As the West Indies were crowned World Twenty20 champions, Chris Gayle reinforced his reputation in the semi-final as one of the two most destructive batsmen in world cricket at this shortened form of the game, smashing 75 from 41 balls including 6 sixes. The other batsmen that I am referring to did not appear in the tournament – Kevin Pietersen.
Inevitably, England’s premature exit at the quarter final stage of the tournament, albeit to finalists Sri Lanka, led to various pundits questioning what effect Pietersen would have had if he was in the squad, how far England would have gone, and how exposed the relatively thin and inexperienced middle order were without him. Indeed some of these esteemed commentators have been calling for his return as soon as he was left out of the squad for the final test against South Africa in August and the subsequent One Day Internationals and Twenty20s, Shane Warne making the suggestion that ‘Strauss and Pietersen could have gone down the pub and had a beer’ while Ian Botham implored the English Cricket Board (ECB) and Pietersen to ‘settle their differences’.
After Pietersen’s public apology last week, it was announced that he had signed a four-month central contract with a period of ‘reintegration’ built in, just in time for England’s tour of India in December. So, it appears, that the pundits have got what they wanted, undoubtedly England’s most naturally talented player on the road playing for England again, whether differences within the team have been settled or not. Surely there is something unethical about these former players worshipping at the feet of Pietersen, focusing on the fact that with him England stand a better chance of winning cricket matches, rather than the disrespect, childishness, and insouciance of his actions.
The exact content of the texts that Pietersen sent to South African players remains a mystery, however what is known is that they were derogatory towards the England captain at the time, Andrew Strauss, reportedly suggesting how to get him out. Whilst I have never played a team sport at a high level, it is not hard to understand that mocking a fellow team-mate, let alone your captain, for the opposition to see is completely over the line. Regardless of what the pundits say about ‘settling differences’, there is a time when the will to win is overtaken by respect, common sense and discipline. If an employee of a company insulted their manager for the amusement of a rival company, that employee would be sacked, regardless of how good he was at his job.
The pandering of the media towards Kevin Pietersen’s talents is extremely frustrating to listen to, and highlights their blind desire for English Cricket success, as opposed to the harmony of the team, which is surely one of the most important factors in producing good results. As for Pietersen himself, he must count himself very lucky that Andrew Strauss decided to retire when he did, as otherwise he may have been waiting a while longer to get back in the England team. The respect and trust other members of the team had for Strauss was easy to identify, and it would have been a great surprise if this had been sacrificed for Pietersen’s volatile talent. It remains to be seen whether the value of this talent will outweigh the effect of the emotional baggage he is going to bring into the England dressing room on the winter tour to India.