Alec Stewart: Questioning the fairness of Kevin Pietersen's likely tour exclusion
Expected omission by England could have been avoided with some straight talking, former captain tells Rob Steen
Whether or not Kevin Pietersen joins Basil D'Oliveira, David Gower and Johnny Wardle in the ranks of England's most controversial non-selections this morning, Alec Stewart is far from convinced that Pietersen has been more sinner than sinned against.
"That parody Twitter account was certainly unhealthy," insisted the former England captain. "Has that been investigated as much as KP's texts? We don't know the full facts, do we? We're second guessing all the time."
Stewart made his England debut in 1990 but he believes central contracts have changed the landscape of international cricket. "It's almost your second family now, so you've got to expect domestics," he said. "With difficult situations you nip them in the bud with straight talk. If they don't improve you try again. If that doesn't work you might throw a right-hander. I've seen people shove people up against a wall by the throat."
In terms of the Pietersen saga, is it simply a case of the bowlers – Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann – being jealous of the batsman? While Stewart is too tactful to be specific, he needs no reminding of the unpleasantness engendered by Darren Gough and Andy Caddick, who put aside their differences to become one of England's finest new-ball duos.
"There's always competition. You might call it jealousy. Dressing rooms are unique places. Gough and Caddick were chalk and cheese so you treated them differently. So long as players buy into what the team stands for, toe the team line, understand their role and what they can and can't do, you can cut them more slack."
Meanwhile, given the turbulence of the last two months, it seems somewhat apt that life after Andrew Strauss should begin in Ahmedabad, scene of the first Test against India on 15 November and home to the Indian Institute of Management. Happily, contended Stewart, determining Strauss's successor at the top of the order will have been less about man-management and dressing-room politics than more traditional concerns such as form, potential and age.
Whether Jonathan Trott emulates Stewart's own shift from No 3 to No 1 or a new face emerges from the shires, the next duet have a forbiddingly hard act to follow: in 132 Test liaisons, Cook and Strauss amassed 5,253 runs, the fifth-most by any pair from anywhere; 4,711 of those came for the first wicket, the third-most and nearly half as many again as the immortal Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, whose opportunities, admittedly, were considerably more limited.
"The question is, do you want to move someone who's been as successful as Trott has been at No 3? He can do it, I don't have any worries about that. If you have a decent technique and can impose yourself there are a lot of gaps in the field these days in the first couple of hours."
As for the other contenders – Hampshire's Michael Carberry, Warwickshire's Varun Chopra, Somerset's Nick Compton and Yorkshire's Joe Root – Stewart has a lot of time for Compton, easily the highest first-class run-getter of a sodden county season with nigh-on 1500 runs at an average nudging 100. "From what I've seen he may be the type who has the method to be even more successful at Test level."
That said, Stewart is inclined to bow to the wisdom of his erstwhile Surrey and England mucker Graham Thorpe, owner of 100 Test caps and now a highly respected batting coach. "Thorpey spoke in glowing terms to me about Root 18 months ago. He raves about him – and Thorpey doesn't rave very often."
Alec Stewart is an ambassador for Clydesdale Bank's Howzat! campaign. To win £1000 for your cricket club visit facebook.com/ClydesdaleBankCricket
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