Kevin Pietersen has given us the switch hit, the ‘flamingo’, two of the finest Test hundreds in modern times, as well as countless other cameos, but what he could not give, it seems after being dropped permanently by England, was the co-operation that all teams rely on to function.
Perhaps that is an idealistic notion in a world where sportsmen get paid chief executive salaries and the rewards for success are huge. Perhaps English sensibilities were not ready for his brash honesty as he never hid the fact that he was in it for the money and watch out anyone who got in his way. Some will argue he gave value for that money on the field, though that was questioned when his influence in the dressing room began to affect the other players, as it has done from time to time.
England have ditched him before only to kiss and make up, though it always appeared a fragile peace with team unity ready to be ripped apart by his next faux pas. To exclude him forever, though, is a bold decision by England and one that tells us the depth of the despair some in power must have reached.
Given Ashley Giles described him just the other day as a million-pound asset, one can assume he changed his mind. To jettison the one batsman with the flair and imagination to change the game quickly means there must be a serious disconnect between Pietersen and those who either run the team or comprise it.
In the recent Ashes, there were rumours of a dressing-room row between Pietersen and Alastair Cook in Sydney, but some observers reckoned Pietersen was just his usual high-maintenance self, albeit one that defeat magnified to the point where Cook and England now feel they will be better off without him.
There is an irony that Cook was part of the meeting that decided Pietersen must go. When the latter was dropped for his role in messaging South Africa players about Andrew Strauss, his then captain, Cook was more evangelical than Andy Flower about giving him a second chance.
Part of the challenge of captaincy and of coaching is to deal with awkward characters. It is a Faustian pact of sorts, with Pietersen cut some slack on his behaviour providing he delivered on the field. That did not occur in Australia, except at Melbourne, where he made 71 and 49.
Mostly, Australia played on his ego and he got himself out in a series of unedifying ways. He still ended the tour as England’s leading run-scorer and it will look as if he has been picked upon for England’s dismal tour. It was a relative success, though, and since the start of 2013 he has averaged 33 in Tests, well below the 47 he averages over his career.
If there is a common thread to Pietersen’s career, it has been the disarray in which he has left the teams he played for. Natal, Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and now England, have all fallen out with him. Jonathan Swift once said that “when a true genius appears in the world you shall know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.”
One team of dunces is possible but four? Unlikely. England’s parting company with him, ostensibly to rebuild the team and team ethic, could bring him huge riches in the Indian Premier League, where he will now be available for the whole IPL as well as all the other T20 leagues that have sprung up. England fans’ loss will be India’s gain, but for all his bellyaching about not being given the opportunity to maximise his IPL fee, he will find life as T20 mercenary wholly unsatisfying.
International cricket is where legacies are made and Pietersen leaves with his only half realised as a player of great innings but not a great batsman. You sense it could be a source of constant regret for him.
— Daily Telegraph, London