Dunno about you, but I’m loving this. The fact that England will go into Lord’s, #1 ranking at stake and all, without the only bloke who’ll give them a remote chance of retaining it. The ethicalities of it aside, it provides a great back story to it all, much like the going ons of the Sydney test in early ’08. Or the Oval fiasco in the summer of ’06.
In many ways, this is typical England. Their life goal focuses on beating Australia and winning the Ashes, and everything else comes later. This side has been no different – suffering a drastic loss in intensity since their feat at the SCG in early 2011. Yes, I know they thrashed India 4-zip somewhere down that line, but let’s face it – India lost that series. England didn’t win it. If this was in any doubt, it was doubly proven half a year later when India suffered the same fate down under. Both those series told us more about India than it did about England or Australia. All the latter two had to do was just turn up, and the Indians would implode.
Aside from that singular anomaly, have a general look at England’s results since 2011 – they were beaten 6-1 by Australia in the post-Ashes one-day series; were beaten by Bangladesh and Ireland in the World Cup which resulted in a quarter-final exit, lost to Pakistan 3-nil in the UAE and then managed to lose a test to Sri Lanka, of all nations. To top it all off a West Indian #11 notched up a near century during their tour this summer. This sounds like no #1 side, and I’ve been saying it all along. I haven’t even started on the humiliation at the Oval two weeks ago.
Then again, there is a positive spin to these sorts of things as always. For instance, they did manage to win a grand total of one test during this period – which came about in Colombo. Thanks to who? Yeap, KP. A trailblazing 151 in that game which shifted the momentum in the flick of a switch. Tell me, who else could have come up with such a one-day style innings against the Lankans’ relentless spinners? Bell? Strauss? Samit Patel? I can easily put it past each of them.
Fact of the matter is. England need Pietersen. And it ain’t the other way around. They need his services for this Lord’s test, for the World T20, and of course, for the India tour coming up in November. Chucking him off the team now does little good to anybody, not the least for the reputation of this marquee series between the supposed #1 and #2 sides in the world – this episode has been overshadowing it to a ridiculous extent, and it’s plain to see.
What miffs us about it all though is the step-fatherly treatment administered to KP by the ECB. You get the impression that they are a tad harsh on players who aren’t English, if you like, and go lightly on the rest. Take James Anderson’s column in The Daily Mail a few days ago. In a thinly veiled impersonal tone, Jimmy has layed into KP and basically suggested that the side can manufacture a best XI with or without him in the side. Or Graeme Swann slagging off his captaincy in that autobiography of his he put out last autumn. Nothing became of Anderson and Swann, but recall KP’s tepid 140-character “tirade” against Sky pundit Nick Knight. He was fined £3,000. Where’s the justice?
Now he’s been dropped for allegedly sending some text messages to AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, the contents of which are unknown. How do his actions compare to that of his teammates? Of course, we cricket fans are the biggest losers in all of this – for who do we get to see facing up to Steyn and Philander at Lord’s? Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor. Go figure.
And to flip the tables around, I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened to KP had he opened a similar parody account on say, Stuart Broad. Fancy a 3-game ban at the very least? After all, the ECB and England hate his kind don’t they?