Friday, 4 April 2014

Column 5, 2014 - They need to talk about Kevin

Printed in The Cricket Paper issue 77, Friday April 4, 2014. [Full text below]

So then. Is now a good time to talk about Kevin?

As an England cricket fan, I’m still annoyed about the whole Kevin Pietersen saga.

I’m surmising – which is all anyone can do with the almost total absence of facts – that the ECB has decided to put all its eggs in Cook’s basket, and Cook has decided that KP is too risky to have around all those delicate eggs.

Is it personal? Do they just not like each other? What exactly is the ‘disruption’ KP is accused of? What is it he does (sorry: did) that the massed ranks of blue tracksuited doctors, psychologists, mentors, coaches and managers cannot contain?

I’d love to know. I think we all would.

Judging by the burnt bridges and acrimonious dressing rooms strewn in his wake, he’s clearly not an easy guy to get on with.

Text-Gate was perhaps unforgivable, but forgiven he was. And let’s not forget that it was Cook, in taking over from Strauss (who you sense would not have had him back, and perhaps even walked prematurely to facilitate his return), who was instrumental in his ‘reintegration’.

To volte-face and give up now and have everyone sign confidentiality agreements like squabbling Hollywood divorcees just seems ridiculous.

Ridiculous or not, they’re sticking to it. “English supporters must move on. There isn’t going to be any going back, that’s for sure,” says ECB chairman Giles Clarke.

Helpful. So what about the new coach? It’s rumoured that top candidate Gary Kirsten turned the job down flat because Pietersen (The £880k captain of the IPL side Kirsten coaches) would be off limits. What if Cook doesn’t regain form with the bat and is himself replaced? Is KP still banned? What about the captain after that? The coach after that?

It’s a bizarre situation.

Cards on the table: I’ve never been a fan of KP the bloke. He does not top my ‘cricketers-I’d-love-to-have-a-beer-and-a-chat-with’ list. But when he lets his bat do the talking, few can match him.

His destruction of Dale Steyn at Headingly, on the brink of the Text-Gate scandal in 2012, is a perfect illustration.

Steyn was the number one fast bowler in the world, and that afternoon Pietersen made him look like a third change medium pacer in a Sunday friendly. He flayed him over cover, ambled casually down the track and biffed him back over his head, and slogged him through cow corner like an impish schoolboy ignoring his coach’s instructions to play straight. But the moment he owned that exchange was the shot that followed, an exaggerated forward defensive with that characteristic big stride, which seemed to say to Steyn: “I could have hit that anywhere I wanted. I chose not to.” It was the most sarcastic cricket shot I’ve ever seen. Patronising and supremely arrogant, it was the very definition of letting your bat do the talking.

There is no one else in English cricket whose bat has that breadth of vocabulary, and I for one will miss it.

And I think we deserve to know why.

- ends 508 words -

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