The treatment of Kevin Pietersen has been clumsy at best, unkind at worst. The inducements that brought him back to county cricket at Surrey proved baseless and place incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves in an uncomfortable spot, since his voice was loudest in the advocacy of KP’s return.
But the right and wrongs of the ethical treatment meted out to a player in exile are separate and distinct from the issue confronting Andrew Strauss as the new director of cricket and does not mean that he called it wrong when he excluded Pietersen from the England set-up.
Strauss was considered the right man to affect change in a team in desperate need of new, robust, positive thinking. That being the case, now is not the time to question the first decisions he makes. He was brought in to lead and in the axing of coach Peter Moores and the barring of Pietersen he has demonstrated his ability to do so, making two huge decisions.
The issues for England go way beyond the power of a middle-order batsman, no matter how good, to solve on his own. The need is elsewhere, at the top of the order and with an attack that lacks express pace and world-class spin. The team are without a coach and is led by a captain, Alastair Cook, who continues to struggle to convince.
England need a fresh atmosphere and direction. By definition, the reintegration for a second time of a player with a history of broken relationships does not fit the template. What passed between Pietersen and the England hierarchy clearly cannot be ignored as far as Strauss is concerned.
He has been on the wrong end of the poison when things go against Pietersen and knows how destructive it can be. For those with short memories, Pietersen averaged only 34 in his last 10 Tests and was a member of the team whitewashed by Australia the last time they met.
It is in keeping with his flair for dramatic timing that Pietersen should slam his highest first-class score at the point the axe fell with England, though it should be pointed out the meeting with Strauss was pencilled in days before.
He left the stage yesterday stranded unbeaten on 355. How symbolic that he should run out of partners as well as ECB support. But this was not a Test attack. It had no bowler in it called Mitchell. Indeed, Leicestershire finished bottom of the lowest tier of English professional cricket last year without a win.
And this is not Pietersen at 25 with a career before him. He turns 35 next month, and while he might have a knock or two in him this summer, his return would not be about the future. Strauss has made the issue about trust not talent. And in that he is surely right.
There is no way of telling how or when or where the next meltdown might occur. Strauss must oversee the laying down of new foundations. Youth is at the heart of all renewal and that, in the long-term interests of English cricket, is where the emphasis should be.
Even were Pietersen to return at his best England would still be underdogs against an Australia side transformed under the leadership of Darren Lehmann. Far better to clear the decks for England’s incoming coach, probably Jason Gillespie, and maybe a new captain, too, to give them the best chance to lead unencumbered by Pietersen’s baggage.
We remember how a fresh, daring Pietersen changed the landscape a decade ago. Maybe Alex Hales can bring his undoubted flair to the Test stage and raise the pulse rate this summer. Or maybe another. Now is the time to find out.Reuse content