Beckham, Cantona and three other stars frozen out like Pietersen
The controversial batsman is not the first sportsman to be unceremoniously ditched
CRICKET fans have been stunned by the news that batsman Kevin Pietersen has been effectively sacked from the England team after the disastrous tour of Australia.
The "unanimous" decision was taken in an effort to restore the "team ethic" that was lacking during the Ashes, according to new England supremo Paul Downton.
However, fans have not reacted well to the news, complaining that by dropping their best batsman and biggest box office draw they are damaging the team's future prospects.
But amid all the wailing and gnashing of teeth it is worth recalling that Pietersen is by no means the first high-profile sportsman to be jettisoned while apparently in his prime.
Here are some others who found themselves unexpectedly frozen out:
David Beckham: Manchester United’s legendary manager Alex Ferguson was a ruthless man who never allowed any of his players to become bigger than the team or challenge his authority. That led to some high-profile exits during his 27 years at Old Trafford, but none was more dramatic than that of David Beckham in 2003. Having risen to stardom, Beckham's celebrity and love of the high life grated with Ferguson, and things came to a head after an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, when a furious Fergie kicked a boot at the player, leaving him with a cut above his eye. Becks, still only 28, was sold to Real Madrid that summer.
Verdict: Good for United, good for Beckham
Rio Ferdinand: When Chelsea defender John Terry and Rio's brother, QPR player Anton Ferdinand, were seen shouting at each other during a west London derby in 2011 few people expected it to spell the end of the Manchester United player's England career. But when Terry was subsequently accused of racially abusing Anton, Rio, the England captain, took his brother's side in the row. Terry ended up in court and was stripped of the England captaincy. The affair also led to the resignation of England manager Fabio Capello and caused deep divisions in the England camp. When Roy Hodgson took over he called time on Ferdinand's 81-cap England career, citing "football reasons" amid fears that he and Terry could not share a dressing room.
Verdict: Jury still out
Eric Cantona: Yet another Manchester United player, some say the greatest, Cantona spent much of his career as an international outcast, although the forward made 45 appearances for France between 1987 and 1995 despite his maverick tendencies. Early in his career he was suspended for calling France boss Henri Michel a "bag of s***", but was recalled by subsequent managers. Amie Jacquet even made him captain in the build-up to Euro 96. However, he was dropped from the team after his infamous kung-fu kick on a supporter at Selhurst Park in 1995. Zinedine Zidane replaced him in the side and Cantona never played for his country again. He retired from football in 1997 a year before Les Blues won the World Cup.
Verdict: Shrewd move
Paul Gascoigne: When he burst onto the scene at the 1990 World Cup Gascoigne seemed to have the world at his feet, but his career stalled badly thanks to injuries and off-field problems after a high-profile move to Italy. But he was back in the England team by the time the country hosted Euro 96 and he hoped to make an impression at the World Cup in 1998. However, he was still struggling with personal problems and that prompted Glenn Hoddle to leave him out of the final squad for the tournament. When he was told the news of his omission Gascoigne flew into a rage and smashed up Hoddle's hotel room before being restrained. It was an ignominious end to his England career.
Verdict: The right decision
Graham Thorpe: Pietersen may feel hard done by after being ditched by England, but his predecessor in the team suffered a similar fate. Surrey batsman Thorpe was a couple of years older than KP when he got the bullet, but could be forgiven for feeling just as betrayed. Thorpe was in fine form ahead of the 2005 Ashes and, like Pietersen, had just won his 100th England cap. However, he was dropped from the team on the eve of the first Test in favour of Pietersen and never played for his country again. Of course, that decision was vindicated as England won the Ashes and Pietersen's legend was born.
Verdict: Shrewd move
Not all sportsmen can choose the manner of their retirement there are a select band who can:
Sachin Tendulkar: The Little Master brought the curtain down on his career on his own terms, bowing out on his home ground in Mumbai on the occasion of his 200th Test appearance for India. The two Test series against the West Indies was little more than a glorified farewell tour for Tendulkar, one of the greatest batsmen ever to play the game. However, he did not have things all his own way – as he bore down on what would have been a stunning century in his last ever innings he was caught for 74 and ended his career 79 short of 16,000 Test runs.