The Calvin Report: Old enmity returns to haunt Kevin Pietersen on big day out

The controversial batsman is insulted by former captain to bring rancour to an occasion which was supposed to celebrate legends of the game

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The Independent Online

Why always him? On a day when legends gathered, and a capacity crowd at Lord’s paid homage to history, the toxic personality of Kevin Pietersen infected the mood and injected a note of rancour into a celebratory occasion.

He was an irrelevance in playing terms, as the storied career of Sachin Tendulkar closed in a match designed to mark the 200th anniversary of the home of cricket, but he detonated yet another controversy.

Andrew Strauss, his former England captain, was captured on an Australian TV feed referring to Pietersen as “an absolute cunt” in a conversation with Nick Knight, his commentary partner, which both assumed was off-air.

Reports of the exchange quickly went viral on social media and Sky, the host broadcasters, had a PR calamity with which to deal.

In a statement, the company said: “Earlier comments were made during a break of play, which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used.”

Strauss clarified the situation in a subsequent commentary stint. He said:  “I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen. I am mortified and profusely sorry.”

Though no great surprise, given Strauss’s strained relationship with the Pietermaritzburg-born batsman, it was untimely confirmation of enduring resentment. The pair have retained a discreet distance since Pietersen overshadowed the end of his career in 2012. 

Pietersen was dropped for the third Test against South Africa at Lord’s after sending supposedly “provocative texts” about team-mates to opposition players. He allegedly referred to Strauss as a “doos” – the Afrikaans equivalent of calling someone an “idiot”, or in extreme circumstances, a “dumb cunt”.

Pietersen, who appears to derive little obvious satisfaction from his new vocation as an international freelance cricketer, still behaves as if he regards himself as a king in exile, following the implosion of his England career during the surrender of the Ashes last winter.

His agenda intruded on the build up to the match when he reaffirmed his desire to add to his 104 Test appearances for his adopted country. There would appear to be more chance of the Long Room staging pole-dancing evenings.

The indiscretion was quickly seized upon by Piers Morgan, his principal apologist.

He called for Strauss to be sacked, arguing: “Strauss himself axed KP from his England team for allegedly saying similar things about him that weren’t even broadcast.”

Subsequent wit and repartee – “I’d fire Andrew Zzzzzztrauss for offences against the tedious commentary act” – lived down to reputation.

Shane Warne, another voluble supporter, was otherwise engaged in grimly ironic circumstances. He was taken to hospital for X-rays which confirmed his right hand had been broken by a beamer delivered by former Australian Test colleague Brett Lee, representing the MCC against Warne’s Rest of the World team.

Shane Warne leaves the field with a broken hand

England captain Alastair Cook, the target of a sustained campaign of vilification led by Pietersen loyalists, was at an altogether happier occasion, the wedding of his sister-in-law in Bedfordshire. He deserves forgiveness if the toasts were consumed with rather more relish than usual.

Though warmly received on his way to the middle, Pietersen did not outstay his welcome. He survived only 13 balls, clipping a solitary boundary off his pads before he bounded out of his crease, failed to read Saeed Ajmal’s doosra, and was stumped by Chris Read for 10.  

It was an abject exit, following a similar dismissal for a single in Surrey’s Twenty20 defeat by Essex on Friday evening. For someone who disdains the option of sustaining match sharpness in the County Championship, Pietersen is barely bothering the scorers.

He cuts a disconnected figure, dispensing jaunty sound bites challenged by mechanical body language. There seems little compensation making substantial amounts of money winding down his career in a succession of over-hyped, underwhelming appearances in the shortest form of the game.

He had an insight into his future on his previous visit to Lord’s as a hospitality guest during the first Test against Sri Lanka.

He insisted, with unwitting poignancy, “There’s nothing like playing.  I’m still 34. You’ve got the rest of your life to enjoy days drinking and watching Test matches.”

The serenity with which Tendulkar approached what will be his last major innings was a telling contrast. He had not practiced since his retirement at the end of last year, but found simple joy in reacquainting himself with the middle of his bat.

Pietersen signing autographs

“That sound is always special, when you connect,” he said, with an affecting wistfulness.

He loves Lord’s as a sanctuary; he had special dispensation from the MCC to have a net at the Nursery End whenever he was in London.

He repaid the favour by making a game of it by taking off Ajmal, who took 4-5 off 15 balls to leave the  Rest of the World team struggling at 68-5. They were helped to 293-7 off their allotted 50 overs by Yuvraj Singh, who was caught for 132 off Tendulkar’s bowling.

The low moan which signalled Tendulkar’s dismissal, bowled for 44 by Muttiah Muralitharan after sharing a first-wicket stand with another centurion, Australia’s Aaron Finch, signalled the crowd’s priorities.

Finch saw Tendulkar’s MCC team to a seven-wicket victory with an unbeaten 181, but the result was secondary. Few cared about the pettiness surrounding Pietersen. They were there to salute a genuine star whose humility is the ultimate example.