Kevin Pietersen’s XI aimed at fans impatient for England revival
Pietersen paid the price for England's failings Down Under and while he admits he is 'grateful' for his England career, he is pleased to have left the international fold
In breaking his silence on Monday, Kevin Pietersen seemed to want to have it all his own way. Perhaps it embodied his international career.
On the one hand he said the England dressing room in Australia last winter was not a pleasant place. On the other he said his relationship with the other England players was fine and it was an incredible tour on and off the field.
There were moments during his first lengthy public comments since his sacking when it appeared he was breaching the confidentiality clauses agreed by lawyers. He has already won an apology from the England and Wales Cricket Board for comments made by Paul Downton, the managing director, criticising Pietersen’s attitude in Australia. They might have been true but they were not permitted under the agreement.
The ECB steadfastly declined to become embroiled in any public spat with its former employee yesterday. It recognised no good could come of it but the ECB had better brace itself for much more to come throughout the summer.
Pietersen made his comments in his inaugural column for The Daily Telegraph. His verdict on the ill-fated Ashes tour aside – and he did not attempt to justify his alleged lack of interest in proceedings, to which Downton had alluded – his comments could hardly have been made at a more uncomfortable time for England.
Three days before they launch their new Test team without him he also told the selectors precisely where they were going wrong and what team they should have picked for the opening match of the series against Sri Lanka, starting at Lord’s on Thursday. There were four changes in Pietersen’s team from the one the selectors have opted for and he is likely to have abundant public support.
He berates the selectors for not picking Lancashire’s Jos Buttler and the Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes in the squad and as the Test match draws closer the decision does not look any the wiser.
Pietersen, hardly a bosom buddy of the recalled wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, is shrewd enough to know that his comments will have a wide currency in the dressing room. The players may say they are not talking about them but they can hardly do anything else, given that Pietersen was so firm in his view.
“I don’t understand why Ben Stokes is not playing at Lord’s this week,” he wrote. “In Australia I saw a genuine star.” Of Buttler he said: “I find it unbelievable that we have started the summer with Buttler not an automatic choice for England’s Test side.”
The truth is that most of the cricket-watching public agree with Pietersen on these issues. Pietersen would also have picked as batsmen Eoin Morgan in the middle order and Somerset’s Nick Compton to open. There is no doubt that Compton has been shabbily treated by England, whatever Sam Robson’s virtues. Pietersen’s strategy would be for a solid start, followed by aggressive batting in the middle. It sounds abundantly sensible.
His intervention so close to the series slightly overshadowed the naming of Ian Bell as England player of the year last night. Bell was chosen largely for his three hundreds in last summer’s Ashes, back when England were still winning.
“We got blindsided by Australia,” Bell said. “We got hit [and were] unaware of where they were as a team. After Australia left our shores they were already on the way up and we were staying exactly where we were, which was dangerous.
“That is the reality. Now we’ve got to do a bit of reacting ourselves and striving forward to get better.”
England must avoid at all costs walking out at Lord’s thinking, like Pietersen, that they have the wrong team.
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