champs before England, even though England invented this format. ODI currentl world champs, u can't take that away. How many England has won? I know they have lost 3. Ranking doesn't matter, it what you win. Do you think your team will be remeber forever. I don't think so. BTW India no. 1 test before England, no.1 ODI team before England. This test series again between chokers who actually can't win major tournaments. Keep yourselves happy with ranking, we keep ourselves happy by winning tournaments.

  • Vivek on July 19, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    more the talent more difficult it is to manage it. KP is highly talented and has certain personality traits which may be nightmare for the managers of the game. Having said that, a good manager can only be one who retains such players, otherwise of what use is the 'managerial skills'. A failure to keep KP in the squad would definetly be a failure on part of ECB, team coach, and all those who are taking the decisions in this respect.

  • Manoj Kumar on July 19, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    What Kevin has said is absolutely true. After KP, many are going to come out and speak for IPL. I dont support IPL as against tests. But ENgland must realize that IPL is here to stay, whether they like it or hate it.

  • Anupam on July 18, 2012, 14:51 GMT

    @@S4CHIN_IS_GOD we accept and we know sachin is a player of millennium, but on his early days. for a better honour he has to take retirement and also one problem with sachjin he always flops in main matches. WC final he has the ultimate opportunity but fail.

  • R on July 18, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    see ya kev... loved the double ton v aussie in adelaiide, masterful, and the m clarke wkt... but now u are just taking the michael and like most people (inc A Flower) i've had enough... i think a few eng players may come out of his shadow when he huffs off and eng will not miss him as much as he thinks eng will... the latest 4-0 odi result is just for starters... strutting his stuff in the parochial subcontinent comps with no western tv coverage will not suit him either but he is drawn to the money candle so sail off kev.. ''you're a long time retired'' remember... cheers

  • John on July 17, 2012, 19:55 GMT

    @fr0nt-foot_lunge on (July 16 2012, 16:46 PM GMT) - Don't pretend you're an Englishman/woman.Again why would you look to a side you've just beaten 4-0 and had players going home injured etc ?

  • keith on July 17, 2012, 17:19 GMT

    Dunno about others but I'm not remotely jealous of the IPL. I'm just not interested in. It can't be compared with football - there's no tradition or history involved, it's just franchises. Good luck to the older players having one last big pay day, but it - and all it's pathetic time outs - mean nothing to me.

  • Martin on July 17, 2012, 15:47 GMT

    @S4CHIN_IS_GOD - what a nasty little hissy fit! Are you talking about those "India cricket stars" who lost 8 consecutive away Test matches? "stars" which lost in all formats in England, who got hammered in ODI in Australia by Australia and Sri Lanka, the "stars" which lost in Asia Cup to Bangladesh?!?!? These are "stars" do not look so bright. DO not come here and slag off the Test match format just because your marvellous India crashed and burned whilst playing it. please publish.

  • John on July 17, 2012, 14:41 GMT

    @S4CHIN_IS_GOD on (July 17 2012, 11:56 AM GMT) Why are you putting it down to jealousy of IPL ?This is a KP issue. IPL is there and it's up to players whether they choose it. Re "You can Never be Like INDIAN CRICKET STARS" - would that be the cricket stars which are responsible for your national side being below our boring lot in all 3 formats?

  • John on July 17, 2012, 14:41 GMT

    @venkatesh018 on (July 17 2012, 03:26 AM GMT) Time will tell. Obviously a fully motivated KP is a huge player for any side but we have managed ok without him so far and there have also been past occasions when he has played and Eng have been pathetic. I'd love him to play but only if he has the right attitude

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