The England and Wales Cricket Board have succeeded in ceding the moral high ground to Piers Morgan after discarding their former star batsman, Kevin Pietersen, following the shambolic Ashes debacle in Australia. The universally maligned television ‘personality’ has publicly condemned the decision, but so have many former England internationals with cricketing nous to put the comparatively green ECB suits to shame.
Pietersen’s history as a difficult, singular individual is infamous. He parted ways acrimoniously with his previous two counties, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire; the former’s then captain, Jason Gallian, apparently threw Pietersen’s kit off the balcony in frustration. Most famously, Pietersen was banished from the England team for sending derogatory texts about Andrew Strauss to the South African dressing room during the home Test series in 2012.
However, on his accession to the Test leadership, Cook faced a notoriously tough trip to India, and Pietersen was ‘re-integrated’ into the side. He produced a series-defining 186 at Mumbai, inspiring his side to an historic series victory. In fact, he has arguably defined England’s three most memorable Test series victories of recent times with timely hundreds, from the 3-1 Ashes triumph in 2010/11 to last summer’s 3-0 victory. Even if he were not England’s all-time leading run-scorer, Pietersen’s match-changing abilities make him a unique asset.
The ECB highlighted his irresponsible dismissals in the latest Ashes series to make him the scapegoat for the team’s horrific malaise, ignoring that this unpredictability is what has made him such precious talent. Muttering about a necessity for the side to ‘pull in the same direction’ is the type of meaningless, mechanical, self-important drivel which led to their spectacular downfall. It plays on the perception of Pietersen as rebellious, when in reality he has outwardly done little wrong since his ‘reintegration’. He dared to step out of line, and England showed themselves to be the true masters of pomposity in clamping down on him. With humanoid Ashley Giles the most likely coach to join the equally vanilla Alastair Cook on the frontline, a fresh, aggressive approach looks less likely than ever.