Shame on you, ECB bosses
Kevin Pietersen's England career ended in Sydney 15 months ago. Even his staunchest supporters, and perhaps even the man himself, knew that. While a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon it was really just a mirage.
Pietersen not playing for England again stopped being about Pietersen not playing for England almost as soon as the decision had been made. For as long as it has existed English cricket has been criticised for being an elitist collective of self-interested individuals.
The decision to part with Pietersen because he was not liked and difficult to manage only further confirmed this image of the sport in this country.
There is not a single cricketing reason for Pietersen not to be considered for selection. It could be that England's settled middle order means that there isn't space for him, but that is significantly different from his selection being dismissed as a possibility.
As cricket journalist Andrew Miller put it; "There's a fundamental difference between not selecting and refusing to consider. It turns a public sport into a private club."
Pietersen is a supreme talent and a character that brings coverage to the sport. Cricket needs personalities, and that is KP. Just like wrestlers need kayfabe, every sport needs heroes and villains. Today has seen the climax of the football season pushed off the paper's back pages for a second division county championship match.
The public, like or loathe him, are interested in Pietersen. Who are the ECB to tell them that he is no longer welcome in the sport? The ECB social media team seem to know this. As the news spread that KP was to be told that he had no chance of a return the board's Twitter account was breathlessly tweeting footage of Pietersen's exploits.
If this doesn't sum up the disconnect between the sport as entertainment and the sensibilities of those selecting the team it is difficult to know what does.
That personality rather than talent is used as a selection criteria is nothing short of a disgrace. There will be those that say Pietersen is bad for team morale. This ignores the fact that his career coincides exactly with the most successful period England have had in a generation and his enforced exile one of the worst. For most of England's supporters a happy dressing room is secondary to a winning one.
We all work with people we don't like, and while we would like them to be fired this is very unlikely. Whether or not people inside the dressing room get on with Pietersen is completely immaterial. It is about success on the field, not harmony off it. His runs have contributed to many more wins than collective signing of Kumbaya at the close of play ever will.
Andrew Strauss has been in the 'Director, England Cricket' job for a matter of days. He has already overseen the sacking of Peter Moores being leaked to the press before the man himself has been told. Now the details of the meeting he was due to have on Monday night with Pietersen has been splashed all over the newspapers before it had taken place. After a year of public relation disasters Strauss begins his new era with two more.
This current fiasco stems from the early March this year when incoming ECB Chairman Colin Graves said that Pietersen would be considered if he was scoring runs in county cricket. While Graves made no promises he certainly left the door slightly ajar.
The Pietersen PR machine kicked into overdrive and after some negotiation he had cancelled the first half of his IPL contract and had resigned with Surrey. He had a reasonable if unspectacular start to the season until the match against Leicestershire. With the timing that is so typical of Pietersen he showed what he is capable of in a remarkable innings just as that door Graves had creaked open was being slammed shut on his return once again.
Strauss spoke with Sky Sports News and said it was about 'trust'. He said that was imperative in a team environment. Again, team environment isn't what the public care about. They care even less about whether the ECB trusts Pietersen.
Strauss went on to say that he wants to build a team that can win tournaments while saying Pietersen is brilliantly talented. When Strauss said that "no amount of runs will change that" position it makes you wonder what is the point of county cricket.
That Strauss went on to confirm that he had offered Pietersen consultancy work on the one day team is quite remarkable. The ECB trust him enough to use his expertise as a coach but not as a player. It is all such a mess and every time the board acts they make it worse.
Pietersen's 355 not out is the first triple century in county cricket for four years and while some will attempt to do down the achievement citing the standard of the opposition the fact the next highest score was 36 suggests it was far from easy. It was a master class of batting with the tail as he put on 100 stands with numbers 10 and 11 out scoring his partner ten to one.
That the decision to once again confirm his international isolation was made in the wake of this innings just further reiterates that English cricket is not a meritocracy. If there was no chance, which it is clear now there wasn't, why did Graves say there was?
It is just yet another example of an ECB cock-up which leads you to believe hopes of any change are futile to the point of making you burst into tears.
With a new Chairman, a new Director, a new CEO and a new coach on the way you may have hoped for some change. Instead we have a continuation of the same nonsense that has blighted England for the last 15 months. Be it a leak, a tip off or good journalism, the ECB have not had control over this story from the moment it became one.
This will most likely be the last professional innings that Pietersen plays in England. Cricket fans have been robbed of the one truly remarkable talent in the English game. Those involved in making that happen should hang their heads in shame.
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