The KP debate part I: Pietersen ‘sacked for cricketing reasons’

Was KP's sacking justified?
Was KP’s sacking justified?

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After 104 Test matches and 136 One Day Internationals, 32 international hundreds and 13797 international runs – the most of any England player ever, the ECB concluded that removing the South African-born star would be the latest step in a rebuilding programme; a process that has already seen the back of the retired Graeme Swann, the resigned Andy Flower and, for the foreseeable future, Jonathan Trott.

It takes only a matter of seconds to see what some of England’s most respected cricketing figures think of this most controversial decision from new Managing Director, Paul Downton.

David Lloyd, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan amongst many others have publically disagreed with the result of the ‘unprecedented summit’ between Alistair Cook, Downton and Ashley Giles.

A quick glance at a Twitter newsfeed tells you all you need to know about what regular punters think of the ECB’s decision to effectively ‘retire’ Pietersen from England duty.

In spite of the disastrous ‘Blunder Down Under’, what one can say with some certainty is that Pietersen was not the weakest link in any way, shape or form. He was the one that the Australians feared; whenever he was dismissed, generally by Peter Siddle, Michael Clarke’s side rejoiced like at no other moment.

“Effectively he has been disowned by his country”

They wouldn’t dare sledge Pietersen like they did to the likes of Carberry, Bell or even Cook, they fear him and have done ever since he smashed Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne to all parts in the golden summer of 2005. The Guardian called him “England’s greatest modern batsman”.

As Durham University Coach Graeme Fowler tweeted after the decision, “extraordinary people are not normal”. This was no criticism of Pietersen – quite the opposite, in fact.

It’s a criticism of those who failed to manage him. It has always been an issue in English sport. Paul Gascoigne, David Gower, Glen Hoddle, Tony Greig, and now KP have all fallen foul to English sport’s regimented outlook on how games should be played.

It is no coincidence that the England captain with whom KP got along best was Michael Vaughan – a daredevil compared to the sobering defensive cricket played under both Andrew Strauss and Cook.

Kevin Pietersen has made his mistakes and he’s had his fair share of fallouts. He should perhaps have been sacked in response to ‘Textgate’ in August 2012 when the batsman sent derogatory messages to South African players about his captain, Andrew Strauss.

He was ‘reintegrated’ though, so ‘sacking’ him now seems odd given the way in which his change of behaviour and character has been praised by teammates since his return to the side. It is not the fault of Kevin Pietersen that England lost the Ashes.

He was part of an underachieving eleven man team against a side who  performed to a superior level.

KP FOR BEN

Time will tell whether the decision to part with the country’s most talented player is a correct one. He played 104 Test matches for England in which time he single-handedly wrestled back the Ashes at the Oval in 2005, won a series in India, levelled a series in Sri Lanka, was named Man of the Tournament in the Caribbean when England won the World T20.

His 149 at Headingley against a South African side boasting Messrs Morkel, Steyn and Philander is the best innings that many have ever witnessed.

A man who has done all this and captained his country – albeit in an ill-fated tenure – did not deserve to be ‘retired’. Effectively, he has been disowned by his country. Surely, the least that he deserved was a press conference to say goodbye?

Alternatively, why not let him go on his own terms and suggest that he retire from international duty to pick up his riches in the IPL? This is what is so flabbergasting.

There is no precedent for such a move. It is this that is so controversial. The ECB claim that they cannot give the reasons for the decision due to a ‘confidentiality clause’ in his severance package.

The ECB have described it as a decision made for ‘cricketing reasons’, we all know, however, that this simply isn’t true. If the ECB came out into the public domain and published unarguable facts as to why Pietersen was being discarded, the public would respect the decision and move on.

However, this vagueness undermines the ECB as an organisation. To attempt to use England’s most talented ever batsman as a scapegoat for what went on in Australia will not stick with English cricket fans.

How England choose to move forward from here into a ‘new brand’ of cricket without the man who could have led the way is anyone’s guess.

Mark Boucher, the former South Africa wicketkeeper, has described today as a ‘sad day for the game’

Regardless of the troubles and tension that he caused, what we know is that world cricket will be all the poorer for the loss of one of the great batsmen of the modern era.

Cricket is a form of entertainment and Kevin Pietersen was the ultimate entertainer.

Photographs: Nic Redhead and Target Tyrak

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