On the Front Foot: The Pietersen saga? What Pietersen saga is that?


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The Independent Online

It has been fascinating to monitor the progress of the Pietersen saga on England's tour of India. By now, the whole sorry affair has been swept aside as though it never happened and Kevin, the man himself, is being held up as an icon of all that is reasonable and fair in any dressing room. Indeed, the impression is being conveyed that the entire episode was instigated and perpetuated by the media. The team are all pals together again and those outside are beastly souls whose only desire is to make mischief. Up to a point, this is fine. But it is not the truth of the matter, which, if not suppressed, has never been fully aired. Presumably, there are book deals to consider in the future. Four months ago, it may be recalled, English cricket was brought to a virtual standstill. After giving a heartfelt press conference, which followed a scintillating hundred against South Africa at Headingley, Pietersen was dropped for the final match at Lord's, which England lost. He was initially omitted from this tour, sentenced eventually to a process of reintegration and then had to fly back from South Africa to meet senior players. Pietersen's media appearances are being rationed, and nobody could argue with that. But when he appeared at the end of the first day in Nagpur he was uncommunicative to the point of surliness. To illustrate that all is well within the team you had to look no further than the little scene after Jimmy Anderson pierced Virender Sehwag's defences with a beauty on Friday night. He raced 40 yards to embrace none other than Pietersen. How uplifting it was. The original split was long in the making – though it was never any more than a bloke not getting along with some other blokes in a cricket team – and partly caused by Pietersen's grievances. The Professional Cricketers' Association made a point of saying he had a point. Maybe they, too, have been swept away on this tide of bonhomie.

Do not argue with Duncan

An enduring image of Duncan Fletcher's part in this series was his discussion on the outfield at Kolkata last week with India's chairman of selectors, Sandeep Patil. Fingers were wagged as disagreements were stated. Fletcher, now coach of India, did not always have a cosy relationship with David Graveney, the chairman of selectors when he was England coach. Indeed, he regularly undermined Graveney's position by referring to him as "the convenor". Nor did he necessarily see it as part of his duty to let Graveney know what was happening. On the eve of the Perth Test on the 2006-07 Ashes tour, the England media-relations manager took a call from Graveney. He wanted to know what the England team was for the following day.

Root is top of the tree

Joe Root, of Sheffield, has a long, long way to go. But as he played those forward props in such watchful, proper fashion in his maiden Test innings of 73 in Nagpur, it was impossible not to think of those other great Yorkshire opening batsmen down the ages and what Root, at the age of 21, might achieve. Herbert Sutcliffe was almost 30 when he made his debut for England, Len Hutton just 21, Geoff Boycott 23, Michael Vaughan 25. Root is younger than all of them except Hutton, who was 34 days his junior. But Root's debut innings was higher than all of them: Sutcliffe made 64, Hutton 0, Boycott 48 and Vaughan 33. Like Vaughan, who comes from the same club, Root did not open in his first innings. But he will.

Here's to Harker

David Harker has been at Durham since the start. He joined as finance officer in 1991 as they prepared to move from minor to first-class county. In the early years, there was a parade of chief executives and a failing team, but eventually they alighted on Harker and the county prospered. They also won the right to host an Ashes Test at the Riverside next August. Harker announced last Friday that he is leaving in May, before the great event, to go into the wine trade. The county should raise a glass to him.