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A Man Adrift

Pietersen celebrates his fourth and final Ashes victory.

I should have been dancing around my living room.

After all, four years earlier, that was exactly what I’d been doing. And the 2013 Ashes win, well that was much more satisfying and comprehensive than its 2009 counterpart.

Wasn’t it?

Of course, bad light had brought the series to a close and not in the euphoria-inducing way that 2005 had ended. That did leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth, I suppose. But it wasn’t really of any great consequence. We’d been entertained, and Kevin Pietersen had given the world a reminder of just how dangerous he was. In the situation that had played out that evening, it was hard to think of a batsman you’d rather have out there. He hit 62 from 55 balls. My eyes were glued to the television – as were my wife’s. She hates cricket. For me, that tells you all you need to know about Pietersen in full-flow. But it wasn’t quite enough – England couldn?t get over the line on that day.

It didn’t matter. Watching England lift The Ashes is a sight to behold, still a slightly unsettling event to witness after years of misery. And players parading round the outfield, celebrating, holding their fingers up in threes and fours to signify how many they’d won. Triumphantly satisfying.

But as the players wandered, paraded, whatever, one man was cut adrift.

Yeah, you know his name.

Kevin Pietersen walked alone. Mobile phone clutched to his ear at times, you’ll find photographs where other players are nearby, true. But if you watch it again, you’ll see Anderson, Broad, Swann, others, a core of the team, arms draped round one another, grins stretching all the way to Lord’s.

Pietersen’s camaraderie was mainly with the fans. Not his team mates.

I discussed this with a friend who felt it told you all you needed to know about the man. Is that fair? Or does it tell you all you need to know about the England team?

The word reintegration was regarded as an embarrassing one to use by most cricket fans, fairly indicative of the way the ECB acts on a day-to-day basis, these days. But all did seem well, most of the time, once KP, as he is commonly referred to as, returned to the fold. The unadulterated genius of that innings in Mumbai, the embraces with his captain as their mammoth partnership passed milestone after milestone.

But if the truth is explored, it must stand to reason that he was never fully reintegrated. And the big question, for me, is whose fault is that? Or perhaps more pertinently, whose responsibility should that have been?

One looks at the Australian cricket teams, both of now and days gone by, and you see big personalities. Egos. Justifiably large egos in some cases, Shane Watson in others. And of course, they’ve not been without their problems, but they make it work. Michael Clarke and Watson won’t be hosting dinner parties for one another anytime soon. So what?

Shane Warne. You may know that name. How many of his former team-mates dote lovingly on the man? Does Steve Waugh? Or Ricky Ponting? How about Adam Gilchrist? To name but three. But was it worth suffering the faults of the human for the brilliance of the cricketer?

More details will, and need to, unfold from what occurred in the England dressing room this winter. Prima facie, though, it’s hard to see that Pietersen’s axing is founded in any sort of cricketing logic. Of course, if a player divides the dressing room to an extent that others can’t perform, then yes, he has to go, because one man’s talents are not worth the sacrifice of an entire team. All the evidence points to Cook and Pietersen falling out after the Melbourne Test. Is there anyone who actually thinks that said fallout not happening would have resulted in anything other than the resounding defeat that unfolded?

English cricket needs to rebuild. Anyone with a shred of knowledge as to how top-level sporting teams function is aware that in a young, inexperienced team, the presence of a handful of older, better players is invaluable. Word on the street is that those young players have all formed a decent relationship with KP. The cynic in me almost wonders if it would have been better for Pietersen if they didn’t like him either.

Of course, we must acknowledge that Pietersen has fallen out with many people in various places. The textgate scandal of 2012 saw him correctly cast aside. The fact that Graeme Swann, a noted Pietersen critic, felt his attitude had been absolutely fine since his return, though, points to KP’s difficult past being used as a convenient mistruth. He’s been difficult before, so we can axe him now and everyone will assume that it’s all his fault this time, too.

Looking back once more to the close of the 5th Test of the English leg of the Ashes double-header that has recently unfolded, it’s no surprise that Pietersen more than any other player was celebrating with, and embraced by, the fans. He has his critics amongst the public – what great sportsman doesn’t? – but by and large, they – we – love him.

Yes, we don’t know what happens behind the scenes. Quite frankly, who cares? I watch cricket because it’s a fine sport, and I watch England hoping to see good cricket and victories. Both of those will be in short supply without KP. No doubt about that.


In my time, he’s the best. I don’t profess to be as well read on the historical side as some of our more esteemed members but he’d surely have a case to make our best XI

The frustrating thing is he could have been better.

Probably capable of playing a better innings than the vast majority of his contemporary peers but more likely to frustrate than a Clarke or Sangakarra

Comment by Martyn Corrin | 12:00am GMT 10 February 2014

Nice piece Martyn. Where would you rank him in the pantheon of England batsmen?

Comment by chasingthedon | 12:00am GMT 10 February 2014

I hadn’t noticed the increasing isolation from teammates – sounds like he’s ended up rather like Robin Friday did, though he’s not as talented, obviously

Comment by fredfertang | 12:00am GMT 10 February 2014

Not totally convinced by the “Australia make it work” theory: Andrew Symonds? Simon Katich? Both fell out with the selectors after far fewer Tests than Pietersen.

Comment by AndrewB | 12:00am GMT 15 February 2014

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