Kevin Pietersen England future: Talent doesn't always come in pretty packages

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The Independent Online

Well, yes, there has been the occasional precedent of a player’s conduct being considered so indefensible that England have declared him unselectable. But it took some doing and even then it was initially only a temporary state of affairs.

Only after John Terry had allegedly slept with team-mate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend and racially abused Anton Ferdinand did he get the Kevin Pietersen treatment. The casual Terry misdemeanours along the road – a newspaper sting which found him conducting unofficial tours of the Chelsea training ground for cash organised by a reputed ticket tout and hiring out his private box at Wembley – passed without so much as a flinch.

It’s when you place Pietersen against the football backdrop that the staggering rationale of the England and Wales Cricket Board calling him up to Lord’s on Monday night and telling him “never again” in the afterglow of his 326 not out – an innings which drew more attention to a County Championship Division Two fixture than that hinterland has ever enjoyed – takes your breath away.

In the real world – where egoism, vanity and narcissistic tendencies are accepted as the unfortunate by-product of obsessive sporting brilliance –  people look at the latest convulsion in this saga and wonder what, precisely, Pietersen, has done that’s so unforgiveable.

Perhaps chronicling the weekly tremors of the football season creates too low a tolerance threshold, but he does not appear to have racially abused or hit anyone. And the wives and girlfriends all appear to be safe. Pietersen wrote a deeply unflattering book which described the clique of players who loathed him and we have to doubt that he would have wielded such a knife had he not been sacked in the first place.

Andrew Strauss has spoken of a lack of trust between him and Pietersen. As if the Football Association could claim to know what Terry was ever likely to do next. The Liverpool fraternity in England football squads have trusted the Londoners about as far as they could throw them down the years. It didn’t matter, so long as the match was won.

No breath needs be wasted on the fatuous contradiction of Strauss declaring he wants to engage Pietersen in an advisory capacity for one-day cricket. But some might be expended on the notion that the fabled “dressing room” abhors him. Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan and Moeen Ali – the future of English cricket – won’t tell you they feel that way, even though that’s because he embraces the peripheral newcomers to insulate himself against the rest.

Unpleasant? Yes. Vainglorious? Yes. A winner for an Ashes summer? Yes. And so, too, was Geoffrey Boycott, whose sharp tongue, insecurity and moodiness would lead the MCC team to “share out” the task of rooming with him on tour.

Mark Nicholas tells a story of a woman in the old Southampton pavilion offering Boycott potatoes during lunch in a Gillette Cup game in 1980 and dishing them out before he had answered. “No, I don’t want your bastard potatoes,” he replied, before sweeping them off his plate and storming out. Talent is unpredictable. It doesn’t always come in pretty packages.

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