Sometimes enough is enough. And in the case of Kevin Pietersen, enough is way more than enough. If we had a pound for every time someone mentioned KP in the last few weeks, we’d now have enough money to buy the ECB, call a super-important ‘must attend’ meeting, lock all the fire exits and then burn the whole sorry mess to the ground. Not that we’d actually do that, of course. Since spending some time at her majesty’s pleasure a few years back, we’ve been nothing but model members of society.
But as the KP story rumbles on and on, we decided to draw a line in the sand. We would get the 51allout writers together, give them a blank canvas to talk all things Pietersen and then never, ever speak of this issue again. Ever. Unless perhaps those lovely people at Hendrick’s offered us some of their lovely gin to talk about him a bit more, although we have to stress that that looks bloody unlikely.
Editor’s note: With hindsight, offering the writers a blank canvas might have been a bit of a mistake on my part, as they each came back with about 30k words on why they were right and everyone else was so, so wrong. I’ve edited it down quite a lot, so thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to read James’s obsessed ramblings in their entirety.
Aussie Matt: As an Aussie obviously my perspective on all of this is a little…skewed, but given the sort of rancor that seems to have followed Pietersen wherever he has gone, and in particular that which has been expressed over the past few days, I’m at a complete loss as to whether it’s been worth it all along for England. Are three Ashes series and a T20 World Cup worthy recompense for the damage, not that Pietersen himself has done to English cricket, but that which English cricket has done, and is continuing to do, to itself over the question of Kevin Pietersen? Even now people seem to be utterly unable to have a discussion about the man that doesn’t ultimately devolve into petty bickering, insults and finally trying to stab each other’s eyes out with cocktail sticks. When the ladies who work in the cafeteria at Lord’s are ready to down aprons over his prospective return, you know things have really gone off the rails.
English Matt: If it was the tea ladies at Lord’s who were the ones threatening to walk out, the man in the shadows pulling all the ECB strings must be Mike Gatting.
Aussie Matt: I think the only thing I can honestly say is thank fuck he never played for Australia. Even if he would have been ridiculously good to watch. Maybe the cricketing world as a whole was too immature to truly accommodate someone like Pietersen.
Nichael Bluth: Perhaps the most staggering thing about the whole sorry affair is how much the ECB have fucked up what is, to be frank, an incredibly simple process. All they had to do was say something along the lines of ‘looking to the future’ and then they were free to not select Pietersen, regardless of what he was doing. They could then stick to the party line of ‘we think Root/Ballance/Buttler/Ali etc. need to play’ and it would look like a ‘proper’ cricketing decision. And yet even now Strauss is coming out with this ‘in the short to medium term’ bollocks, adding yet more vagueness and ambiguity to what is already a hopeless mess.
English Matt: I agree with Nichael.
I don’t tend to have a lot of sympathy for Pietersen – especially after I forced myself to read his second book – but once again all parties have created a shitstorm out of something that should’ve been handled relatively simply. We don’t know what he was told in private (apart from what he subsequently told Piers Morgan and which Morgan subsequently told his twitter followers), but Colin Graves’s interview with Radio 5 Live certainly suggested that if he played county cricket the door would open slightly. Obviously Andrew Strauss having some involvement in selection has slammed that door back shut with the force of a Pietersen flat-batted six over mid-on.
English Matt: If asked the simple question, ‘would you select Pietersen in any of the three England XIs?’, I would answer no. Leaving aside “trust” for one moment, the Test team needs to continue growing in its current guise: Gary Ballance, Joe Root and then the bits ‘n’ pieces players are the short-term future. If Ian Bell suddenly retired to take up a lucrative male modelling career, then it would create a spare place for another batsman, but James Taylor would be who I turn to next. The ODI team needs to be picked having both eyes on the World Cup in four years, by which time Pietersen will be old, hobbling and still rabbiting on about not being selected. That leaves the T20 side. Notwithstanding that international T20s outside of the World T20 should be tied into a black sack and thrown into the canal, I would consider picking Pietersen in this team. No-one can deny his pedigree in this form, and it’s a form where crippled and cracked knees aren’t necessarily a hindrance to whacking a quick 45 from 37 balls and then taking a nap at long-leg. But it comes back to the wider issues: trust; teamwork; collective responsibility.
When England were winning left, right and centre, everything appeared rosy. It was when the performances dropped off that the relationships all turned sour. But strong teams remain strong, even in adversity. Now the blame for that is not entirely at Pietersen’s feet, but a captain still ought to be able to trust his players. That doesn’t mean having 11 players all with the same attitude or thoughts, but like a Cabinet or a Board, all members of a team should make their thoughts known, but then accept to follow what has been agreed on. Presumably Cook, or Strauss, don’t feel that with Pietersen, and do feel that having disagreement in the ranks affects junior members. There is a saying that a great team will always beat a team of greats. In other words, even if Pietersen is one of the best four middle order batsmen eligible for England, the team isn’t necessarily better with him in it.
To be united is a great thing, to respect differences, maybe an even greater thing (not our words Lynne, the words of Bono). And both the ECB and Pietersen seem to be unable to respect differences.
But the only thing we can conclude is that this mass debate most definitely will not be the last word.
James As a hardcore Pieterfan I’m obviously biased, but this “trust” thing is an absolute nonsense. As is team spirit being something you pick teams on, especially losing teams. When you’re winning people will like each other, as English Matt helpfully noted when saying everything was rosy. Pick your best team, start winning and everyone forgets about who likes each other. It’s such an absurdly simple concept. Teams should not be picked based on who gets on best with the director of cricket. Nor should it be picked based on who the fast bowling clique like the most. I want the best players to play (and have the opportunity to play if their performances merit it), I don’t want to have an organisation charging £100+ for tickets with one hand and banning players from playing because of “trust issues” with the other. This isn’t Relate for fuck’s sake.
The other point is the “well he wouldn’t get in the side” argument. Well, England aren’t very good. There’s this incessant, head in the sand stuff about how good this team is. They have been pretty terrible in every format since pissgate at the Oval. They lost the Ashes 5-0, they were battered in the World T20 and lost to the Netherlands, they lost a home Test series to Sri Lanka, they lost ODIs to India and Sri Lanka, they got battered in the World Cup and lost to Bangladesh, they drew a series in the West Indies. The only time they’ve not been terrible was for about a fortnight against India. And they didn’t actually play against anyone good in that time, all those games are this year. Can we stop pretending this is some sort of all-conquering England side that’s keeping him out?
And with that final salvo the line was drawn. Never again would 51allout mention Kevin Pietersen. Of course, we hadn’t really thought this through fully. Within 20 minutes of this article being finalised, 51allout’s entire Pietersen division were given their P45s and sent on their way. The huge number of leaving cards that needed to be signed left all those still employed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Within just a few hours the office was down to just a few lonely men clutching desperately at their worn out wrists. Business as usual, basically.
Editor’s note: We’re never doing one of these mass debates again.