Kevin Pietersen: Decision to move forward without batsman brings curtain down on KP's England career
After the disastrous Ashes tour, management and selectors say they want to rebuild 'team ethic and philosophy' with a clean slate
Kevin Pietersen’s international career has been brought to a sensational end. In an exit almost as spectacular as some of his great innings, he was told he was no longer wanted by England after their ill-fated tour of Australia.
It was made clear, in a statement which did not remotely go to the heart of the issue, that the man who has scored more runs for England than any other cricketer will not play again either in Test matches, one-day internationals or the Twenty20 format. The severance had to take place now because England’s squad for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh is being announced on Thursday.
Pietersen was told that he would not feature in that, in the tour to the West Indies which precedes it or, indeed, in international cricket again. Tellingly, the decision to sack him – and that is what this is – was unanimous among the management and the selectors.
It demonstrates that Pietersen, who again became isolated from the rest of the dressing room this winter, had run out of allies. He met Paul Downton, the new managing director of England cricket, and was told that now was the time to start the rebuilding of the team after the disastrous tour of Australia.
Downton, who is in his first week in the job, said: “Clearly, this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country’s leading runscorer in international cricket demonstrates.
“However, everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy.”
The last phrase of that part of the statement is the one that counts. England in general and the captain, Alastair Cook, in particular were simply not willing to put up with Pietersen’s disruptive influence any longer.
Cook had saved Pietersen’s career once when he insisted he should stay after the damaging conflict in the summer of 2012. Dropped from the team when his attitude became too much to manage, Pietersen was eventually restored and subject to a period of reintegration.
But without Cook’s willingness to work with him it would not have happened and it is clear that the captain too was at a loss about what to do next. Pietersen was frequently distant on the tour of Australia and it was hinted that many of his former traits had returned.
He might have expected the worst after the rampant speculation of the last month. But he may have thought that his career would be saved by the commodity that counted more than any character defects, perceived or real – runs.
“Playing cricket for my country has been an honour,” Pietersen said. “Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and that is something that will live with me for ever. Although I am obviously very sad the incredible journey has come to an end, I’m also hugely proud of what we, as a team, have achieved over the past nine years.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have played at a time of great success for England cricket alongside some of the best cricketers the country has ever produced. I want to thank everyone for their fantastic support and I wish the team the very best of success going forward. I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer. I will continue to play but deeply regret that it won’t be for England.”
If he can muster the enthusiasm, Pietersen will now play for Surrey and in various well-paid jobs in Twenty20 leagues round the world, not least the Indian Premier League, which he professes to love. But he will be doing it only for the money, not the glory that he always craved as an outstandingly idiosyncratic batsman.
England are clearly still a better team with Pietersen than without him. But, with the player aged 33, it was much easier to make this decision now than it would have been only 12 months ago.
Although he was England’s leading scorer in the Ashes series (still averaging under 30) he often conveyed the impression of being distracted. When the Ashes were lost, so too was his interest in affairs.
It may well have been a matter of balance. He is a player on the slide, who could be an unsettling influence in the dressing room, so rather than go through another year or more of hell with declining returns in the runs column it was easier to cut him loose now.
Downton, who is clearly unafraid to take tough decisions, said: “ England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin, who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill.
“This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career.”
Timeline: Pietersen’s England controversies
2005: Booed in homeland
Picked for England’s one-day series against his native South Africa and scores centuries in Bloemfontein, East London and Centurion amid sustained abuse from the crowd, who labelled him a traitor.
2006: Fined for dissent
Loses part of his match fee for shaking his head following his dismissal in Test against India in Nagpur.
2007: Refuses to walk
After edging against Sri Lanka in second Test in Colombo, Pietersen stands his ground, having seen replays.
Adopts controversial switch-hitting style in one-day match against New Zealand, leading for calls for the shot to be outlawed: “Absolutely stupid,” Pietersen replies. After being made captain ahead of Test series in India, Pietersen was vocal over the need to stand up to terrorism following Mumbai attacks.
2009: Falling out with Moores
Resigns as England captain after making a disagreement with coach Peter Moores public. Pietersen called for the ECB to discuss Moores’ role within the team. Moores lost his job as a result.
2010: Dropped from T20
Tweets dissatisfaction at being omitted from T20 series in Pakistan: “Done for summer!! Man of World Cup and dropped from T20 side. Its a f*** up!!”. Leaves Hampshire, claiming he wanted to be closer to London.
2011: Nightclub visit
After being forced out of the World Cup through injury, courts controversy by being pictured in a nightclub.
May 2012: Digs out Knight
Fined by the ECB after slamming TV commentator Nick Knight on Twitter: “Can somebody please tell me how Knight has worked his way into the commentary box for Tests? Ridiculous.”
August 2012: Textgate
(Getty) Having retired from T20 and ODIs, Pietersen suggests he may have played his last Test in an extraordinary press conference after second Test against South Africa. He was later forced to apologise after admitting sending “provocative” text messages to South African team. Left out of England squad for the World T20 and not given central contract for 2012-13. Uses YouTube to commit himself to all forms of cricket.
2013-14: Ashes woe
Commitment questioned on disastrous tour of Australia as rumours of rifts with hierarchy resurface.
KP and England: Pietersen’s record
Debut 21-24 July 2005 v Australia, Lord’s
Matches 104 Runs 8,firstname.lastname@example.org
100s 23 50s 35
Highest score 227 v Australia, second Ashes Test, Adelaide, December 2010
Debut 28 November 2004 v Zimbabwe, Harare
Matches 136 Runs 4,email@example.com
100s 9 50s 25
Highest score 130 v Pakistan, Dubai, February 2012
Debut 13 June 2005 v Australia, Rose Bowl
Matches 37 Runs 1,firstname.lastname@example.org
100s 0 50s 7
Highest score 79 v Zimbabwe, Cape Town, September 2007
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