Comment: England ‘rebuilding’ without best player Kevin Pietersen is senseless and self-destructive

By Scott Hunt

England have sacked their best player.

The ECB has opted to end Kevin Pietersen’s international career due to the need to ‘rebuild the team ethic’.

Paul Downton, the new ECB managing director, announced that the board has unanimously decided that Pietersen would not be in their plans for the upcoming West Indies tour or World Twenty20 as well as beyond.

This decision has to be one that has been made due to the widely reported negative impact Pietersen has on the England dressing room, rather than due to performances.

For this, there is no justification.

The ECB statement talks of the need for ‘long-term planning’ after their disastrous tour to Australia – statistically the worst tour in England’s history.

The ICC World Twenty20, one of the biggest tournaments in international cricket starts in 39 days.

England will now enter that tournament without one of the best Twenty20 players in the world due to the need for ‘long-term planning’.

The decision to effectively sack Pietersen has significantly weakened England ahead of that tournament and will leave the team without a player who is capable of destroying the best attacks in the world.

As a player, South-African-born Pietersen is invaluable to the England side and so this decision is clearly one made in the interests of the harmony of the dressing room and to make the side easier to manage.

A dislike of a player or a belief that the player is too difficult to manage is no reason to remove them from the set up.

It raises the question of why the ECB, along with One-Day coach Ashley Giles and captain Alastair Cook can’t do a better job of managing Pietersen.

The best players should play and the bottom line is that Pietersen is England’s best player.

If he has become unmanageable then the scrutiny should also be turned on those doing the managing as well as the player himself.

This is not the first time the ECB have removed Pietersen from international selection.

In 2012 ‘textgate’ saw the ECB drop Pietersen from the final test against South Africa after he had allegedly sent defamatory texts to the South African players about his England teammates.

Following that shameful incident, the ECB could have justifiably decided to end Pietersen’s career, but they didn’t, instead commencing what they called a process of ‘reintegration’.

Suitably re-integrated, Pietersen had an impressive tour of India before injury in New Zealand threatened to rule him out of the home Ashes series in 2013.

It didn’t and a Pietersen century at Old Trafford saw him become England’s highest ever run-scorer in test and one-day cricket combined.

If ‘textgate’ was something England could get through, it would be helpful to hear from the ECB what has become so unmanageable about Pietersen now.

The ECB has claimed it wants to look to the future which of course is an admirable idea.

Pietersen is only 33, which surely means England stalwarts James Anderson, Matt Prior, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott are living on borrowed time.

Or maybe it’s just Pietersen that this new policy of looking to the future applies to?

Pietersen has been integral to the success English cricket has enjoyed since his debut in 2005 averaging over 40 in both test and one-day cricket and playing a huge role in four Ashes victories.

While at times many have questioned some of his dismissals and his swash-buckling style of play, you can’t just replace the volume of runs Pietersen has produced.

His removal may well give the likes of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, and Eoin Morgan a chance to shine in all forms of the game, but those players are untried and unproven.

Given the disruption already in the England team with the loss of Trott, the issues over Cook’s captaincy and the recent resignation of Test Head Coach Andy Flower, to remove the most senior player in the team is brainless.

It has been suggested that Flower resigned as a result of his issues with managing Pietersen but to be frank if that is the case Flower is the one who is at fault and not the player.

The job of a manager or coach and his staff and captains is to get the best out of their players and to make sure the best players are in the team.

If, as it appears, Pietersen has been removed because he has become too divisive a figure to have around the dressing room, questions need to be asked about the management set-up around the England dressing room.

Dislike of a player is no reason for exclusion. There seems to be little or no other justification coming from the ECB as to why they have robbed English cricket fans of their best, most box-office cricketer.

There is always the chance that Pietersen could return as he has always said how much he loves playing cricket for England.

Perhaps if England appoint a Head Coach to replace Flower who is not afraid of managing big characters that will happen, but for now at least, Pietersen has gone.

Rebuilding and looking to the future without your best player…what a brilliant idea! 

Image courtesy of Official England Cricket via Youtube, with thanks

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