The Pietersen fiasco

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Feb 9 2014, 07:18am hrs
On Wednesday night, an interview request sent by this correspondent to the England and Wales Boards (ECBs) new managing director Paul Downton was politely turned down by the ECB communications department executive Colin Gibson under the pretext that Paul isnt making any public interviews at present. The cricket world, however, wants Downton to speak up and give us the reasons.

Kevin Pietersen is not just an England cricketer, hes once-in-a-generation player and a world citizen. The game will be poorer without him. So the fans have a right to know exactly what happened.

It would be too simplistic to say the whole Pietersen fiasco is the result of a leadership failure. It would be foolish to suggest that Alastair Cook and Andy Flower, and the whole England set-up for that matter, are unaware of Pietersens value as a cricketer. But, still, they believe England would be better off without him, as rebuilding becomes the order of the day following the Ashes humiliation. There must be something seriously wrong somewhere.

Far too many comments have been made by onlookers and bystanders. But only the team insiders know exactly what happened and why a player of Pietersens class, who was reintegrated into the team just 17 months ago, became a divisive force in the dressing room again.

Former England fast bowler and Guardian columnist Mike Selvey makes a fair point when he says, Maybe the reasons are extremely strong for Pietersens ouster. Another ex-England seamer, Derek Pringle, lauded the ECB for taking a bold decision. But former England captain Michael Vaughan lambasted the cricket authorities for trying to produce clones and not allowing the deserved leeway for mavericks. Alec Stuart and even Sir Ian Botham supported him. The opinions are, clearly, very divided.

And now, theres a hint of back-stabbing and subterfuge after celebrity broadcaster Piers Morgan dragged England vice-captain Matt Prior into the controversy with his series of tweets. Flowers behaving like a headmaster, this is a schoolboy environment. F**K Flower! This is OUR team! @MattPrior13 to England team, tweeted Morgan. He went on: You stabbed @KP24 in the back @MattPrior13 yet you agreed with him re Flowers dictator style. Makes you a flaming hypocrite.

Morgan was referring to an England team meeting that took place during the Melbourne Test. Pietersen reportedly tore into Flower in that meeting and Prior also agreed with him on some points. Later, the keeper-batsman clarified the meeting never intended to challenge the coachs authority.

As far as Morgans tweets are concerned, Prior came up with a detailed response. I dont do this PR, spinning media rubbish but I refused to be attacked by a bloke that knows very little about what goes on in England setup apart from rumour, gossip and hearsay from certain individuals (most of whom Id take with a pinch of salt!!) maybe I was recorded or hacked but if not Id like to see where these words I apparently said have come from Prior posted on Twitter. He added: Im not the kind of person to divulge what is said in team meetings but all I will say is that Flower, Cook and the rest of my team mates know exactly what I said & the way in which it was meant!

Interestingly, there was no denial. And now, Graeme Swann, the off-spinner who retired mid-tour, has come out in Pietersens support. Ill be honest about Kevin Pietersen myself and several other England players were not exactly members of his fan club during the Textgate scandal of 2012. But I changed my opinion of him once he was reintegrated back into the England team towards the end of that year. He made a huge effort to improve his attitude around the dressing room. I saw or heard no issues with him in Australia this winter, his approach was exceptional. Thats why I was baffled on Tuesday when he was effectively sacked as an England player, Swann wrote in his column in The Sun.

England selector James Whitaker had an opportunity to clear the air when he faced Jonathan Agnew on BBC Radio5 Live. But he backtracked, saying hes not at liberty. Whitaker was part of the group, which also included Downton, Flower and Cook, that decided Pietersens fate. He knows everything, but ostensibly lacked courage to reveal the truth. The powers-that-be in England cricket are allowing things to get murkier.

Make no mistake, Pietersen is no saint. He has had a dubious history as a troublemaker. It happened at Natal, Hampshire and Nottinghamshire, and also with Peter Moores and Andrew Strauss in the England team.

Maybe Flower, on his way out as team director, wanted to ensure that England cricket never suffers for Pietersen again. The batsmans reported anti-coach rant in Australia could be the last straw.

But theres still too much room for conjecture. The reality is that one of Englands greatest-ever batsmen8,181 Test runs at 47.28 and 4,440 ODI runs at 40.73has been left out without explanation. England could have easily started the rebuilding process around their best batsman. They looked pretty flat and short on inspiration during their 12-1 (five Tests, four ODIs and three T20 internationals) hammering Down Under. From a neutral point of view, Pietersen and Vaughan could have been the ideal new captain-coach combination to help the team rise from the ashes and provide aggression. Pietersen will now bag a very lucrative IPL contract, but its a shame that he wont be playing international cricket again. The ECB must tell us where he has transgressed.