Divisive Pietersen needs to focus on cricket, not politics



You would be forgiven for thinking the attention should be on Alastair Cook on his first tour as Test skipper; or the bowling injury crisis; or even on who will be the next England opening batsman. But no: the eyes of the world are on a prima donna who has behaved like a spoilt child all summer long.

No-one can doubt that Kevin Pietersen is the best batsman the England side have been blessed with this century. His 149 in his last Test match against South Africa was a work of genius and probably one of his best innings in an England shirt to date. But as is often the case, his genius comes at a very high price.

We all knew the ECB were going to buckle to Pietersen's pressure, it was a matter of when rather than if. The inevitable came on 3rd October when, amongst a host of flashing bulbs, he was welcomed back into the fold with the same pomp and ceremony usually reserved for an incoming captain.

The quandary the ECB found themselves in is that the 32-year-old is the best we have – they know it and, more importantly, he knows it himself. Had Andrew Strauss still been at the helm things perhaps would have been different but with his timely departure it was all too easy for the ECB to roll out the red carpet for their prodigal son.

It is a well-known fact that Pietersen is not one of the most popular members of the England side, with his strange press conference outburst in August testament to this. Graeme Swann, one of the few England players who will give an interview worth hearing, was quick to point out that England’s limited overs sides thrived with Pietersen’s exclusion.

Pietersen’s simmering disgruntlement can be dated back beyond the events of this summer to 2008 and his brief tenure as England captain. The star batsman was keen to oust head coach Peter Moores but he gained little support from his team mates, sulked and then resigned from the post. The reason for this lack of backing has become painfully clear since; few of the England players believed that Pietersen was the man to lead the side. Jimmy Anderson even admitted as much in his recent book.

Pietersen was gone and the next day Strauss was duly thrust into the breach – treatment that would likely irk even the most placid of characters. Strauss then went on to win back-to-back Ashes series and take England to the summit of Test cricket, while Pietersen was  left to contemplate his “unfinished business” as England skipper.

Whether you love, like or even loathe Pietersen, the fact is an England side with him in it is infinitely better than one without. If they are to be successful on the toughest tour in the Test schedule then England will need him to produce the sort of match winning innings only he is capable of. We just have to hope he can concentrate on the cricket, not the politics.