On The Front Foot: Pietersen member of an illustrious company in controversy


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The Independent Online

It is like the old days for England.

Not in the sense that the team are in a state of tumult, though there is something of the past about that. No, it is the high level of controversy surrounding a single member of the winter's touring party. Kevin Pietersen may assume he is being singled out. No such thing. He is in illustrious company. It is, indeed, something of an English tradition. Back in 1958, the Yorkshire left-arm spinner Johnny Wardle was having a riproaring summer, taking 86 first-class wickets at 15.29, when he was named in late July for the party for the defence of the Ashes that winter. Shortly after his selection, Wardle wrote an incendiary newspaper article about his county. Soon after, MCC withdrew his invitation to tour and Yorkshire sacked him. England lost the Ashes. In 1967, the selectors' preferred choice as captain was Brian Close, who had already won six of his seven Tests as skipper. But they were overruled by MCC, who thought Close unsuitable after a spat with a spectator while playing for Yorkshire. England won the series, Close was never again captain. The following year, Basil D'Oliveira was contentiously left out of the tour party, but later included. South Africa, still under the rule of apartheid, refused to sanction the tour. As recently as 1993, the MCC, far from preventing a selection, had to call a special meeting at the behest of a member when David Gower was overlooked for a tour of India. In the event, he was not included, and England lost the series 3-0. Gower never played another Test match. All should become clear about where Pietersen stands in the next day or two. Whether he goes to India in October or does not, there is nothing new under the sun.

Hamilton-Brown's summertime blues

It has been a sad summer for Rory Hamilton-Brown. He began with such bright, sparkling ambition, a young Surrey captain going places. But on Friday, Hamilton-Brown asked to leave the county. His world was split asunder when his close friend and team-mate Tom Maynard died in an accident early in June. Soon after, Hamilton-Brown took leave of absence and soon after that he resigned the captaincy. It is to be hoped that young Rory will find a new club and a fresh challenge.

Brooks looks ahead

Another departure is that of Jack Brooks, the Northamptonshire fast bowler. He is seeking a new club to further his international ambitions. His 2012 season rather petered out, but he has plenty going for him. While the county wished him well, their statement also said they thought his England hopes could be realised by staying at the club. Discounting the Northampton-born Graeme Swann, who was picked in a Test squad while still at the county, though he did not appear in the match, Northamptonshire's last Test player was Monty Panesar in 2006. Brooks might have had a long wait.

Pakistan act on Ajmal

Rather depressingly, Pakistan have called for changes to the way in which the ICC organise the voting for the player of the year awards. Although they decided not to boycott the ceremony in Colombo on Saturday night, a statement left nobody in doubt about their annoyance at the omission of Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal was, however, chosen for both the ICC Test and one-day teams of the year. He joins in both teams Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Clarke and most improbably, considering he was not deemed a limited-overs cricketer until a year ago, Alastair Cook.