This morning was nothing short of a rude shock to the fans of the England cricket team, which had a stellar run till it got eviscerated in the Ashes and the subsequent ODI and T20 series. When debilitations of such magnitude happen, heads are expected to roll, squabbles surface in the open and the team enters a rebuilding phase.
When Andy Flower quit as the coach, I wasn’t aghast at the news. After all, he had only one job to do, coach the England Test side and make them world beaters. His complaints of a hectic schedule as a director of cricket were heeded to and Ashley Giles was put in charge of the ODI and T20 mantles. When failure came, fingers were justly pointed at the burgeoning support staff and Flower being the casualty does not merit pathos. Change is required and the ECB can begin with the selection of a coach on whom the charge of grooming the team across all three formats can be saddled.
What has left us all appalled is the jettisoning of England’s star batsman and their leading run getter across all formats, Kevin Pietersen. Finding a rationale for this atrocious decision will make all of us tear our hair out along with our scalps. Consider these stats: 104 Test matches with a batting average of just above 47 and 136 ODIs with an average of nearly 41. Do these numbers merit such an unceremonious axing? Surely not.
Keeping in mind the struggles of Alastair Cook, Matt Prior, and James Anderson, the withdrawals of Jonathan Trott and Steven Finn from the tour due to stress related illness and performance correction respectively, the premature ( maybe immature too) retirement of Graeme Swann, Pietersen cannot be held in a light worse than any of his esteemed and brutalized team mates.
For all his brashness, he is England’s all time leading run getter. He may not have been leadership material, but his performances never failed to inspire. Consider his remarkable century in Mumbai. It brought a deflated England back on its tracks and they rallied around to clinch the series 2-1 after being 1-0 down. His belligerence in the opening Test against India in the home series of 2011 set the tone of dominance in England’s favor. His flamboyance in the World T20 2010 brought England a much awaited ICC title which remains their only one till date.
If Cook was the epitome of consistency during England’s purple patch, Pietersen proved that brawn mixed with intent and belligerence can also be a recipe for sustained success. However, the world seems averse to the persona of an errant rock star who also manages to get good grades in school. Pietersen was cut from far more controversial cloth compared to his other team mates. His beginnings in England were mired with accusations of backstabbing by South African fans which garnered him boos in his maiden outing for England in South African.
I mean who the hell gets the backs of the spectators turned on him after scoring a brilliant century even if it were on the opposition’s soil? Captaincy brought him a humongous cup of woes which was blotted by an ugly spat with Peter Moores. The subsequent resignation of Pietersen and Moores proved to be Andy Flower’s gain and also Pietersen’s as they set out conquering the World T20 2010, Australia, the ICC Test rankings and many other bilateral laurels.
However, that glory could not be savored fully as Pietersen was found in the middle of a Tweet controversy against his England mates and chose a not so right time to speak his mind on enervating touring schedules and greater freedom to participate in the IPL. It seemed to be the end of the road for KP when he was axed from the World T20 squad for the 2012 edition. However a few apologies later, he was back to his best in the India with a dazzling hundred at the Wankhede which was considered to be a spinner’s paradise. Swann and Panesar were the other wreckers-in-chief as England completed a resounding victory over the hosts.
These moments of glory are light years behind us and KP in the distant past. Perhaps playing with a straighter bat on and off the field could have got him more purchase from his international career. It’s not over for the big man though. A fruitful career as a freelance T20 player awaits him. Clubs will lap him up as he will continue to churn out runs for his T20 franchises. He will play. He will win. Alas! It will not be in the blues and whites of England.