August 12, 2012

Pietersen issue resolved but what about the schedule?

England's administrators got their star batsman to agree to play all three formats again, but the problem of the overloaded itinerary still remains

Kevin Pietersen's latest battle of wills with the English administrators is certainly not his first joust with officialdom, and players and administrators all over the world have been on opposite sides of the fence over many decades.

The reasons for these battles have varied over the years but mostly the results have been in the administrators' favour. Since the advent of the IPL, though, the odds have swung wildly in favour of the player. At least now when a player loses a battle with his local administration, he has the consolation of knowing he can still ply his trade - at a lucrative rate - in the IPL.

Unfortunately this solution often requires the player to retire from all other forms of the game and stick strictly to a diet of T20 tournaments. This was the situation Chris Gayle found himself in, but fortunately Pietersen's standoff with the ECB has now been resolved and his considerable talent and drawing power haven't been lost to the longer versions of the game.

It took a rare show of common sense to find a suitable solution for Gayle to resume playing for West Indies. Appropriately, it was the former West Indies physiotherapist Dennis Waight who first told me: "The problem with common sense is it's not all that common." In Pietersen's case it was more a case of a common cause rather than common sense that saw the player and the ECB work out a solution to their impasse.

Though it was the player who made the move towards reconciliation, it was hard to imagine England allowing Pietersen to walk away from Test cricket when there are two Ashes series looming in the space of 18 months. It has taken England too long to establish their superiority over Australia - after nearly two decades in the doldrums - to willingly sacrifice that position of strength over a principle.

Pietersen has a history of falling out with clubs he has played for: Natal, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire. He also has a tendency to speak first and think afterwards. Anyone in his position who publicly utters the words "It's not easy being me" needs a hastily arranged visit to an African refugee camp to regain perspective. On this occasion, though, Pietersen has come to his senses and agreed to a compromise.

For its part, the English hierarchy can be pretty inflexible both on and off the field. In the last couple of years that tendency has served the officials well and their side has won plenty of silverware to back their theories. Having now resolved the Pietersen issue, it might be a good time to adopt a slightly more flexible approach with the players.

The early examples of players and administrators locking horns were generally over money. From "the big six" in Australia in 1912, to World Series Cricket and then a series of rebel tours, the players' main complaint was over the size of the wage packet. The cricketers had little choice and the administrators could afford to say: "If you don't play for us then who are you going to play for?"

The former Australian captain Warwick "Big Ship" Armstrong was one of the few early revolutionaries who survived to fight another battle. He was the only one of the big six who pulled out of the England tour of 1912 in protest to later resume playing for Australia. Not only did Armstrong play again, he was also appointed captain, but neither of those achievements was his biggest victory.

The Victorian administrator and teetotaller Ernie Bean was Armstrong's chief antagonist. When Armstrong, suffering from a malaria attack, dropped himself down the batting order and prescribed himself a couple of stiff gins to hasten the recovery process, Bean counted on the England bowlers' resolve to spoil the plan. And after they quickly claimed five wickets, Bean was seen rubbing his hands in glee when Armstrong was forced to bat. However, there were reported sightings of Bean drunk, slumped in a corner of the bar, when a couple of hours later the unconquered skipper left the field to a standing ovation.

In the end, Pietersen didn't drive the administrators to drink. If there has been some form of compromise by the ECB as part of the resolution, I hope it includes an offer to try to reach a sensible solution to what is currently a chaotic international schedule.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Congenial on August 14, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    @scritty: Atleast IPL is a domestic competition and invites overseas players for a fee and the Indian team is made of Indians. But most of the English team is made of foreigners who rescue them more often than not. If the boards wish not to allow their players, so be it. IPL will still be played in India with all success. English players are not even attracting bids in such a "mediocre" tournament. This shows the skill levels of the English players.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    Fascinated to hear about the big 6. Warwick Armstrong was the only player to play for Australia again, but would be interested to know to what extent the Great War prevented the other 5 playing rather than politics.

  • Jack on August 13, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    As Ian pointed out: the issue resolved between one board and player, but the main issue has been ignored. The big picture needs to be taken care of. IPL cannot be banned: FACT. The point is what will happen in the Ashes. Somebody needs to be groomed in really quickly for the English side. We'll see where the ENG is headed post KP saga in the third test against SA.

  • Prakash on August 13, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    Ian - you are right. Also, you have felt the pain during your cricketing days. Why dont you push for reforms? There are several former cricketers in Aussie board. If they had felt the pain as players, why dont they understand cricketers' plight? If I recall right, all-time great Allan Border is on some committee. Why cant he fight for the players? After all, the players do all the plumbing work.

  • Dummy4 on August 13, 2012, 0:21 GMT

    Anyone in his position who publicly utters the words "It's not easy being me" needs a hastily arranged visit to an African refugee camp to regain perspective. _Well wrtten!

  • Andrew on August 12, 2012, 23:30 GMT

    @landl47 - the better idea would be for England to utilise their key pleyers better. They rested Anderson from the 3rd Test against the WIndies, but played Swann, & played both of them in the Oz ODI series. Swann has injury concerns. If I was in charge of the ECB, I'd of played Anderson in the 3rd Test unless there was something significantly wrong. I would of rested both for the ODI series v Oz. IF Broad is considered integral to England's Test team,& they wish to groom him for captaincy thru the T20 side, I'd rest him from ODI's. The other thing to consider is, there be at least 1 month per year, set aside for the players where there be no tours.

  • stuart on August 12, 2012, 20:15 GMT

    it will be good to see what happens in the ashes series.Guess some of the younger batsmen will grow up quickly.We do have some young talent and glory be some was even born here. Buttler looks good as does Hales.Taylor has all the shots and seemingly avery good temperament

  • sridhar on August 12, 2012, 16:19 GMT

    "Though it was the player who made the move towards reconciliation, it was hard to imagine England allowing Pietersen to walk away from Test cricket when there are two Ashes series looming in the space of 18 months"

    Early christmas present to all Australians and South Africans. Utter foolishness what has happened.

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    I think icc should banned all private lucrative leagues or international players shouldn't be permitted from participating these private leagues. I know it is hard to do for icc but this is the only way to resolve this issue.

  • Paul on August 12, 2012, 15:00 GMT

    IPL should be banned by all international cricket boards. ICC should forbid a DOMESTIC competition from taking prescidence over international cricket. The standard in IPL outside the star players is very poor inded. 4 or 5 players who take the field for every team would struggle to play league cricket in most of the world. Why is the ICC bending over backwards to accomadate a substandard DOMESTIC competition. Call it the "International Cricket League" - remove all caps on foreign player numbers, have a couple of franchises in say Aus, England and SA involved and THEN we can talk about it.

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