The Inside Word: Kevin Pietersen’s flawed career is petering out in lucrative self-indulgence

When Pietersen enters the playpen of social media, the brittleness of his character and the superficiality of his message becomes clear

Kevin Pietersen manipulates the myth of his martyrdom with the relish he once reserved for milking mediocre bowling. It disguises his insecurity, diverts attention from the emptiness of a career that is petering out in lucrative self-indulgence.

His cheerleaders are clearing their throats for the publication of his latest autobiography. Plans to massage public opinion are set. He, or more accurately those with a vested interest in the exaggeration of slights, real or imagined, is too clever to indulge in the toddler tantrum some naïvely anticipate.

Pietersen will use a carefully modulated, rigorously scrutinised interview in the newspaper which carries his ghostwritten banalities to set the agenda. He is likely to admit mistakes, but in such a measured manner as to undermine their significance.

Expect meaningless pledges of allegiance, promises he would add to his 104 Test appearances in a heartbeat. They are disingenuous, because scathing criticism will be directed at those at the heart of the England team, the captain, Alastair Cook, and the coaches with whom he is associated, Peter Moores and Andy Flower.

Opportunism has already been camouflaged by altruism. The news management cycle began with Thursday’s announcement of the KP24Foundation. Due to be launched with a gala dinner in Dubai on 6 November, it intends to support underprivileged children around the globe.

 

An eclectic mix of ambassadors includes Boris Johnson, Gary Lineker, Heston Blumenthal and, inevitably, Piers Morgan, the human megaphone. Judging by Pietersen’s mission statement – “Poverty, homelessness and geography should never be allowed to stifle our children and put out the flames” – it is surely only a matter of time before Bono is recruited.

The charitable aims are authentic, but image consultants and public relations advisers will recognise the broader strategy. Pietersen will open his fusillade with a BBC interview and a supposedly exclusive Q&A session on Tuesday, 48 hours before the book is widely available.

His publishers are attempting to emulate the micro-managed success of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, but cannot avoid an inconvenient truth. Ferguson was a compelling subject, capable of addressing the fundamental issues thrown up by modern sport.

When Pietersen enters the playpen of social media, and he glories in unfiltered praise and his potential to make mischief, the brittleness of his character and the superficiality of his message becomes clear: “I got a feeling quite a lot will like it!..... have I EVER held back?...... the truth is coming….. WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! MY CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT EXPIRES AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT......”

This week’s debate will be ferocious, but futile. Entrenched positions will be reinforced. There will be few conversions to either cause, and too many casualties on either side. It will be petty, pointless, and probably puerile.

Pietersen’s most persuasive ally will be his perceived enemy. The England and Wales Cricket Board are a shambolic organisation, who appear to confuse the founding principle of nurturing domestic cricket with the more narrow aim of promoting their insufferably smug chairman, Giles Clarke.

This is a man who could not wait to prostrate himself at the feet of serial fraudster Allen Stanford, a meddler who has aligned English cricket with those who have allowed the game in India to become a bloated, corrupted, geopolitical monster.

Pietersen is damned by the division he creates. He is a symbol of a rudderless sport, a global freelance exploiting T20 competitions which will, if unchecked, smother Test cricket. The ECB reserve the right to refuse to give him international clearance to play in Australia this winter, but he is likely to be only a short-term irritation.

He is already being overshadowed by emerging stars, such as Surrey’s South African-born batsman Jason Roy. Rather than buy the book, invest in a CD which captures Pietersen in his pomp, a force of nature. Remember to switch the TV off when, as he fades away, he returns to our screens on Strictly Come Dancing.

Rio wrong about Kick It Out

Rio Ferdinand is due to make his 500th Premier League appearance on Sunday at West Ham, the club at which he launched his career. He deserves to be afforded due respect, despite the diminution of his talent as a mobile, intelligent central defender.

In later years, in a secondary career as the most insightful member of a new generation of TV pundits, he may regret this final season at QPR. He may also have cause to review his illogical, unworthy criticism of the Kick it Out anti-discrimination organisation.

Ferdinand has much in common with Herman Ouseley, Kick it Out’s driving force. Both have suffered directly from the racism which exists beneath the surface, in sport and society. Each is an important advocate for change.

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Rio Ferdinand chose not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt

Ferdinand is touted as a candidate for Fifa vice-presidency. Lord Ouseley, a dignified, resilient man determined to call those who run English football to account, is the best chairman the FA will never have.

They are united by something far bigger than that which divides them: the right of fellow human beings to be accepted for who they are, rather than the superficialities of colour, creed or sexuality. Together, they can achieve something substantial.

Rugby’s risky collision course

A record number of Premiership rugby players, 26, were forced into injury-induced retirement last season. The average career span, at international level, of the past 100 England players to leave the game on medical advice is less than three years.

Concussion is being treated with appropriate, if overdue, care and attention. Yet the club season, driven by commercial imperatives, is too long. Contact sessions in training carry inherent risks.

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Geoff Parling will miss England's autumn internationals with concussion

No one wants to neuter a compellingly physical collision-based sport, but as it approaches World Cup year, rugby union faces hard choices if it is to fulfil its duty of care to those who matter most – the men who put their bodies, and their future, on the line.

Mourinho’s turn to suffer

Jose Mourinho’s graceless refusal to withdraw his “specialist in failure” slur before Sunday’s potentially pivotal visit of Arsenal to Stamford Bridge tempts fate. He deserves to lose to Arsène Wenger for the first time in 12 attempts, as a reminder that class is indelible, permanent.

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