Pietersen pays price for life as an outsider
LONDON: From the moment Kevin Pietersen walked out on South African cricket in protest at their selection policy it was clear the batsman’s sublime skills would often be overshadowed by his penchant for emotional gestures generated by self-interest.
Now that dangerously narcissistic element of Pietersen’s personality, which has landed him in hot water so many times in his troubled career, has come back to haunt him again in spectacular fashion.
Pietersen is by far England’s most naturally gifted strokemaker, but his international career lies in tatters after a dramatic week that started with allegations he sent text messages to South African players containing derogatory comments about English captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.
The 32-year-old, who had just scored a superb century in the drawn second Test against South Africa at Headingley, followed that bombshell by claiming he was ready to walk away from the sport due to what he perceived as problems in the England squad that he said “made it hard being me”.
And then, with speculation increasing that he would be dropped when the third Test squad was named on Sunday, the saga took a bizarre twist when Pietersen posted a video on YouTube on Saturday in which he claimed he was now ready to play in all forms of international cricket having previously opted out of limited overs action.
That seems to have been a misguided attempt to curry favour with the public when his fate was already sealed because just 24 hours later the England selectors confirmed that Pietersen had been axed.
Pietersen’s refusal to follow the team-first ethos that Strauss and Flower have been so determined to implement eventually proved too much for the selectors and even some of his team-mates.
The texting allegations played a significant role as such blatant criticism was a clear challenge to the England hierarchy.
“It was agreed that a number of actions needed to be completed to re-engage Kevin within the England dressing room. A fundamental item was to confirm publicly that no derogatory texts had been sent by Kevin to the South African team. This has not been forthcoming,” Hugh Morris, Managing Director of England Cricket, said.
“The success of the England team has been built on a unity of purpose and trust. Whilst we have made every attempt to find a solution to enable Kevin to be selected we have sadly had to conclude that, in the best interest of the team, he will miss the Lord’s Test.”
Pietersen’s attempt to run roughshod over a tough customer like Flower, who once wore a black armband in a World Cup match to protest against the policies of Zimbabwe’s government, led by notorious dictator Robert Mugabe, has backfired in stunning fashion.
And for Pietersen to somehow salvage his England career now, the Surrey star – who responded to the decision by insisting he remains available for selection – will have to change the habit of a lifetime and bow down to the authorities.
After leaving South Africa in protest against the quota selection system that he feared would kill his international career, Pietersen pursued a career in England and trouble was never far away.
He left Nottinghamshire, his first English county, under a cloud after threatening to sue for unfair dismissal, even though they insisted he had not been sacked.
But Pietersen’s ability to produce remarkable performances at the moment of maximum pressure ensured he became a key member of England’s side.
He hit century to help England regain the Ashes with a draw in the final Test at The Oval in 2005 and by 2008 Pietersen had won enough admirers to earn the Test and one-day captaincy.
But reports of a personality clash between Pietersen and coach Peter Moores quickly surfaced in 2009 and he resigned soon after.
After helping retain the Ashes in 2010, Pietersen was back in trouble when he was fined by the ECB for criticising former England batsman Nick Knight on Twitter.
If that was a storm in a teacup, this latest controversy could prove far more damaging to Pietersen’s legacy.