Pietersen's departure is a relief for England

Batsman's uneasy position within the squad and sketchy one-day form mean his replacement by Eoin Morgan will make the camp happier
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The Independent Online

For a while back then, there was a chance that Kevin Pietersen would become a great cricketer. The time has gone. As he prepared to leave England's World Cup campaign yesterday, 48 hours after it was announced that he would struggle through the tournament, the overwhelming feeling was of relief.

His team-mates did not exactly club together for the plane fare home but nor did they accompany him to the airport singing We'll Meet Again. The decision was made to replace Pietersen after he informed the team management that increasing pain caused by a hernia made it impossible for him to continue.

Although the medical advisers were firm in their view that the condition could be managed during the World Cup, they could hardly ignore the player's own assessment. Eoin Morgan, the team's most proficient one-day batsman (a mantle once worn by Pietersen), will rejoin the team in Chittagong today.

Morgan was omitted from the original squad after breaking a finger during the one-day series in Australia in January. Initially, it was expected he would require surgery but Morgan has recovered much quicker than expected and has recently been batting in the nets at Middlesex.

There was a feeling as the team travelled to Bangladesh yesterday that Pietersen might have given the injury a few days to settle down given what is at stake. England have only two matches in the next 10 days.

The player exchange was probably welcomed in the dressing room. Pietersen is simply not the player he was in the one-day game and has gone 27 innings without a hundred. Morgan was one of the most complete finishers of a one-day innings and England have missed him here.

Despite his lack of recent cricket he will almost certainly be drafted into the team for the match against Bangladesh on Friday. Victory will confirm England's quarter-final place after their gripping six-run triumph against South Africa in Chennai on Sunday.

Pietersen's career has dealt him some poor hands since he was deposed from the captaincy in January 2009. He missed most of that year's Ashes with a severe Achilles tendon injury which took its time to heal after complications set in. At no time since has he been quite the swashbuckler of his early days and last summer he was dropped from the one-day squad for the series against Pakistan.

It was typical of him that he should court controversy by revealing his displeasure to the world via Twitter. The feeling is that he does not set out to cause offence or disturb the carefully constructed equilibrium but simply does not think what the possible repercussions might be.

Pietersen is never less than courteous. He was propelled into the stratosphere after his imperishable, blazing century against Australia at The Oval in 2005 when the Ashes were won after an 18-year gap. It was a place he liked being.

The loss of the captaincy undoubtedly hurt him deeply and it was to his credit that he returned to the ranks and continued to wear his England heart on his South African sleeve. A glittering double century in the second Test at Adelaide on England's recent Ashes tour did not have much else to accompany it.

He has remained England's highest profile cricketer but has never been able to shed the perception that he is also high-maintenance. This is easier to accommodate for all concerned when you are scoring most of the side's runs and in a fashion that empties bars but when you have come back to the pack it is more difficult to tolerate. Alone among most of the squad, he has no close pals in it.

Pietersen's departure will only enhance the theory that he will soon retire from one-day cricket to concentrate on Test cricket and Twenty20 to ensure he can take part in the lucrative Indian Premier League. It is not a combination that will sit well in the committee rooms of the ECB where there are already rumblings that his central contract should not be renewed later this year.

Andy Flower, the team coach, fell some way short yesterday of giving Pietersen a ringing endorsement but he said of Pietersen's place in England's future one-day plans: "It might fuel the speculation, but Kevin's told me he wants to carry on playing one-day international cricket and I'll take him at his word."

The pity is that Pietersen looked determined to play his part as he had in the World Twenty20 last year when he was player of the tournament. Briefly, the sunny days were back. England revealed Pietersen's hernia injury only on Saturday night, stipulating that it could be managed until surgery after the World Cup.

The injury was diagnosed after he returned from Australia. Having kept it within house for so long, it seemed odd that they should put it in the public domain. Pietersen was relatively upbeat although the recuperation period would mean his missing the IPL for which the Deccan Chargers were paying him $650,000 (£418,000).

"Representing England in a World Cup is something I've looked forward to for the last four years and I'm excited by the prospect of helping the team achieve something special here against the best teams in the world," he said on Saturday night. "I'm very disappointed to have picked up this hernia injury but I've been able to manage it so far throughout the World Cup and will continue to do so under the guidance of the England team's medical staff."

After the tense six-run win against South Africa on Sunday in Chennai when he was out for two but bowled eight crucial overs of serviceable off-spin, Pietersen told management he felt it was unmanageable after all. Flower said: "The medical advice was that it wouldn't get significantly worse and he was at no risk of damaging himself further, therefore it was a pain-management situation. Kevin says it has got worse, pain-wise, and he can't carry on playing like this. So it was a pretty simple decision to replace him.

"I empathise with anyone with a serious injury. You never know exactly what they're feeling, so you've got to listen to what they're saying. Of course we're disappointed to lose him. He's a world-class player."

England have to move on quickly. While it will be fascinating to see if Pietersen dare fulfil his IPL contract now after the six-week recovery period (surely not?) they have a World Cup to get on with. Pietersen's departure means they must find yet another opening partner for Strauss.

Pietersen was drafted into the role only after Matt Prior, who had replaced the original candidate, Steven Davies, failed to make any sort of impression. The options are that England return again to Prior, or move Ian Bell or Ravi Bopara up the order. Both would be missed in the middle order. Flower made it clear that he is prepared to continue changing the order.

"We've got a number of potential openers," said Flower. "We're not going to let you or the opposition know who it's going to be, but we've got a clear idea of who we want for the game against Bangladesh. I don't think it does have to be the same for the rest of the tournament because opening against Bangladesh requires a different set of skills from opening against Australia. I think in this tournament we're going to have to be flexible, and if that means shuffling the order again we'll do that."

Pietersen might just be yesterday's man in many senses and he will have a long retirement to ponder his withdrawal from the fray yesterday.

England's exchange: how the two batsmen compare

Kevin Pietersen

Eoin Morgan














Strike rate


116 v South Africa

High score

115 v Canada







South Africa