England's Pietersen dilemma August 12, 2012

KP's well-groomed apology not the end

Pietersen's video apologia was immensely polite, and spread love and devotion as only he can, but forgiveness will not be granted easily

It was a mark of Kevin Pietersen's breakdown of trust with the English media, as well as his belief in himself as a very modern man, that when he announced his willingness to make himself available again for England in all three forms of cricket he did it on YouTube.

If HELLO! magazine ever ran a chat show it would look something like this: gentle questions, carefully groomed hair, even more carefully groomed answers. Pietersen did not just apologise to England, as he knew he must do, for his presumptuousness in thinking he could plan his own schedules, he also spoke directly to the people who matter most to him: his fans.

Adulation matters to KP, he draws strength from it, and he returned the favour, telling his admirers how much they mattered. He played to win and he played for them. What was there not to like?

For Pietersen, this was another performance. That is not to suggest that it was dishonest, more a recognition that he had a message to deliver and he needed to deliver it in the most advantageous manner if he was to have any chance of winning the favour of the ECB hierarchy and the England selectors, if not for the Lord's Test then for the T20 World Cup soon to follow

He was sharp enough to remember the exact form of words he needed to use to persuade Hugh Morris, the managing director of the England team, and the selectors, to forgive him. "I want to make myself available for every form of cricket for England," he said. Unfortunately, he omitted to advise the ECB he was doing it. Umbrage was taken. He could not do right for doing wrong.

The mischievous thought occurred that somewhere in the Shires an official of the ECB, a little tipsy after a drinks party, would have received a late-evening phone call and spent much of the night trying to find out what YouTube was.

Even as he expressed the joys of togetherness, fraternity and of being part of a successful England team, Pietersen tweeted the link to his video around the time that Mo Farah was contesting gold for Great Britain in the 5000 metres. It was tempting to draw the conclusion that KP was living inside his own head again, oblivious to the needs and desires of others and to the fact that all eyes in England were elsewhere. But his next tweet was a celebration of Farah's gold. It was a typically unrestrained Pietersen tweet - with Moooo written with a lot more Os than the average pair of lungs can handle. Not entirely selfish after all then.

Pietersen's video apologia was immensely polite, at times sheepish, and spread love and devotion as only he can. His first expression was that of a man who has been under severe emotional pressure, who knew there was only one way out and who had steeled himself to make a voluntary plea for forgiveness that has no comparison in cricket history.

For his countless admirers, that was more than enough. The car crash deserved to be averted at the last minute; it was time to anticipate the chance to watch KP bat again in an England shirt. No England batsman begins to match the excitement he generates. His detractors, on the other hand, will sniff that it was just another Pietersen performance, question its sincerity and believe that the team will be better off without him.

No England cricketer has caused such a divergence of opinion since Geoffrey Boycott - and if you scratch beneath the surface there are similarities. Pietersen and Boycott might be very different characters in terms of personality, and as far as can be discerned Pietersen has yet to develop a lopsided grin or a taste for panama hats, but Boycott was also self-driven to the point where he was often mystified why he had caused offence.

"I am what I am," said Pietersen, another line that fitted easily with him, and that defence was followed by more than a hint of self-revelation. He was emotional, he shot from the hip as a person and a batsman. "I can't change the way I have been born." He has always wanted to be understood but this was the first time he had asked for it so publicly.

To like KP you have to run with the preening and sense of his own self-importance. Perhaps this was a video that would have fit more naturally on MeTube than YouTube.

His most intriguing thought was never entirely explored because this was not an interview interested in delving beneath the superficial. "The stubbornness that I have got sometimes, which is probably not a good thing as well, has led to me trying to believe myself for too long."

It is not for nothing that Shane Warne, who counts himself a friend, calls Pietersen "The Ego". To like KP you have to run with the preening and sense of his own self-importance. Perhaps this was a video that would have fit more naturally on MeTube than YouTube.

But here was a striking admission that yes, perhaps he had been wrong to believe that midway through his England contract he could negotiate his own future; that he had been wrong not to recognise that, however unsustainable England's international programme, his personal wishes should not disrupt the team at a critical moment; and, yes, that he had been wrong to imagine that he could win.

Before the ECB crows too loudly, incidentally, over drawing such contrition from Pietersen, the question of the workload for England's top players remains on the agenda for the Professional Cricketers Association when negotiations begin on the next contract, as does the debate about whether the ECB must work harder to find an accommodation with the IPL. Pietersen, the arch individualist, might one day appreciate the power of collective action.

There are many people on England's county circuit to whom the word Pietersen will still remain anathema. Other South African-born players in the England side have won respect: Andrew Strauss, if he so wished, could easily be an ECB chief executive one day; Jonathan Trott's commitment to Warwickshire is respected; Matt Prior seems so English that his South African birthplace is a supreme irrelevance.

Pietersen will never gain such widespread acceptance because he sees himself as the icing on the cake rather than part of the cake itself. Playing for Surrey in a County Championship match at Worcestershire this season, minutes after getting out, he was tweeting messages of good luck to Delhi Daredevils while Surrey's travails, in the game in which he was playing, did not receive a word. Little social errors, repeated, designed eventually to displease.

That will always be Pietersen's nature. He can be infinitely polite, gracious and charming. The video revealed all those qualities. He is also consumed with the minutiae, as well as the magnificence, of his own life. There is no "I" in team but as all good subs know, there is an "I" in Pietersen. Those tensions will still remain.

"I need to pull towards the team and the team needs to pull towards me," he said. The truth of that is obvious. Whoever he plays for, he remains a great individualist, picking his way through a team environment, applauded as much as he is resented; spreading love as no other England cricketer can in one minute, making a crass, almost childlike, error the next.

Things can become better again, with good intentions on all sides, and if he has looked into himself and grown as a result, it is cause for praise, not for him to be belittled, but the video was only the start. Forgiveness is not about to be granted easily.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 15, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    Lets get this straight KP is South African. He is what he is. Any apology he makes is made with financial considerations in mind not because he loves playing for England. Your true love is playing for your country of birth. Time to face facts KP plays for England for the money.

  • Jay on August 14, 2012, 23:04 GMT

    I am not a fan of test cricket. However, I also believe that international cricket can co-exist with the brilliance of the IPL or any other T20 tournament. Look at international soccer, you have clubs and international friendlies in a calendar year from time to time. Why do everyone simply hate the IPL and then wave their cheer leading flags for other leagues of similar nature ? It's pathetic and hypocritical coming to think of it. I am a proud T20 supporter and will always be. Many Indians including me ADORE the IPL. Many players around the world love playing in the IPL. I am sure if the ECB were a lot more flexible then many English players could play in the IPL and be happy. Why not push the start of the English season to June instead of May ? I think that's possible. It's a win-win situation for all.

  • John on August 14, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    @rohan024 on (August 14 2012, 05:39 AM GMT) - I'm just speaking from memory. I know Shoaib was an odd guy to deal with , not sure about Saqlain but weren't the Pakistani side renouned for always falling out with each other? Re Flower , I know that he had political issues with Z which led to his retirement. I certainly don't remember any WI,Aus,NZ players choosing county over country

  • R on August 14, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    Gawd knows who is advising KP, but he needs some new advisors... between them they have got him into a right old muddle and he is looking bad, and it could be terminal... as the IPL bores say on here correctly for once tho, if he ain't playing international cricket his profile is rapidly diminuished and there will be a new cab off the rank v soon and kp's cash cow will have gone.. Sending 'banter' texts to the oppo mates is OK, esp if you have just smashed them around the park for a big score, but not being able to (or refusing to) answer your employers q's about the content of those texts makes him look a fool and parsimonious with the truth.. ie Not someone to have in the trenches with you so rightly dropped and so come on Jonny.. The ODI team did not miss kp one bit (tho it was only vs hapless aussie) so maybe the test team will not either...

  • VINODK on August 14, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    @din7,being Indian and supportind Pietersen doesnt mean supporting IPL, if I wanted to stereotype I'd just say thats ur typical English jealousy. Pietersen is a class act who has dominated the worlds best bowlers on all wickets unlike many of the tigers of the IPL including some of our own Indian batsmen. Be a bit more balanced in ur comments. Having said that texting adverse comments about ur teammates to the opposition is just not on and he deserves his punishment

  • Rohan on August 14, 2012, 5:39 GMT

    @JG2704 - It used to happen. You could check for Test no: 1658 on this site, when Shoaib Akhtar returned to Durham after a 5 wkt hall in 2nd test and he didn't play the 3rd test. I very clearly remember Saqlain did that a few times and so did Andy Flower. In those days, since county cricket was sacrosanct, ECB wielded a lot of power, and few countries suffered from colonial ruled mindset, so these boards didn't have the guts to stand up against ECB. Make no mistake, i do feel that IPL is the start of demise of cricket and i absolutely abhor it, but one part of me do enjoy watching my home board behaving like the way ECB behaved back till 90s.

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    Great article, Mr Hopps. As others have said, we so miss someone of Mike Brearley's talents to manage the egos of both KP and the ECB. KPs video really should have been more than enough to get him back in a test side that so obviously needs him. Now, in an already too-short series, we have to miss the chance to see another battle between the best attack and Pietersen. Everybody loses

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2012, 3:11 GMT

    @din7 you are spot on.i had earlier commented here that this is he way BCCI needs to deal with sachin.but a few points many have ignored/dont know.This year IPL TRP's were the lowest and the revenue generated was the lowest.there is an apprhension that the product is loosing its sheen and may soon ebb out.IPL helps only one group--PLAYERS...while there is nothing wrong in it wonder how KP will feel if in 2014 no franchise bids for him due to monetary constraints and he has 'retired' from international cricket!!!all international players should keep this in mind,i would sa@rohan024 County cricket used to play 3/4 day matches and they were the moulding grounds for greats till late 90s..cannot compare it with evening slog fest called IPL..and i am from india..contd..

  • John on August 13, 2012, 21:31 GMT

    @jango_moh -Pretty much agree with all you say. I wouldn't blame IPL as it is entirely a players choice where he wants to play his cricket. I don't know what was supposed to have been leaked on the KP/Moores issue as KP has just said stuff was leaked but did not say what was leaked. It doesn't seem much of a leak if no one knows exactly what was leaked. Anyway , the thing is that ECB have the power here and the only power KP has/had is to decide whether or not to play for England etc which he has tried and failed with (re T20s/ODIs). So I can only see 2 courses of action and that is either to man up and apologise unreservedly and make assurances etc face to face or to take ECB to court and I'd advise the former unless he feels he has a good case.

  • John on August 13, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    @rohan024 on (August 13 2012, 18:24 PM GMT) I didn't realise overseas players did used to choose county over country. As a Somerset fan I don't remember Joel Garner , Viv , Martin Crowe , Steve Waugh , Gavaskar etc ever playing for Somerset when their national sides were touring. I don't remember any Zimbabweans playing for Somerset and only recall Mushtaq Ahmed as a Pak player playing for Somerset but don't recall him missing a Pak series while playing for Somerset. Also if memory serves me right Somerset would also replace regulars Joel and Viv for the season if WI were touring here

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