Kevin Pietersen: a bad week – but is England career really over?
It's been a week that Kevin Pietersen and few at the ECB will forget in a hurry. Here's what happened
Former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen has had a week of contrasting fortunes, scoring a magnificent 350 for Surrey before learning that he would not play for England this summer.
Then, after launching a broadside at the English cricket administrators, he saw his hopes of playing in the final stages of the lucrative Indian Premier League dashed by an achilles injury and, having helped Surrey win their first game of the season, left the English county scene for possibly the last time in a private jet.
Here's how his week panned out:
It was a low-key start to the week for KP, as he turned out for Surrey against Leicester at The Oval, still hoping to earn a recall to the England side 16 months after he was thrown out of the team. The batsman had apparently been told by new ECB chairman Colin Graves that the slate was clean, despite the fall-out from his controversial autobiography, published in October. All he needed to do was convince the selectors that he was worthy of a place in the team.
He finished the day on 35 not out, having "announced himself with a glorious cover drive for four and signed off for the day with a straight six", according to Cricinfo.
On the other side of London at the ECB headquarters at Lord's things were a bit more hectic. Reports that national coach Peter Moores had been sacked emerged on Friday, and were confirmed on Saturday along with the news that Andrew Strauss was taking over as director of cricket. But The Observer noted that there was "shock and anger... [over] the manner in which his sacking took place".
A day of high drama on and off the field. At The Oval Pietersen produced one of the greatest innings of his career, grinding down the Leicestershire bowlers before putting them to the sword in spectacular fashion. By the end of the day Leicester had seven men on the boundary but they could not stop KP from steamrolling his way to a phenomenal 326 not out. "It was," said Cricinfo, "a world away from a typical day of Championship cricket at The Oval."
Added to that there was a distinct whiff of intrigue in the air. It had emerged on social media that KP was to meet Strauss that very evening to discuss his England future, and rumours had begun to circulate that his fate was already sealed.
As the runs piled up, so did the tension. For Strauss "it was the equivalent of rehearsing your best break-up line only to get a text from the soon-to-be ex saying that they can't wait to see you, that they love you so much, and that they have been looking at some holiday brochures for the summer after next", says the BBC.
Given the ECB's track record when it comes to leaks and Pietersen's choice of friends on Twitter, it was unlikely the outcome of the meeting with Strauss would remain a secret for long, and so it proved.
Within half an hour of the summit it was confirmed that Pietersen had been told he would not play for England this summer. The result was an unseemly public slanging match that preoccupied fans on Twitter, internet forums and phone-in shows.
More details of the meeting emerged when Strauss faced the media on Tuesday morning, on what was supposed to be his glorious unveiling. Pietersen, he said, could not be part of the England team this summer because of "a massive trust issue" relating to his previous indiscretions.
However, it was also revealed that KP had been offered a role has an advisor to the one-day team. That prompted the hashtag #strausslogic to begin trending on Twitter, with players including Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Smith of South Africa expressing befuddlement.
Meanwhile the Australians were rubbing their hands with glee. The episode had "added another layer of comedy to the high farce that has been English cricket's constant companion for the last 18 months", wrote Russell Jackson in The Guardian.
At The Oval, Surrey's first innings ended with Pietersen unbeaten on 355. "Trying to take on Pietersen in a public relations battle is like trying to take on an octopus at Twister," mused Jonathan Liew in the Daily Telegraph.
Pietersen landed another blow on the ECB when he came out all guns blazing with an incendiary column in the Daily Telegraph. In it he branded the ECB an "absolute disgrace" and declared: "I just find it incredibly deceitful what has happened to me and am frankly finding it difficult to understand right now. I have done everything I have been asked. I keep asking myself, what more could I do?"
He also announced he was heading to India to take part in the closing stages of the IPL.
There was plenty of sympathy for Pietersen and even Michael Atherton, writing in The Times, was moved to note that KP "patrols the high ground, an amazing turn of events".
But not everyone saw KP as the victim. Stephen Brenkley of The Independent said: "During the last few months... Pietersen has been on a charm offensive as well as a runs spree. But the damage was done long ago and it was compounded in Pietersen's autobiography last autumn, an orgy of self-righteous petulance."
At The Oval, Pietersen saw his Surrey team-mates scraped a thrilling victory with an explosive second innings run chase against Leicester. However, the batsman was forced to watch from the sidelines as it was revealed that he was suffering from an achilles injury, which would prevent him from playing in the IPL. Instead, he flew to Dubai in a private jet for two weeks of R&R.
With his England fate sealed many noted that he was unlikely to return to the English county game.
As the dust settled, Ian Bell, one of Pietersen's team-mates from the remarkable Ashes summer of 2005, kicked it up in the air again at an England press conference. When asked about KP he described him as "a quality player, probably the best I've ever played with". He added that the batsman had a right to feel "aggrieved" and hinted that he could still return. Perhaps Pietersen's chances of playing for England again were not dead after all.
So it was that despite handing two players Test debuts and looking forward to a packed summer programme "the official launch of the series against New Zealand was dominated by one figure", says The Independent. And there could be other problems. "Kevin Pietersen remains the name on everyone's lips and it has become increasingly clear that his absence could hamper the search for a new coach to replace the sacked Peter Moores."
The Daily Telegraph dropped another bombshell by claiming that it was Alastair Cook who "barred Pietersen's return by threatening to resign as England captain".
Cook "is likely to deny any suggestion that he offered to resign but it is now clear he and Pietersen can never share a dressing room as captain and player," writes Nick Hoult of the Telegraph. "[But] knowing that Cook may not be the England captain beyond the summer is why the ECB on Tuesday did not rule out a return for Pietersen one day."
The paper even predicts that KP could be back playing for England at the World T20 in March next year.
Kevin Pietersen: injury added to insult as batsman misses IPL
Kevin Pietersen's bittersweet week has continued with the news that he will not, after all, be jetting off to India to take part in the IPL after suffering an achilles injury during the final stages of his epic innings of 355 not out for Surrey on Tuesday.
The batsman, who did not take part in his county's dramatic second innings run-chase against Leicester on Wednesday, will be out for two weeks and has flown Dubai to put his feet up while he considers his future.
The injury means he will miss the closing stages of the Twenty20 tournament in India, where he was due to play for the Hyderabad Sunrisers. It was the second piece of bad news for Pietersen in the space of two days. On Monday he was told by England director of cricket Andrew Strauss that he would not be playing for England this summer because of "massive trust issues" that still exist between him and the rest of the squad.
Pietersen, who was jettisoned from the national team in January 2014, made allegations of bullying against several England stars in his autobiography, published last year, and had previously fallen out with Strauss when he was the team captain.
He had hoped that his remarkable triple-hundred would catapult him back into England contention, having been told that the slate was clean. And although that did not happen his innings will be remembered as a key part of a thrilling county match, won by Surrey after they chased down a victory target of 216 in just 21 overs, with Steven Davies plundering 115 off 69 balls.
Pietersen watched "delightedly from a Surrey dressing room that has given him unstinting support", before heading for the Gulf, says Cricinfo.
Pietersen, though, may be more interested in the words of a former international colleague Ian Bell, who has broken ranks and suggested that there should be a way back for the batsman. Bell, who played with Pietersen in the England team that memorably won the Ashes in 2005, said: "If he keeps scoring runs maybe there's a position [for him] in time. Everyone deserves that opportunity now with a long summer ahead."
However, notes The Guardian, "he also backed Strauss to lead England into a new era, and said the Test squad can ill afford to linger over Pietersen's situation with Test series against New Zealand and Australia ahead".
Pietersen heads for IPL after rant at Strauss and ECB 'deceit'
13 MayThe maelstrom enveloping English cricket shows no sign of easing after exiled batsman Kevin Pietersen gave full vent to his spleen in the pages of the Daily Telegraph a day after being told that he would not be selected for the Ashes this summer.
Pietersen had been led to believe that by proving himself on the county circuit with Surrey this summer he could find a way back into the England team, but on the very day he scored a magnificent triple hundred at The Oval he was told by England's new director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, that there was no hope of an international recall this summer because of "massive trust issues" relating to his previous behaviour and the claims made in his autobiography.
Pietersen's response was to brand the ECB as "incredibly deceitful" and announce that he was leaving England to join the Indian Premier League for the remainder of the tournament.
"I went into the meeting expecting Strauss to say that England's batting order is good at the moment but if I continued to score runs and if an injury occurred then I would be in contention to play," he wrote in his column for the Telegraph. "But no. Quite simply, I feel deeply misled.
"I have given up my IPL contract, at great expense, to play in county cricket. Surrey did not have any funds free to pay me so I said I would play for nothing, just a donation to charity, and it is horrendous to feel I have been led down the garden path. They knew all along this was a dead end for me."
Even Paul Newman of the Daily Mail, who last year declared "we should never see Kevin Pietersen in an England shirt again", feels sympathy. KP "has been treated with a complete lack of respect by the new powers that be at the ECB who have reduced the English game to a laughing stock yet again," he writes.
The problem lies with ECB chairman-elect Colin Graves, who encouraged Pietersen to play county cricket in the hope of an England recall, he argues. Strauss is not to blame, because "for all the noise and the mismanagement, there continue to be perfectly valid reasons why England need to move on without the divisive figure Pietersen has consistently been throughout his career".
That view was not widely held on social media, where the debate exploded once again and Strauss came in for some heavy criticism, with calls for him to quit, just days after he took over his new role.
Many were moved to point out that as a shrinking sport, cricket can ill afford to jettison its biggest names.
"On Monday afternoon, cricket stood still as a Division Two County Championship fixture involving a team that has not won a match for two years became the most talked-about live event in the country," writes Andrew Miller in Cricinfo. "By Tuesday morning, the new director of England cricket was telling the public to move along, there's nothing to see here. Such a stance is an outrage."
He could have pointed out that Pietersen's reaction to his snub, leaving England for the riches and glamour of the IPL, speaks volumes about the state of the game in this country.
But for many the row is becoming interminable. "It is difficult to say which is more unbearable: another instalment in the Kevin Pietersen saga, or watching England play cricket," blogs Marine Hyde in The Guardian. "The debate about whether there is a way back for Pietersen is likely to be the last thing my grandchildren will hear before they die, in their beds, peacefully, at the age of 136."
Pietersen still out in the cold as Strauss ducks bouncer
There can be no doubt that former England batsman Kevin Pietersen has exquisite timing. He showed it yesterday as he hit the first triple-hundred of his career on the day Andrew Strauss took over as director of English cricket.
However, as Strauss proved during his career as England captain and opening batsman, he is not easily cowed and despite being served up a snorter on his first day at the ECB he responded by confirming that there was still no place for Pietersen in the England team because of a "lack of trust".
Pietersen was exiled by the national team in January last year after a series of high-profile fall-outs with team mates, Strauss included. And he followed that up with a series of incendiary claims in his autobiography that widened the rift still further.
Yet he still harbours hopes of a return to the international stage. So it wasn't just the 34 fours and 14 sixes that he struck during his extraordinary knock for Surrey at The Oval on Monday that were well judged, the innings could not have sent a clearer message to the new man in charge.
But as ever, there was a downside and the day ended not with universal praise for his wonderful innings but in yet another poisonous row, precipitated by Pietersen's decision to announce that he was off to meet Strauss to discuss the resumption of his international career, and the subsequent revelation that he was still in exile.
The result was yet another undignified hullabaloo on Twitter, with the pro- and anti-Pietersen camps going at each other hammer and tongs.
They were still at it by the time Pietersen walked out at The Oval to resume his innings at the same time as Strauss was confirming that the batsman would not play for England in the Ashes this summer.
"Over a period of months and years, the trust between himself and the ECB has eroded," said Strauss. "There's a massive trust issue between Kevin and I. Because of that, we've told him it's not in the best short-term interests of the side for him to be in the team."
But can England afford to jettison Pietersen?
"This is clearly one of the great players of his age, able to fill any cricket ground and rekindle enthusiasm for the ailing sport," writes Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. "Many such talents are given to outsized egos. Pietersen's behaviour towards his team mates was by all accounts intolerable. But... dealing with such characters is the art of sports management."
Certainly the Australians, who visit this summer, do not mind. The news that Pietersen had hit 300 on the day his exclusion from the England camp was confirmed added "another layer of comedy to the high farce that has been English cricket’s constant companion for the last 18 months", writes Russell Jackson, also in the Guardian.
"A significant number of Australians will be delighted with this news and not just because they’ll now face a side of diminished intimidation factor... but because the entire episode is so emblematic of this dithering, over-managed and underperforming England side."