“My job is to take England from where we are to a sustainable world-class team in all formats,” said Andrew Strauss today in his first press conference as the New England Team Director.
If you’re a true cricket fan, you couldn’t feel anymore frustrated with this statement. Just hours after Kevin Pietersen smashed his maiden first-class triple ton and his 50th first-class ton, he was told by the New England Director Andrew Strauss and England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Chief Executive that there was no coming back for him in the England Cricket Team despite Colin Graves’ remark that the selectors “can’t ignore him” if he scores in the county championship.
The move by the ECB is not only baffling on many accounts but reeks of the ego which exists in the cricketing culture in England. Strauss’ reasoning of him ‘not trusting KP enough’ is arguably one of the worst statements a cricket fan can come across. What seems even more stupid is that Strauss, who doesn’t trust Pietersen enough, offered him an advisory role for limited overs cricket. Kudos on wasting one of the best talents in sport at present.
What’s surprising is, despite the criticism from few of the most respected voices in International Cricket, the ECB has refused to budge. You know you have been awfully wrong when the best leg spinner (Shane Warne), one of the best number 3 batsmen (Kumar Sangakkara) and one of the most successful captains (Greame Smith) all criticise you.
The ECB with this move, have not only ensured that England’s best batsman’s international career ends prematurely, but cricket fans are denied a chance of witness a batting genius of the class of Pietersen.
Peitersen, who has played 104 tests and 136 ODIs for England, became the highest run getter for England in all international games combined in 2013 and has an average of 47.28 and 40.73 in tests and ODIs respectively. One of the most flamboyant cricketers to play for England, Pietersen is one player who has always excited the English and other cricket fans from around the world. It would be stating the obvious to say his contribution to English cricket has been immense, from the Ashes series of 2005 to the World T20 title in the Caribbean in 2010, to the test series victory in India in 2012, he has been an important cog in the wheel and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is still better than all the batsmen in the English team currently.
Pietersen, one of the few English cricketers who made a mark for themselves without being conventional and orthodox, has undoubtedly had disciplinary issues and sending text messages about your captain to the opposition perhaps has to be the gravest of them all. But what do you when the player himself (the best batsman in the country) acknowledges that he was being immature, gives up a majority of the £200,000 IPL contract to play county cricket just so that he can be considered again for the England national side? There are sections of fans who also believe that he was probably made a scapegoat by the ECB in the first place to save their faces after an embarrassing whitewash down under?
Citing the state of the English cricket team and their struggle in all formats of the game, it would be fairly logical to give the flamboyant batsman another go. But sorry guys, our egos are too big to go back on our words and we care more for discipline in our national sport than accolades and accomplishments.
Some might argue that the ECB are making an example out of it and teaching other players a lesson about discipline, not toeing the line with the administration and keeping away from any on-field tantrums. But hasn’t enough been done already to make the player say ‘I desperately want to get back to playing for England’?
The ECB probably believe that they will find another world beater of a batsman, but the fact is that being disciplined and orthodox can’t manufacture talent. If that had to be the case, batsmen of the likes of Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and Shahid Afridi wouldn’t have become household names.
Andrew Strauss, the man who took England to the pinnacle of test cricket, would have certainly lost a lot of fans today, because at some level, he has allowed personal issues to take over the national interest. As former captain Micheal Vaughan tweeted today, “Just pick your best available players and let’s stop over complicating sport…. It’s a game of Cricket .. Nothing more Nothing less..”, the ECB should be doing exactly that.
If not for the sake of English cricket, the ECB should atleast have him back in the scheme of things for the fact that watching him bat is a different kind of pleasure. The audacity, the authority, the fearlessness and the attitude with which he plays can never be matched by any English cricketer probably because they’ll always be too ‘disciplined’ in their way of playing Cricket.
For the accolades this legend has to his name for his country, this is definitely not the kind of send-off a cricket fan would expect.
This leads us to another question: Has the ECB made a martyr of him to set an example for the future? Or is it just the authority and autonomy that the Board has which it wishes to communicate to the rest of the world?