A genius he may be, but Kevin Pietersen comes with ready access to a professional self-destruct button

The South African should be a batting great. For all I know he's a lovely guy in private. But he has a lot to learn from an Indian contemporary

Share
Related Topics

Should we forgive a genius his sins simply because he is a genius? Kevin Pietersen, a South African who plays in England's cricket side, issued an apology to his English team mates earlier this week from a hotel press conference in Colombo.

It related to "provocative" text messages that he sent to the South Africans he was meant to be playing against in a Test match during the summer. The England and Wales Cricket Board accepts that he said "nothing derogatory" about then captain Andrew Strauss; but so inflammatory was his behaviour that England had to drop him, his international career nearly ended, and he is now embarked on the sort of "reintegration process" usually reserved for ex-offenders.

That he is a genius is clear. Ironically the word "genius" comes from the Latin for "guardian spirit", something Pietersen may be in need of. As a batsman he has been among the most dazzling players in the history of the game, capable of brutally destroying any bowler and timing the ball exquisitely.

But he also appears to have ready access to a professional self-destruct button. Earlier in his career, he left his post as England captain after another falling out. Which brings us back to my opening question.

Being a constant sinner is not a necessary condition of being an exceptional talent. That is, it is possible to have exceptional talent and also be virtuous. Bertrand Russell, though an adulterer, was remarkably decent, and certainly a genius. Albert Einstein was prone to tantrums - aren't we all - but also extraordinary acts of kindness. Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath who reshaped Bengali culture, and devoted countless hours to the poor.

And yet, as Walter Isaacson's magnificent biography of Steve Jobs relates, we often forgive the vices of people with rare talent, preferring to luxuriate in their greatness. This, if you think about it, is a moral failing: just because someone is powerful or talented doesn't mean they operate in a different ethical universe. Genius is no warrant for the suspension of right and wrong.

This is personified in another contemporary batting great, Sachin Tendulkar. The greatest batsman of the modern age, who has scored more runs in Test cricket than anyone else, is a model of virtue. He treats players and officials with decency and charm, campaigns against poverty, and is now an effective politician. He didn't fall out with two captains or send "provocative" text messages. He's a genius and a constant hero.

What's more, he's scored more runs than Pietersen, and actually plays for his country rather than a bunch of gullible foreigners with a stiff upper lip and a permanent vacancy in the batting order.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
Nai or Oxi: whether Greece says Yes or No today its citizens will continue to struggle  

Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy

Rupert Cornwell
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test