CRICKET

Kevin Pietersen retires: brilliant maverick, we were lucky to have you

Mavericks are rarely understood, have no interest in conforming, can be divisive and always set tongues wagging. Kevin Pietersen ticked all these boxes.

The career of England’s greatest modern-day batsman has come to an end and yet there’s a sour taste when I contemplate his career. 8,000 test runs, 23 test hundreds, four Ashes wins and was Man of the Tournament when England won the T20 World Cup.

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Pietersen was enigmatic, brash, confrontational and utterly brilliant. The only problem being that English cricket wasn’t ready for him, he was different, he dyed his hair,  he wasn’t polished, he talked differently, he wasn’t going to fit in Andrew Strauss’ gang.

He exploded into the limelight during the 2005 Ashes series. Smashing the Aussies throughout the summer, finally we had someone to fight back. For years, the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath had bullied us, humiliated us. Not on Kevin’s watch, he took them on at their own game and led the charge, the likes of Vaughan and Flintoff followed him. A star was born that summer.

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He became the most innovative batsman in the world, his ‘switch-hitting’ revolutionised cricket. Today’s stars, Jos Buttler, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell have all followed on from Pietersen, he was years ahead of his time.

He was appointed England captain and the role of a lifetime quickly became a nightmare. He clashed with head coach Peter Moores in what became the first example of Pietersen’s struggle with the powers that be.

Moores and Pietersen were different characters, Pietersen didn’t agree with Moores’ techniques and training methods, believing he was too demanding. He demonstrated his one track mind by resigning as he felt that he couldn’t continue under the coach. Moores was also removed from his position and the ECB was embarrassed. Instead of Pietersen’s views being respected and influential, he was treated like a naughty child causing trouble. The ECB’s top men weren’t impressed with Pietersen’s outspoken nature, and privately had fancied Andrew Strauss as their new captain. This debacle would be crucial later on in the ECB’s treatment of their best player.

A period of great success followed with Ashes wins and the T20 world cup arriving under the combination of Strauss and Andy Flower, however, all was not well with Pietersen. He found Flower ‘sour’ and ‘horrendous’ to work with. Tension was bubbling in the dressing room, Pietersen felt aggrieved when his warnings about Jonathan Trott’s mental state were ignored. The ECB, again, did not listen to the naughty child. Trott left the 2013 Ashes with mental health issues, Pietersen was ignored when he should have been listened to, he could have helped Trott.

The England team, behind his back, had created a parody Twitter account mocking Pietersen. When the former Hampshire batsman found out, he was reduced to tears. He was being bullied by the team and it went unpunished due to the ECB’s dislike of the victim. Had it been the other way around, I fear he would have been severely reprimanded.

Pietersen was caught texting South African players during the Proteas tour of England in 2012, the texts contained derogatory comments about Strauss. He was immediately dropped from the squad and missed the rest of the series. He was reintegrated into the squad but from then on it was Pietersen vs the ECB and their golden child Strauss.

Pietersen, was England’s best player, and was completely wasted for his best years. At the peak of his powers, he spent it in and out of squads, arguing with the people in charge and being isolated by the squad.

The ECB’s inability to incorporate their greatest talent paints a huge stain on the career of our best player. Pietersen had a voice, he was ahead of the time, he was brash. The ECB big wigs weren’t ready for him and thus made an absolute mess of managing his ego.

A great player retires from the sport he gave so much to. Although we will remember him as one of our greats, his name will be forever linked with ECB incompetence and the pack mentality of Strauss’ rule.

Thank you Kevin for the memories but our system failed your brilliance.

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