Going by the latest media reports about Kevin Pietersen expressing his helplessness in announcing a retirement from Test cricket after the final test against South africa, apparently because of yet another conflict with his fellow team mates and the ECB, it would not be inappropriate to compare his career to a roller-coaster ride.
Kevin’s first arrival on the English cricket scene was in the year 2000. Being frustrated with the quota selection system in South Africa (his native) he travelled to England, with a view to qualifying to play international cricket there. Although he started off from the scratch with Warwickshire 2nds, he ended up with a contract at Nottinghamshire in just about a year’s time. Based on his exceptional performance with his county team , KP got to make his ODI debut for England against Zimbabwe in 2004-05 at his native. With 3 successive centuries in his debut series, he went onto replace Graham Thrope in the 2005 Ashes Squad, the dream team which won the ashes after a huge gap of 19 years.
In the year 2008, he was handed the captaincy of both the ODI and Test squads. Such was his presence on the field that it bagged him lucrative IPL contracts with RCB and Delhi Daredevils. In 2009, reports of a rift between Pietersen and coach Peter Moores emerged. Later, he was sacked as captain, and then subsequently dropped from the ODI squad for the home series against Pakistan. Again, Pietersen’s distasteful tweet about his exclusion from the squad earned him the wrath of the ECB. In 2012 he announced a shock ‘retirement’ from ODIs, prompting the ECB to exclude him from the 2012 t20 world cup probables as well.
Infact, Pietersen’s future was a major issue even before the start of the series against the South Africans. Although he had announced his retirement from one-day international cricket, he wanted to be available for a full Indian Premier League programme while still playing for England, and to play in the upcoming World Twenty20 in September. This meant that KP’s absence in the series against New Zealand would have to be permitted by the ECB, which, by all means, put a firm foot down on the issue, citing contractual obligations and clauses. Was KP caving-in to the demands of his IPL franchise? His issues with team mate Graham Swann, and remarks on ex-English player Nick Knight just added fuel to the fire. Former English test player Bob Willis has been quoted as saying that Pietersen was holding the ECB to ransom, and that he (Pietersen) was concerned only about the big bucks of IPL, and not the English team.
All this seems to be just the beginning of the drama. As it unfolds, we can be sure of people pointing fingers at the IPL of being the main villain. With players like Michael Clarke opting themself out of the IPLs first few editions citing reasons such as “Australian cricket supremacy” ahead of the IPL dollars in their priority list, KP is surely to be seen as a money-minded cricketer. That he is the native of a different nation is only going to cause more doubts in the minds of the English fans (despite the English symbol of royal arms – the 3 lions – he sports).
Whether Kevin Pietersen should be looking at addressing his commitments with the ECB ahead of those with his IPL franchise or the cricket board be more accommodative, is something which will be debated for a long time. This issue needs to be considered as an eye opener for all the cricket boards. It needs to be discussed, and a sure-shot solution needs to be found after involving all the concerned people who shape world cricket. Cricket is a beautiful game that doesn’t need ugly episodes like these to be repeated again in future.