Two very contrasting stories have dominated the British side of the media in the past few days: one, the intrepid accounts of the patriotic, selfless and sporting excellence of British athletes at the Olympics and the other being the fetid tale of South African born Kevin Pietersen. The Pietersen saga is all but over, but for the time being he has been left out from the third Test against South Africa. Will that help England’s cause in levelling the series – perhaps not. Will it help South Africa’s cause in reaching the pinnacle of their success – in all likeliness, yes.
Earlier in the year, Pietersen announced his retirement from the shorter forms of the game, and play only Tests for England; little did he know that a couple of months later his Test career would be under threat of coming to an abrupt end. The demand of playing the entire IPL led to another set of differences between the ECB and Pietersen. Soon after, the Twitter parody saga broke out, followed by the Pietersen text row. KP doesn’t seem to want to leave the headline spaces lately, for the good or bad.
The fact that he is South African born is being incessantly and quite unfairly being stressed upon after the texting row came into the light. Similarities between Tony Greig and Pieteresen have sprouted up almost unsurprisingly – with his IPL fascination very similar to Tony Greig’s to the Kerry Packer’s series of the 70s. Pietersen’s loyalty has been questioned, and only he is to blame for it: who sends derogatory texts to the opponents about your captain? With Pietersen being unable to provide evidence of what the texts contained, he was left out of the team.
It is not an easy task to support Pietersen; he after all, is patience-testing and vexatious off the field. One day he wants to retire from ODI cricket and the next day he commits to playing all forms of cricket for England. One day he has issues playing for England; another day absolutely loves it and wants to keep winning for them. Pietersen is all about contradictions – and that of himself. He lacks the vision of looking beyond himself and his world. But then again, as exasperating as he is off the field, he has a touch of genius on it. He is one of the rare breed of talented match-winners who has revamped contemporary batting. Having scored a poised 149 in the previous Test at Headingly, should he have been retained for this Test? Was that a sacrifice worth making or is the ECB right in their shoes to have them dropped? Is that fair after his contributions towards England’s resurgence? I think, yes.
ECB’s stance has set an example to other cricket boards – they’ve prioritized team ethics over a player, who is one of their best – and rightly so. The team is always greater than an individual player. Pietersen’s existence in the dressing room was tough enough before these series of events; if he ever makes a comeback to the team, it is likely that that wouldn’t change much. Is that the end of the road for Pietersen’s stint with England? Is KP the latest flawed genius? England are one of the more consistent sides in world cricket today and irrespective of whether or not KP is in the team, they will continue to be so.