By Lakshay Kumar Chowdhury
All the cricket fans must have broken a couple of TV sets atleast after getting this news. After all, they will not be able to see Kevin Pietersen in English colors again. Kevin Pietersen, or KP, is one of the most thrilling and innovative batsmen the game has known. Known for his out-of-the-box, is-that-even-possible haircuts and blazing tattoos, he has always been difficult to tackle. He made his debut in January 2005 in an ODI series against his native South Africa. He came into the limelight after scoring a hundred in Ashes 2005 which helped England manage a draw and regain the Ashes after a long gap of 19 years.
Kevin Pietersen met Paul Downton, the Managing Director of England Cricket this week and was told that the unanimous decision of the England management, including the selectors, was that now was the time to start the rebuilding process after England’s disappointing winter in Australia. He has not been included in the England squads for the forthcoming tour of the Caribbean later this month nor the ICC World Twenty20 to be held in Bangladesh in March. This came as a surprise to everyone as Kevin Pietersen was the highest run getter in the Ashes 2013-14.
However, he has handled it in the kind of manner that the game deserves and demands from all those who don the uniform. Unlike other times, where he had thrown some controversial statements, he said: “Playing cricket for my country has been an honour. Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and that is something that will live with me forever. Although I am obviously very sad the incredible journey has come to an end, I’m also hugely proud of what we, as a team, have achieved over the past nine years.”
The sudden axe has received varied opinions from cricketing pundits; some are treating it as a stamp of authority while others think it is a failure to manage a complex, borderline-humiliating situation. According to former fast bowler Willis, this decision has shown that no one is bigger than the game. On the other hand, Michael Vaughan, former England Captain, lamented the failure to “manage a maverick”.
I opine that it is a crazy decision to drop Kevin Pietersen at this juncture of time but apparently the average of 33 in the last 23 test innings means that he hasn’t made much of a case for not being dropped. With the T-20 and ODI World Cup around the corner, the entire England team has been left in a spot of disarray after the so called stamp of authority on the job by the newly appointed Paul Downton. After the England team was thrashed on foreign soil, it was not the best time to drop the star player of the team. Actually, he has been made a scapegoat for the dismal display of the team.
England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin Pietersen who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill. Kevin Pietersen has always been a match winner; be it the Ashes 2005 or the ICC T-20 World Cup 2010, he has always managed to deliver at the most crunch situations. He has had his issues with the English Cricket Board and various County teams but this has never affected his performances on the field. In fact, he has come back ever so strongly after being cornered. For Instance, he was not considered for the Indian tour in 2012 at the first go but he made 186 against India in Mumbai in 2012 on a slow pitch where most batsmen were struggling just to stay at the crease.
According to Michael Vaughan “You have to be able to manage mavericks. You can’t have clones around.” History with Kevin Pietersen tells us that he hasn’t really got a foot to stand on – be it back in Natal or Hampshire or Nottinghamshire, or Peter Moores or Andrew Strauss or Alastair Cook or Andy Flower, wherever he has been he has been a problem. The South African hard hitting batsman would have called off his career in a year or so anyway, most probably after the 2015 World Cup. It was just a question of managing him till then.
Now, of course, he has a chance to make a killing in the Indian Premier League — something his critics say has always been his main motivation. One thing’s for sure though: it’s going to be a Herculean task for England Cricket to find someone who can fill his shoes, someone who can send shivers down a bowler’s spine by merely padding up. Until then, his true fans can still see their star player dazzle them on the pitch in the coming IPL season. Whether or not England Cricket ends up regretting the decision is something that we can only speculate as of now.