The punch-up between Kevin Pietersen and the ECB rages on, with the powers that be seemingly having dealt the knock-out punch by dropping Pietersen for the final Test at Lord’s. By ANT SIMS.
If cricket tours were soap operas, South Africa’s current visit to England would be a really bad one – with Kevin Pietersen cast as the crazy uncle who everybody thinks has died, but who returns, revealing he’s been alive all along, kicking and running amok behind family members’ backs.
The KP vs. ECB standoff has been dragging on for ages. If it’s not KP against the ECB, it’s KP against his teammates or KP against the world. One almost expects that he’ll pull off his England shirt to reveal a Mario Balottelli-esque: “Why Always Me?” vest the next time he scores a hundred in some insignificant T20 league.
His standoff with his employers reached a new level of volatility on Sunday when the ECB decided that enough was enough and that Pietersen would play no part in the Lord’s Test. This occurred just hours after he had posted a video on YouTube, discussing coming out of retirement for one-day and T20 cricket and saying everything was hunky dory again. The entire business was topped with a sugary layer of comments on how much KP enjoys playing for England.
The squad announcement was delayed by five hours on Sunday, but ECB management insisted that text messages sent by Pietersen to South African players remained a key issue. The texts are alleged to be derogatory and insulting towards Pietersen’s English teammates, although South African team management insists that they are just “friendly banter”.
The ECB insists that Pietersen’s behaviour is unbecoming. The former South African is currently the highest run-scorer for England in the series and also has the highest average, yet England’s brains trust has decided his behaviour warrants the axe, drafting Johnny Bairstow to replace him.
"During the past week we have held several discussions with Kevin Pietersen and his advisors. Following a constructive meeting it was agreed that a number of actions needed to be completed to re-engage Kevin within the England dressing room,” managing director of England Cricket, Hugh Morris, said.
"A fundamental item was to confirm publicly that no derogatory texts had been sent by Kevin to the South African team. This has not been forthcoming despite clear timelines being set to allow the selectors to pick the squad for the third Investec Test match. We provided an additional six hours this morning to provide every opportunity for agreement to be reached, but regrettably this has not been possible.
"The success of the England team has been built on a unity of purpose and trust. Whilst we have made every attempt to find a solution to enable Kevin to be selected, we have sadly had to conclude that, in the best interest of the team, he will miss the Lord's Test."
National selector, Geoff Miller, added: "We need a squad fully focused on this Test match to be able to play the sort of cricket we know is necessary if we are to win this week and level the series."
Pietersen has responded by saying that this does not mean the end of his international career by any means. He admitted he was deeply disappointed, however.
"To say I am gutted is an understatement... The entire episode has been demoralising for me and my family,” said Pietersen.
"The video I released was my way to bring closure to the issues I had at that time. I stand by every word I said in the video. I wish the team – and Straussy in particular – every success next week,” he added. DM
Photo: England's Kevin Pietersen is interviewed after the second test cricket match against South Africa was drawn, at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds August 6, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown