Great sportsmen are those that can be classed as genius’ in their field of play, leaving an indelible mark of greatness wherever they tread. In cricket we have been blessed with the likes of Tendulkar, Akram, Lara, Ponting, Warne and Murali, too name just a few. Stand outs who raised themselves and at times their teams to new levels of achievements. The last half a decade has seen the rise of a new generation of gifted individuals, the Cooks and the Amlas, the Steyns and the Guls, the Kohlis and the Morgans, have all shown themselves to be more then capable of reaching the highest summit, how many of them will is another story.
Some names, such as Cook, Amla and Steyn are well on their way but there is another, the man who saunters to the crease, not quite with the pride and malevolence of the great Sir Vivian, yet he has the same effect – Kevin Pietersen. He is a great batsman, of that there is no doubt, but he goes by other labels too, arrogant, mercenary and more recently liability. There have been very few sportsmen who have played at a level above their opponents and at the same time been blessed with humbleness. For every Tendulkar there’s a few Warnes, so the man nicknamed KP is not alone when being labelled arrogant.
The mercenary tag is harder to dismiss. Born and raised in South Africa, KP came to England to break into the test arena, displeased by his natural homes selection policies. KP was a prodigious talent from the start and when he finally qualified to play for England, he became a star but in South Africa the terms traitor and mercenary were thrown around. KP however stood solid and spoke about how much he “loved to play for England”. Yet, in the years to come, controversy followed KP wherever he went, most of all the tumultuous tenure as captain. Forgiveness however, from the board and the fans was easy to come by. “His our best batsman and you have to forgive him his mistake” came the cries and in all honesty they were true.
There was a time when England were not kings of the world and struggled, banking all their hopes on an injury prone Flintoff and the South African some Englishman Kevin Pietersen. That is no longer the case, with Strauss and Flower crafting a team with exceptional batsmen and a bowling line up perfectly suited for English conditions. KP is still the best batsman in the line up but he is no longer invaluable or irreplaceable, so the forgiveness is no longer as forthcoming and the excuses just don’t wash.
Pietersen’s latest saga featured a withdrawal from the limited overs form of the game, twitter, cyber bullying, an undercover fan or player and texts to the opposition. All of this while England are trailing 1-0 to a South African team which has been one step ahead. Pietersen has shown a penchant for IPL, buoyed by the money and exposure it brings. He wanted to be left out of the squad for lesser series’ but when you are playing sports at a high level and representing your country, is there really any such thing as a lesser series? In his defense, Pietersen released a video saying he was fully prepared to play for England but was it too little, too late?
The ECB it seems, thought that way, having dropped Pietersen for the final test. They say it is due to reports that the controversial batsman sent derogatory texts regarding Strauss and Flower to the South African players. The report is still unverified and to this writer in particular seems a bit of a flimsy reason to drop someone, unless there was solid evidence. This seems a case of the ECB reaching their final straw and knowing that there are others willing to fill KPs boots. They may not be as talented or as skilled, they may not dominate opposition bowlers the same way but they are ready and determined. It seems the star is not the only one who can make ultimatums. Kevin Pietersen, arrogant, mercenary, talented, great and now, liability.