We’ve always been fans of Kevin Pietersen here at TFT. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a bad word to say about him. Whenever a KP related controversy has emerged, we’ve supported him 100% (and unanimously too). However, I’m beginning to waver now.
Kevin’s apparent decision to kiss and make up with the ECB after retiring petulantly from one day cricket a few weeks ago has left a bad taste in my mouth.
I didn’t think his retirement was a petulant decision at the time – I reasoned it was unfortunate, inevitable and understandable given the demands of his schedule – but now he’s making a Shahid Afridi style comeback, I feel stupid for supporting him so strongly. The schedule obviously wasn’t an unassailable obstacle after all.
Let’s turn back the clock a bit. Pietersen’s decision to retire from ODIs seemed to come out of the blue. However, it came after he claimed (quite rightly) that Nick Knight is to dynamic and insightful commentary what Tiger Woods is to marital fidelity.
KP had us believe that the two issues were not linked. His retirement was all to do with extending his career, rather than shoving two fingers up at the ECB for fining him. This seems a lot harder to believe now.
One of the things that puzzled the media at the time (us blogging types included) is why Pietersen and the ECB couldn’t have reached a compromise over his schedule. Other players are allowed to miss the odd game (or even the odd ODI or T20 series), so why not KP?
I assumed that Pietersen wasn’t prepared to compromise because he genuinely wanted to save his physical strength for test cricket – and, perhaps the odd month at the IPL. I supported his position because I’ve long despaired of the crazy schedules created by cricket’s authorities (and their ridiculous propensity to play seven meaningless ODIs at the end of long tours).
More fool me. Having calmed down after the Nick Knight spat, and having looked on enviously as England whitewashed Australia in the NatWest series without him, Kevin has now apparently changed his mind.
Therefore, one can only assume that principle had nothing to do with his original decision. He was simply trying to teach the ECB a lesson. That’s not how an England player should behave in my opinion.
Let’s take a look at quotes attributed to Pietersen during Surrey’s championship match at Guildford:
“I’ve always said I want to play in the T20. But I needed to get away from the schedule. I cannot keep playing every single day’s cricket. I’ve never been looked after. I cannot keep playing every warm-up game, I cannot keep practising every single day. There comes a time when I know what I need to do to be successful. I’ve got a young family and I cannot be on the treadmill all day every day. I’ve said before that, if the schedule was right, if they could sort my schedule out, I would love to play for another three or four years in all forms of cricket. But the schedule at the moment is a nightmare.”
One could easily translate these comments as ‘the ECB didn’t rest me from certain series, so I thought I’d teach them a lesson by walking away altogether … however, I never really had any intention of doing so, I just wanted to show them that they couldn’t push me around. Nobody messes with KP!’
Basically Pietersen walked out on England in order to force the ECB into a compromise. He effectively went on strike. No other England player has resorted to such measures. Therefore his behaviour was unwarranted and unsightly.
I’m sure that many people will be delighted that Kevin is returning to the England fold. We’ve made giant strides in one day cricket in recent months – and now we’re adding another world class batsman to the mix. Our team will look formidable on paper (although I hope they persevere with Bell at the top of the order and slot KP into the team elsewhere).
However, I personally find it difficult to be overjoyed with the news. Instead I feel that KP has taken us all for a bit of a ride. Whereas I previously characterised Pietersen as a principled victim (someone who was taking a much needed stand) this U-turn portrays him in a different light.
Perhaps he thought he could hold the ECB to ransom – and now, having seen England thrash Australia without him (a result which showed that he’s far from indispensible) he’s returning to the fold with his tail somewhat between his legs.
Whichever way you choose to spin the situation, KP doesn’t come out of it smelling of roses. Although Pietersen now seems prepared to play in ODIs, the ECB haven’t actually agreed to manage his schedule any differently yet. Therefore, he essentially initiated a standoff with his employers and blinked first.
Having privately criticised tube, train and bus drivers for going on strike in the past, I find it impossible to condone Pietersen’s behaviour. Where I once saw principle, I now see petulance. Cricketers from other countries often have disputes with their boards, but England players don’t. Having defended him for many years, I’m beginning to ask why Kevin Pietersen is the exception to the rule.