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Pomnishambles, Chapter II: Only the ECB can draw universal pity for Pietersen

Love him or hate him, right now it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Kevin Pietersen, who was told one thing and then ended up being taken for a ride by the England and Wales Cricket Board. His international career seems to be as good as done, but it’s the ECB’s hypocrisy that means this issue is unlikely to go away quietly. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

It’s not often that anyone feels sympathy for Kevin Pietersen, but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has managed to elicit such feelings from all corners of the globe for the firebrand batsman. Pietersen was effectively told by incoming director of England Cricket that, although he is not banned from the team, there are no plans to include him in the immediate future, owing to a “trust” issue.

“He [Pietersen] has been phenomenal for England over a long period of time, and he should be very proud of that record,” Andrew Strauss told Sky Sports News. “But over a period of months and years, the trust between himself and the ECB has eroded. There’s a massive trust issue between Kevin and I [sic]. Because of that, we’ve told him it’s not in the best short-term interests of the side for him to be in the team.”

Read those words again and focus on the part where Strauss mentions that the trust issue is between him and Pietersen, not just the ECB and Pietersen. Aren’t those in positions of directorship supposed to be objective?

To add to the mess, Strauss said despite telling Pietersen that he was no good for the national team, he was offered an advisory role with the one-day team. That’s right. Pietersen is not trusted enough to help England win games with his talent and experience, but he is good enough to give advice to some of England’s young talents. The situation would be sad if it were not so hilarious.

A number of current and former players have voiced their support for Pietersen on Twitter, with Graeme Smith calling out the “head boy” and Kumar Sangakkara, wondering if England had actually watched him play in recent months. It’s not often that players get so vocal over administrative matters, but England’s complete lack of knowledge in management matters can draw a chorus of support for somebody who is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Pietersen has sinned on a number of occasions. Calling your captain a “doos” by texting the opposition, not to mention writing a book insulting a number of teammates, probably isn’t conducive to harmony in the dressing room, but here’s the rub: sport is about winning, not making friends.

In every dressing room, in every sport, all across the world, there will be people who are difficult to get along with. They need strong leaders and proper management in order to co-exist harmoniously with others. It is not easy, but it is worth it. The most talented sportspeople are often the most disruptive, too, but strong leaders can control and inspire them to do their best for the end goal. It not only smacks of cowardice from the ECB, but also weakness, that they failed to try to find a way for Pietersen to return to the team. Worse still, their double standards when talking of “trust” is nothing short of appalling.

At the start of the county season, Pietersen was told to find a county and go and score runs before he would be considered for selection. The ECB suits probably thought that there was no way he would turn his back on the Indian Premier League. But Pietersen, who has been the master of this PR battle, called their bluff and then some. A day before he was told that there was actually no chance of him playing for England over the summer, Pietersen scored a record triple century in a match where nobody else managed more than 36. His innings eventually came to an end on Tuesday, finishing unbeaten on 355, more than half of the runs Surrey managed in their total of 557.

This “trust” stuff, hey? Who needs it? Technically, Pietersen might even have a legal case of loss earnings against the ECB, having forsaken a chunk of his IPL money in a bid to return to the national team, only to be told that there was still a “trust issue” when he had the opposite impression. It also won’t help that “director Andrew Strauss” is an anagram for “distrust drowns a career”.

Through it all, the ECB have alienated some of the fans even further. Their marketing speak and illogical decisions, desperate to justify actions which cannot be justified, is driving a wedge between them and the governing body. That’s a dangerous space to play in, and with a tough summer to come, things can get still much, much worse. DM

Photo: England’s Kevin Pietersen walks off the pitch due to bad light during the third Test of the 2013 Ashes series between England and Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester, Britain, 04 August 2013. EPA/PETER POWELL

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