The stage was set for a Kevin Pietersen hundred. England had lost wickets, the weather was turning, Old Trafford was buzzing with anticipation and England were on the brink of winning the Ashes. Kevin ‘Maverick’ Pietersen strolled to the crease knowing that one good knock could seal the Ashes for his team. On that day in the 2013 Ashes series, Pietersen did make a hundred. But as he crawled through the nineties Ian Bell was making hay at the other end of the crease, launching sixes into the stands for fun. It was the wrong way round surely? Pietersen’s century was slow, fraught with tension, defiant and utterly lacking in entertainment. That was the last meaningful contribution Kevin Pietersen made to the England team. So, was he worth it?
He was worth it in 2005, he was worth it when England won the T20 World Cup, and he was worth it when England went to world number one. But after the text message debacle that cost England their greatest ever captain, he was a dead weight. The decision made by the ECB last week has led to all sorts of pundits and fans claiming that England are now ‘less entertaining’ without Pietersen. But the reality is that KP hasn’t been KP for going on two years. The last hundred that could be called sheer KP genius was in Sri Lanka in 2012, since then, nothing.
As a fan, you want to see Pietersen strolling to the crease because those magical innings that define his career are all too fresh in your mind. He’ll go down as one of England’s greatest batsmen, and deservedly so, over 8,000 test runs is nothing to be sneered at. But I can’t condemn the decision to let him go; nobody knows how difficult it was to deal with Pietersen during and after the text message saga because nobody was in that dressing room. Considering the reports circulating the media about tensions between Flower and Pietersen it seems like the ECB, the England players and the England management have finally reached the end of their tether with Pietersen. And who can blame them?
Chief KP fans Piers Morgan and Shane Warne have been vitriolic in their response to Pietersen’s sacking, Piers Morgan has all but blamed ‘back stabbing’ Matt Prior (despite the fact Prior was one of the only players who backed KP’s return to the squad following the text message saga) and has called for Alastair Cook’s head since the start of that fateful tour Down Under. However, Morgan and Warne’s responses were predictable. The response that most irked me was ex-England captain turned ‘that Northern fool on TV’, Freddie Flintoff.
Previously, no one backed Flintoff more than me, as a die hard Lancashire fan he was one of my heroes. Then he retired…and went on TV. Since then he has been doing his very best to undermine the sport and the team he claimed to have loved and fought tooth and nail for. Flintoff, like Pietersen, did what he wanted and when he wanted as an England player. He has now come out criticising the lack of a ‘group’ feeling amongst the current England team, he has accused senior players (and former teammates and ‘friends’) of hanging Pietersen out to dry and refusing to accept responsibility for the whitewash. I think people fast forget that Flintoff was part of the 2005 Ashes winning team; one of the most divided and clique driven England teams in recent memory. For Flintoff, it’s a case of bitterness that he never had to chance to be as successful as the current crop of England senior players. It’s vastly disappointing to see him slam his former teammates, and it smacks of pettiness.
So back to Pietersen. The ECB’s statement following the horrendous backlash and unfairly harsh criticism of the likes of Cook, Prior and Flower made clear that Pietersen was detrimental to the team morale. They made it clear that Alastair Cook and Matt Prior had their full support and backing in order to rebuild the England team. This has provoked further criticism – because far be it from the England Cricket Board to back their own Captain and Vice Captain, that’s just madness of course! The statement was direct and damning, and I wholeheartedly support what the board have said.
As England fans we should vent our frustrations over the current team direction, and then we should get over it and be the kind of fans who back our players, management and staff to come out fighting. Because if anything, that’s the beauty of cricket fans, if we weren’t understanding, patient and passionate what would we be? Football fans? Perish the thought.