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When Kevin Pietersen stepped down as England captain in January 2009, he did so at a time when England’s cricketers were undertaking a heavy bludgeoning from opposition and supporters alike. It seemed that almost the entire cricketing world was against them, and someone had to swing. Head coach Peter Moores was forced into the firing line, and Pietersen himself jumped before he was pushed, thereby ending months of turmoil from within the England camp.
Fast forward six years and it is now him, like Moores, who has been frozen out of the England setup. It would have appeared Pietersen had emphatically re-illustrated his capabilities as a batsman with a staggering 355 not-out for Surrey over the week, with subsequent calls for his reappearance at the crease for England coming at a time when Jonathan Trott has announced his England retirement and the search is on to find his replacement. On this evidence, there is no earthly reason why it shouldn’t be Pietersen. While Alistair Cook is beginning to rediscover the form to justify his position as opening batsman, and his supporting cast of Gary Ballance and Joe Root have done nothing but add positivity to their reputations as solid batsmen, the addition of Pietersen would ensure, at least on his current form, that runs would not be an issue for England as it has so constantly been in the past for them. Moreover, he is a man with experience. He has been England’s ‘go-to’ man in so many crucial Tests and internationals. His runs have been central to England victories, so much so that some would say there was a time when the difference between an England victory and an England defeat would hinge on Pietersen’s ability with the bat on a particular day.
Furthermore, as much as England have needed his runs, more often than not he has provided them at a remarkable level of consistency. He has made 23 centuries in eight years of Tests, he became the fastest batsman to reach a thousand runs in ODIs [One-Day Internationals], and achieved five-thousand Test runs in the shortest amount of time. Time after time he has put even the most strategic and aggressive bowlers to shame and frustration. To say that his international CV is impressive would be an understatement.
Yet the decision on Pietersen’s inclusion lies at the feet of Andrew Strauss, a man whom England fans look on with warm regard following the outstanding job he did as England captain before his retirement three years ago. Strauss’ calming influence was just what was needed to steady the tide following the debacle of Pietersen and Moores’ relationship, and it is this judgment which is preventing Pietersen returning to the fold.
This situation is down, in no small part, to the allegations made against Pietersen, which involve him sending derogatory text messages to South Africa’s cricketers, the content of which focused upon Moores and Strauss. These allegations, ones which subsequently turned out to be true, have damaged his reputation as an England player, and tarnished, maybe permanently, his relationship with Strauss in both a professional and personal capacity. It is the general consensus that Strauss believes Pietersen to be a risk not worth taking and, on past experience, he has every right to stand by this belief. He simply does not trust KP.
Furthermore, amidst the debate as to whether he should be brought back, it should be noted KP is a player who is now 34 years of age, and during his last days as an England player, averaged just 36 runs in 21 Test innings, whilst only once in those innings making it past the century mark. Time is simply not on his side while the pressures of being an international player remain as high as they are. Furthermore, players such as Alex Hales and James Taylor are staking their own claim for selection, and these are players who do have time on their side.
While analysts of the game such as Alec Stewart continually fuel the idea that bringing Pietersen back to the fore will be nothing but common sense for the game, the ultimate decision still remains with Strauss. Furthermore while it can only be suggested that Strauss’ personal feelings on Pietersen have played a part in the decision to leave Pietersen aside, Pietersen’s expression of his own feelings on the matter have not helped his cause. His autobiography last year cause huge uproar by his opinions on the England camps less than harmonious atmosphere, and his name dropping and labelling of individuals he used to call team mates have emphatically destroyed friendships and business bridges that could have served him well at this point in time, when his county cricket stock is on the rise and his reputation slowly being rebuilt. But the content of his autobiography, plus the text message incident, have provided Strauss with further ammunition to use in the argument that his decision to isolate Pietersen remains the correct one.
While there can be no question of his talents, unless he is willing to rebuild bridges, keep his head down and even then hold out for a minor miracle, it would seem apparent that Kevin Pietersen’s England career, however glittering it was, seems over for good.
Image courtesy of BBC News and Getty Images