Outside Edge: KP may be the bitter end, but his exclusion by England left a needlessly nasty taste

Diary of a cricket obsessive:

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The Independent Online

The move to end Pietersen’s hopes of a summer recall was undermined by a lack of clarity

A “massive trust issue” sounds like some sort of pay-out on the bonds market. Alas, for KP, when Andrew Strauss coined the phrase on Tuesday, there was to be no final dividend.

Strauss’s choice of words was unfortunate in that they bore all the hallmarks of ECB-copyrighted jargon, examples of which have come so much to dominate in recent years. One imagines that the cure for a “massive trust issue” is to better “execute core skills” in order to “carry some momentum forward”.

The figure of speech was also unsatisfactory for being unspecific. What exactly is Pietersen not trusted with? If the selectors don’t trust him to play well enough or to make the team better, then fine. But if they don't trust him not to be an arrogant prat, then so what? Then again, if the problem is that he can't be trusted to toe the line in his public utterances, well frankly how refreshing it would be to see a player – any player – not talk in ECB-sanctioned platitudes.

Strauss1.jpg
Andrew Strauss there were "massive turst issues" with Pietersen

How many other players are on an ECB blacklist?

Above all other criticisms, perhaps the most frustrating thing about Strauss’s attempt to appear decisive was that it was so unnecessary.

Pietersen is a brilliant player but there are any number of reasons why he might not be selected for a given test match: lack of consistently big scores for Surrey (ok, the 355 not out was fantastically good but Leicestershire are no Australia); reasonable form among the existing middle order; the availability of other strong, and crucially young, options should a replacement be needed come the Ashes.

In short, if England needed to find an excuse not to pick KP throughout the summer there were plenty available to be used as and when necessary. To publicly rule out a player for the foreseeable future smacked of just the sort of inflexibility which has stymied England in recent years. It must also have got other county players wondering whether they too are on an effective blacklist – the only difference being that they haven’t been told.

Ultimately, of course, the Strauss intervention is also likely to be counter-productive because, unless Pietersen simply decides to retire, the entire summer will be taken up with his supporters mounting a campaign for a recall. That in turn will heap increasing pressure on the playing XI just at a time when external distractions need to be kept to a minimum. Strauss was said to be a generally smart man-manager as captain; this week has dented that reputation.

Restrict big bats for the sake of the lesser-spotted nurdler

The ICC cricket committee will meet today in Mumbai to discuss a raft of issues. Among them is the question of bat depth, which is currently the one unregulated dimension of the batsman’s tool. The length of a bat must not exceed 38 inches and the maximum width is 4.25 inches. But improvements in technology have allowed manufacturers to pack more willow into modern-day blades while retaining lightness of pick-up.

Thus, whereas back in the ‘80s, an SS Jumbo was something remarkable, these days you’d struggle to find a bat which wasn’t at least as thick. But while it took real muscle to handle a Jumbo, there is no such struggle with the ultra-light products of today.

Some ex-players, Ian Chappell prominent among them, argue that the primary reason to restrict bat depth is because the increased hitting power places fielders, bowlers and umpires at greater risk of injury. It’s a fair point, as is the general concern over a lack of balance in the competition between bat and ball.

Yet the key reason for the ICC to regulate should be that the advance of the larger bat is killing the specialist nurdler and thus robbing the game of one of its great pleasures – the sneaky comeback. Especially in one-dayers, the only mode of chasing a target seems to be to go full throttle, however many wickets are down. That is why margins of victory tend rarely to be tight: it’s death or glory. The art of turning a game around almost unnoticed, usually from a position of weakness, and nicking it in the last over has all but gone.

The Neil Fairbrothers and Michael Bevans of this world crafted, rather than blasted, recoveries, using the pace of the ball to nurdle 1s and 2s, then heaving a boundary when opposing captains tried to plug gaps. Big bats may have made the game more bombastic; but six-hitting pyrotechnics should not be mistaken for the genuine drama that existed in more multi-dimensional times.

@willjgore

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