There’s a lot of “he said, she said” going on between the ECB and CSA at the moment, and Kevin Pietersen stands squarely at the centre of it all. A saga that should have been long dead and buried is still dragging on, and probably will for some time. By ANT SIMS.
If cricket won Oscar-like awards for best performances, the Kevin Pietersen text message saga would have scooped the gong for best drama, best actor in a leading role, best visual effects and, most likely, best actor in a supporting role.
In the latest baffling episode, David Collier, the ECB chief executive, suggests the South African squad "provoked" Pietersen into the exchange of messages which resulted in a bizarre series of events – from crazy YouTube videos to KP being exiled.
Last week, the ECB said that they had started a "process of reintegration" to get Pietersen back to playing for England, and while it’s likely to take a while before Pietersen proclaims his love for his adopted country again, he should be tormenting bowlers with impunity in the next few months.
However, the text message drama is far from over. Collier suggests it's the ECB's understanding that the messages were instigated by South Africa’s players.
"It is a very thin line between fair and unfair. These were responses to messages from certain members of the South Africa team, and I would not condone an England player doing it if it were the other way around… I certainly think they provoked the situation," Collier told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.
Collier said that although he didn’t think blame should rest with the South Africans, he did think it was a tactic employed by the players.
“We shouldn't blame the South Africans; we should be above that," he said. "I think there was a tactic which was used. I think that is, sadly, some of the ways of modern sport, but as I say, we have plenty of people who are strong in the dressing room who provide very good leadership, [and] who can deal with those situations."
Of course, nobody in the dressing room did deal with the situation or manage Pietersen’s rebellion, and instead he became an outcast in a drama that unravelled so quickly that even those who could not stand the ex-South African started to feel pity for him.
When the story first emerged, the details of the text messages ranged from being tactical information to simply a bit of banter and a few choice words reserved for former England captain Andrew Strauss. Oddly enough, Collier admitted that he had not seen the messages and no evidence of the messages remained, but the ECB chief insisted they were sent in an attempt to disrupt England.
"Those messages were of a nature that Kevin, with definite hindsight, would have refuted straight away and moved on. It is trying to undermine another team and another team ethic,” Collier said.
It’s an issue that should have been dead and buried long ago, yet it seems that the ECB is still looking for a scapegoat in the whole shebang. Cricket South Africa has, of course, responded by vehemently denying the claims.
"I am very disappointed that this has played out in the media," CSA acting CEO Jacques Faul said.
"It is absolutely not true that our players provoked Pietersen. What is particularly disappointing is that I had a face-to-face meeting with Mr Collier when I was in London for the Lord's Test match. He did not raise this allegation with me then, and I would have thought as a matter of courtesy and decency he would have spoken to me about it before going public in the media,” added Faul.
Faul said that he was particularly disappointed in the way the ECB handled the matter.
"It is not the way CSA goes about its business, and it is not the way the ECB has done business with us in the past either. It is very disappointing, because in the past our relationships with the ECB have always been cordial and constructive.
"This is an internal ECB matter in which we do not wish to be involved. It served as a distraction to our players that we did not need during the Test series."
It’s hard to believe that the ECB’s public outcry is solely based on a couple of exchanges between Pietersen and the South African squad. Their reason, though, remains to be seen – and in the meantime, it’s likely this saga will drag on for a while still. DM
Photo: England cricketer Kevin Pietersen attends a news conference where it was announced that he has signed a new England contract, at the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel in Colombo October 3, 2012. Pietersen can return to the England fold after making peace with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in a row over "provocative" text messages, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Philip Brown