I have always believed that you should pick your best players and then manage them, whatever their shortcomings. Genius is very often flawed. But I am afraid that Kevin Pietersen has run out of chances and the ECB are absolutely right to drop him now.
It gives me no pleasure to say that because Pietersen is a special player and England will be weaker for his absence at Lord’s on Thursday. South Africa will certainly be chuffed to bits about this because, however good James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow might become, I’m sure Dale Steyn and company will prefer bowling to them this week than KP.
But enough is enough. Over the last week, Kevin has acted like a child who does not know what he wants and, as any teacher will tell you, you only need one unruly kid in the class and the whole structure of the classroom can come crashing down.
I have never been a big fan of the concept of team spirit. That usually comes with winning matches. But unity and trust are different issues and whenever I went on to the field I needed the trust of those around me. There were players I didn’t like and who didn’t like me, but we all had to trust each other out on that field to act as a team.
I know for a fact there are players within this England side who cannot stand Kevin Pietersen, but that antipathy has not stopped them becoming the best Test team in the world. The question now is whether or not it has reached the point where it is genuinely having an adverse affect on the team.
It is so unfair of Kevin to say that he has never been backed by England, nor supported by them. There have been a lot of issues with him in the past, but they have been resolved without him being left out, and Flower has done his utmost to cater for him and look after him where possible.
We have all sent texts where we have perhaps bickered about someone or criticised them. I’ve no doubt that some of my England team might have moaned about me to the other players when I left them out or when I decided to bowl first at Brisbane.
Yet there is a big difference between that and undermining the team by sending derogatory texts about your teammates to opposition players. If Pietersen has done that then he has crossed the line. Flower and Andrew Strauss do not deserve that after all they have done for England and Pietersen the individual.
There is only so much mental energy that Flower can have, and if he is expounding far too much of it on Pietersen, then that cannot be healthy for him or England. For instance, was the decision to leave Graeme Swann out at Headingley the result of scrambled brains because of so much attention on one man within the team?
The selectors should have had a two-hour meeting on Friday to pick the team for the final Test and the one-day and Twenty20 squads to face South Africa later this month. But that turned into a three-day session, essentially because of one man. England have to plan for a must-win Test, but so far it has all been about Kevin.
Pietersen has made a lot of mistakes in the last week or so, from the content of his press conference after the second Test to his decision to put a video on YouTube on Saturday night without the blessing of the ECB. Why didn’t he do a proper press conference with England if he wanted to withdraw his one-day retirement? And I didn’t hear him say sorry once in the video he put out. He always flexes his muscles when he is at his absolute best on the field but that was a time when a bit of humility might not have gone amiss.
It just seems that everywhere he goes he wants to move on to somewhere else that will eventually prove to be more lucrative. I am sure the bottom line in all this is his desire to play a full Indian Premier League campaign, but he seems to have forgotten that it is with England that he has achieved his fame and earned his fortune. England have made him, not let him down.
Is there a way back for him with England now? I hope so. I really do. But for that to happen, Kevin has to have a good, long look at himself, clear his mind and decide exactly what he wants from life and what will really make him happy. If that is a career playing lucrative Twenty20 cricket as a freelance player then fine, but at least be honest and don’t keep on sending out mixed messages.
Again, we do not want to have a team full of goody two-shoes players or yes-men. In my England side, Andy Caddick sometimes said silly things or rubbed his team-mates up the wrong way but we embraced him and concentrated on what he was good at, rather than focusing on his weaknesses. And Caddy could be an exceptional bowler for England. Pietersen is world-class, so I hope this is not the end for him in an England shirt.
But Andy Flower took on Robert Mugabe, so he can deal with Kevin Pietersen very comfortably, if the point comes when it all gets to be too much. Andy is also a winner, and he will want his best players in the team. Pietersen is without doubt one of England’s best players. It is up to him now to show that he truly does still want to be part of Team England. And once back, stay there. – Daily Mail