In the English summer of 2012, in the midst of the England vs South Africa Test series, the hosts’ star batsman Kevin Pietersen sends some text messages to the players from the opposition camp, criticising his then captain Andrew Strauss and Director of Cricket Andy Flower.
Three years later, Strauss becomes Director of Cricket and tells desperate-for-a-comeback Pietersen that he won’t be part of the team to take on the Australians, his recent triple century for Surrey notwithstanding. If this happened in India or Pakistan, even Sri Lanka, the western world would have deemed it sweet revenge, the type which only teams from the sub-continent are famous for extracting. But since this involves England, certain pundits conveniently ignore the revenge factor and instead hail Strauss for taking English cricket forward.
While Pietersen may have realised that his 8181-run tally in Tests would stay the same as soon as Strauss was anointed Director of Cricket, he deserves some sympathy as well.
By telling him he won’t be needed in England’s quest to regain the Ashes, which were surrendered so meekly in Australia during the 2013-14 season, Strauss has disconnected the oxygen supply to Pietersen’s future Test life.
On one hand, the English moan about how Twenty20 cricket is breathing down the neck of the traditional form. On the other, they are killing an attraction, which Pietersen will be for the fans in this summer’s Ashes.
The public cannot be blamed for coming up with a view which goes like this, ‘we care a rat’s behind for your problems with Pietersen. We want England to give the Australians a hard time and we won’t be able to do it without KP.’
Though selections cannot be dictated by emotion, you can’t, and must not keep a good batsman down.