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Publishing Date : 18 May, 2015

Stuart White

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”  So sing the nuns in The Sound of Music in their desperation to curtail the exuberance of their enthusiastic novitiate with a heart of gold but a tendency to headstrong impulsiveness.  And I bet the English Cricket Board know just how they felt.  For ‘Maria’ just substitute ‘Kevin Pietersen’ or KP, if you prefer.  For he is the problem they have never been able to solve and this week it appears they’ve given up trying.

This South African born cricketer has had controversy as his middle name pretty much ever since he appeared on the cricketing scene.  Now best known as a batsman, KP went through the training and selection process in his native South Africa as a bowler where he was thought to have potential and might have had a promising career, making his First Class debut playing for Natal in 1997. 

But he grew impatient with the slowness of his rise through the ranks, blaming the racial quota system in South African cricket which he felt was holding him back and soon after he flounced off to England in high dudgeon, the first of many flounces and many demonstrations of high dudgeon that were to be characteristic of his undoubtedly charismatic career. 

Even over in England he also had to wait his turn and pay his dues by playing in county cricket for 4 years, before eventually being picked to join the England squad in an ODI against Zimbabwe in 2004, quickly followed by a place on the Test Squad team in the Ashes the following year, after which he secured a more or less permanent spot on the team. 

And his stats as an England player are undoubtedly impressive: 104 test matches, a total of 8181 runs, including 985 4s and 81 6s;  136 ODIS, 4440 runs, including 427 4s, and 77 6s;  37 T-20s, a total of 1176 runs, including  119 4s and 32 6s.

No doubt then the man can bat but he’s also a prat!  These are only some of the controversies that he has initiated in his 10-year career with England:

1. In 2003, he was trying to chart out a path to international success so when Nottinghamshire were relegated to the second Division, Pietersen wasn’t happy and voiced his opinion to the people who matter at the county. It is reported that Nottinghamshire Captain  HYPERLINK "http://www.cricketcountry.com/tag/Jason-Gallian" Jason Gallian threw Pietersen’s kit bag from the dressing room.

2. In 2006, Pietersen slammed the South African quota system in his book and also took a dig at South African captain  HYPERLINK "http://www.cricketcountry.com/tag/Graeme-Smith" Graeme Smith for his sledging tactics during England’s tour to South Africa in 2004-05, describing him as a ‘muppet.’ In reply, Smith stated, “I’m patriotic about my country, and that’s why I don’t like Kevin Pietersen.”

3. Pietersen created quite a stir with his switch-hit when, during a One-Day International (ODI) against New Zealand, he changed his footing several times and pulled the ball through the off-side. This continues to divide opinion, but it hasn’t stopped Pietersen from continuing to play the shot.  

4.  This was a doozy. Peter Moores took over as England coach in 2007 and Pietersen was given the captaincy in 2008, after Michael Vaughan’s withdrawal. He was off to a good start after winning one test against South Africa at The Oval and all 4 ODIs 4-0 but humiliating tour defeats against the Windies and the Indies were laid at his door for his controversial captaincy style.  Before the year was out, the differences between Pietersen and Moores were evident as the former declared that he couldn’t work with the coach.

As a result, Moores was axed, but Pietersen too lost his captaincy. The ECB stated that he had resigned, although Pietersen didn’t exactly remember putting his papers.  This was the shortest reign as captain in English cricketing history.  

5. When England played Pakistan at home in 2010, Pietersen was left out of the ODI side and he expressed his disgust with an explicit tweet. The tweet was deleted, but not before it was noticed by the world and the England management.

6. During the England-West Indies Test series in 2012, Pietersen set his sights on former England player Nick Knight, tweeting, “Can somebody please tell me how Knight has worked his way into the commentary box for Tests? Ridiculous.” As a result, the ECB fined him for his outburst. The amount was never revealed.

7. On June 1, 2012, the world was stunned when Pietersen called time on his ODI career when he opted for the lucrative IPL instead, leaving the ECB stunned.

8. In a test series against South Africa, England’s chances weren’t helped by Pietersen sending texts to some of the South Africans, with helpful hints as to how to bowl out Captain Andrew Strauss as well as derogatory remarks concerning Coach Andy Flower. As a result, Pietersen was immediately removed from the test team.

9. In the Ashes 2013-14 a silent war brewing between Pietersen and Flower. It was reported that Flower told the ECB it was him or KP.  Initially, Flower was backed by the board, but he then quit in early February 2014. Pietersen’s future seemed more secure, but then came the final blow on February 4 as the ECB decided that they have to move on and communicated their decision to the batsman and the world.

But it’s said that revenge is a dish best served cold and how sweet that must have tasted to newly-appointed Director of England Cricket, Andrew Strauss this week whose first major decision was to advise KP that he would not be playing for England this season, despite the batsman having given up his IPL contract and returned to county cricket to try and prove he deserved a place on the team and despite the fact that this came on top of his unbeaten 326 for Surrey in a match this week against Leicestershire.  

His England career now seems over once and for all, finishing with a bang and a self-pitying whimper as KP took to social media again to garner sympathy.  There are those in the cricketing fraternity who believe he deserves a little.  He was a big star with a big ego and some believe it was the job of management to manage him better. 

The counter to that is how do you control a loose cannon who goes off at odd moments in unexpected places - you might just as well blame meteorologists for tsunamis and earthquakes. And anyway, he’s down but hardly out, with lucrative contracts in the Caribbean Premier League, a return to the IPL and potential other T-20 contracts. 

So the world has not heard the last of Kevin Pietersen yet and I suspect that even when he finally retires to that great cricket pitch in the sky there’ll still be messages from beyond the grave of a less than angelic nature.  
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  www.hrmc.co.bw



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