What did Pietersen do?
Is Kevin Pietersen’s sacking from the England cricket team a management failure or an indictment on a player whose personality proved impossible to handle?
On statistics, it is impossible to justify Pietersen’s treatment.
He has scored 8181 test runs at 47.3, with 23 centuries. That means he is the fourth highest run-scorer in England test history, ahead of greats such as Hobbs, Hammond, Hutton, Compton, May, Cowdrey and Boycott. He is No2 on the list of century- makers, behind Alastair Cook.
In the latest Ashes series, in which England were thrashed 5-0, Pietersen was disappointing by his standards, with 294 runs at 29.4, but that was still the most runs in the series scored by an England batsman. Yet Pietersen has been cast out, apparently for all time.
Whatever he did while touring Australia, it must have been terrible.
Pietersen has been a ticklish problem for England. The management have wanted to run an extremely regimented set-up, and that has not suited an individual such as Pietersen.
In Australia, reports indicated he was pitching in well to help team-mates and training hard.
Maybe it was as simple as wanting a scapegoat and Pietersen being convenient. Never mind that Trott, Swann and Prior had already fallen by the wayside.
Team coach Andy Flower and captain Cook should look at themselves. They have been heavily responsible for this drastic action. If there was a problem with Pietersen, their management needs to be held up to the spotlight.
This sort of thing happens all too often. A player whose face doesn’t fit is dropped for rather spurious reasons.
In 1949, the Australian selectors dropped Keith Miller for a tour of South Africa. Miller was a magnetic personality and a genuinely great all-rounder, one of the three or four best ever.
But he and Don Bradman didn’t often see eye to eye, so the selectors, with Bradman a dominant figure, dropped him, as risible as that was.
Miller was another individual sort of bloke. He tended to turn up for a day’s play still wearing evening wear from the night before, and he associated with the odd woman or two (including, it’s said, Princess Margaret). He liked a punt and a beer.
On the other hand, he was a treasured team-mate and tremendous batsman and bowler. His test performances never suffered because of his lifestyle.
But Bradman didn’t like him, so he was dropped, even if only temporarily.
Is it like that with Pietersen?
It’s tricky. New Zealand’s selectors are wrestling with what to do with Doug Bracewell and, particularly, Jesse Ryder, two fine players who keep erring, often when near alcohol.
Are they given yet another final warning, or forgiven, or given the Pietersen treatment and cast adrift?
All I know is that players of the calibre of Pietersen and Ryder come along rarely.
A good coach or captain should explore all possible means of getting them onside, even using unorthodox and rather left-field tactics.
That surely didn’t happen with Pietersen.
Not wanted: What did Kevin Pietersen do that required his banishment from the England team?