KP let down by his timing

Batsman's issues are not all about himself but he misses the bigger picture

Whatever is being said, whoever wants what, this is no way to prepare for a critical Test match. Fail to win the final contest in the Investec series next week against South Africa and England will lose their top place in the ICC Test rankings barely a year after ascending to it.

From the moment they became officially the world's best team it has been nothing but trouble. Of the 10 Test matches they have played since then, all this year, they have lost five and won three, two of those against a palpably anaemic West Indies who were fooling nobody as serious Test contenders.

And now, 1-0 behind to South Africa with one to play, England are having to deal with the Kevin Pietersen issue.

Pietersen is protesting about the manner in which he is being treated and while the middle of a Test series might not seem the ideal time or place it is probably always the middle of a Test series. In any case, if you want to make a point to your employers it might as well be when it can cause them most damage and embarrassment.

It was typical of Pietersen that with matters reaching a head between him and the England and Wales Cricket Board, he should go out at Headingley last Saturday and score a sublime century beyond the ambition and capacity of all his team-mates. So resplendent was his innings of 149 that it is bound to be the ghost in the room at any future discussions, a pertinent reminder of precisely what he can do. To that extent, it could hardly have been more timely. After the second Test was drawn on Monday evening, Pietersen declined to go into detail about what he wanted to make life more pleasant again. But his appearance could not expunge the notion that he was feeling sorry for himself.

When he said it was tough being Kevin Pietersen he began to say "in the dressing room" but stopped himself and amended it to "playing for England." It is indeed tough, but what Pietersen failed to grasp as he has done so often before is how tough it must be for those without his talent or earning powers.

Writing as somebody who has always liked him and appreciated his perpetual courteousness, while being flabbergasted by his presumption that the world revolves rounds him, this latest dispute comes as little surprise. For Andy Flower, the coach, and Andrew Strauss, it is where they came in. It would not be utterly surprising if this is where they go out.

There are vague similarities between the position now and then in early 2009. Pietersen was deposed from the England captaincy because he wanted the removal of the coach, the affable Peter Moores, who was indeed sacked, and other changes in the coaching set-up and approach. The manner in which he went about it was defective not least because he had taken the job knowing Moores was in situ.

At the core of the present imbroglio is the Indian Premier League and Pietersen's desire to play in the entire tournament in future. Such a concession by the ECB would mean Pietersen missing the early Test match series in England, usually over two matches against the least attractive opponents.

But although Pietersen refused to expand, the rest of his beef is about the number of matches he is expected to play. The Professional Cricketers' Association supports him on this and it is true that England generally play too much. The ECB is in serious danger of squeezing its supporters dry.

But if it insists on continuing with the schedule, the PCA may demand greater flexibility and much more guaranteed rest. Pietersen has often said that since he started playing international cricket only M S Dhoni, of those still playing, has appeared in more matches. As with many of Pietersen's bolder pronouncements it has an element of truth and good sense but does not quite add up. Since he made his international debut in November 2004 he has played a total of 251 matches across all formats, putting him seventh in the list. Dhoni has played 309 but Kumar Sangakkara tops that figure and two more Sri Lankans and three Australians have also played more. Those who oppose Pietersen's stand insist that he wants it all his own way. He craves rest and time with his family while appearing in the whole of the IPL, not to mention the Australian Big Bash Twenty20 tournament. But the IPL is nowhere near as draining as international cricket and Pietersen will trouser more than $1m (£640,000) for six weeks' work.

He will probably not win this argument because he has stubborn opposition. In the end it may come down to how much England need him and how much he cares for his legacy, which as sure as a team GB cycling gold will not be found in the IPL. But that should not obscure the fact that he has raised wider issues. If only they had not been raised now. South Africa will be laughing all the way to world No 1.

Cricket's busy boys

List of international matches played since Kevin Pietersen made his debut on 28 November 2004:

Tests/ODIs/T20s/Total

K Sangakkara 66/211/35/312

M Jayawardene 68/207/36/311

T Dilshan 60/196/37/293

M S Dhoni 67/210/31/308

M Clarke 77/183/34/294

M Hussey 73/180/36/289

R Ponting 83/168/17/268

K Pietersen 87/128/36/251

A B De Villiers 75/127/36/238

G Smith 73/125/33/231

Clarke, Ponting and Smith have retired from T20. Pietersen has retired from limited-overs cricket.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?