Kevin Pietersen has gone on record saying, should he picked for the final Test against South Africa at Lord’s, it could be his last outing for England. It’s the latest in a long list of his controversies, but it could be one of the most fatal, writes ANT SIMS.
At the end of the Leeds Test on Monday, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss were scheduled to face the press together. Strauss, because he is the captain of the team, Pietersen, because he did well in the Test – his knock of 149 was one of the stand out performances of the game, that, after all is how press conferences are set up at the end of Tests. But Pietersen pitched up alone and announced that he had to get home and couldn’t wait for Strauss. What ensued then was most peculiar and whether it was PR or pure emotion nobody quite knows yet, but Pietersen was grilled by the English media about his international future and while his words revealed little, his body language revealed the world.
Pietersen looks a frustrated man. Cricket is his job and the English Cricket Board are his employers. KP is currently an unhappy employee for a few different reasons. He wants to play in the Indian Premier League next year instead of having to play a series against a New Zealand team who have started to regress so much, they can’t even beat the West Indies. He also wants to spend more time with his family and maybe he would like a parking spot at Lord’s that’s not so far from the dressing room. But all that is speculation, what exactly his demands are, only Pietersen knows. What Pietersen doesn’t know is whether his employers value him or not. When it comes to employer-employee relationships, most companies are willing to sit down and talk issues through, make compromises and bend the rules to keep their employees happy. Many people refute these claims, simply because they’ve never tried it or because they’ve heard of somebody who had a bad boss who tried it. Now, as a fed up employee, KP is doing the only thing he can – he’s making threats.
"I can't give any assurances that the next Test won't be my last," Pietersen said on Monday.
"I'd like to carry on but there are obstacles that need to be worked out. There are other points I'm trying to sort out in the dressing room”
Pietersen is opting for the “my way or the high way” approach. It is an approach in which he is most likely to come second in. Unluckily for Pietersen, the ECB don’t value him as much as he values himself – which in itself is a tragedy. Pietersen is a good cricketer and when he is in form, he is brilliant, exquisite even. But despite his talents he just doesn’t fit the ECB’s mould. He is not a Stepford Wife. Pietersen also knows that he is a box office draw card. And you can hardly fault him. There is nothing wrong with knowing your worth and using it to leverage yourself.
"It would be a huge shame (if I quit Test cricket). I love playing Test cricket for England, but we'll see. For me, the saddest part about all this is that the spectators just love watching me play and I love playing for England,” the batsman said.
Pietersen has bumped heads with the ECB before, of course. In 2008, after he was named England skipper there was a rift reported between then coach Peter Moores and KP. It went so far as the ECB calling emergency board meeting to discuss the situation before their tour of the West Indies in January 2009, after which it was confirmed that Pietersen had resigned as skipper while Moores was sacked as coach. Some might say that this is a recurring theme, but what the ECB know about managing people is precious little. This is the same board that allowed now convicted Ponzi-schemester Allen Standford to park his helicopter on the turf at Lord’s and fondle Matt Prior’s wife. And when Stanford’s true colours were shown in all their glory, they shrugged off any association with the man.
From the outside looking in, many have suggested that Pietersen’s simply looking for a way to make more money. Whether it’s for him to be paid as much as Strauss or making a quick buck through the IPL, but he insists there is more to the situation than what meets the eye.
"It's absolutely 100% not about money," he said. "This is not a money issue. The politics is what I have to deal with personally. It's tough being me playing for England,” Pietersen said.
Woe be me – it is a card which Pietersen has waved before. When he left South Africa he insisted he was leaving because of the quota system, yet he simply left because he was poorly managed. He was batting at number eight and primarily playing as a spinner. He was never going to make it because nobody saw his talent and nobody managed it adequately.
But his standoff with the ECB is somewhat different. He is a talented player, one who England needs in their set up. Yet everybody except the ECB is able to recognise this. To see a star of his lustre burn out before its time would be a great shame. While one would hope that a compromise is soon reached, if the ECB’s previous record is anything to go by, the only outcome there will be is the one where they cut their nose to spite their own face. DM
Photo by Reuters.