It will be a brave new world that England step into on June 12 when they take on Sri Lanka in the first Test at Lord’s.
Life in the Test arena without Kevin Pietersen begins in earnest there, and it will be a nervy period, not only for England’s young batsmen, but also for Paul Downton, the newly appointed managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
If the likes of Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and whoever else is called up hit the ground running and score runs by the bucket load, then memories of Pietersen will slowly recede.
It is a results-based industry, as with any sport, and if England bat well the controversial decision to end Pietersen’s international career on Tuesday will be seen as justified.
But Sri Lanka will be no pushovers. Their seam attack of Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal bowled beautifully in the UAE against Pakistan last month and should prove a handful in English conditions.
If England are bowled out cheaply at Lord’s in the first innings it will not be too hard to predict who the English media and fans will blame for the team’s struggles while the most talented player eligible to play in their colours is not considered.
It is a brave call, and only time will tell if it was the right one or a calamitous decision that will further expose the limitations of a struggling English batting order in all forms of the game. It is widely reported Pietersen has been dropped because of problems in the dressing room, scenes the media and public are not privy too.
In Downton’s statement regarding Pietersen, he spoke of rebuilding “not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy”.
It was clearly not to do with the 33-year-old right-handed batsman’s form. He would be the first to acknowledge that, by his own high standards, he did not have a good Ashes series in Australia (who did?) but he still top-scored for England with 294 runs.
Some of his shot selection was poor, and his inability to avoid falling into traps set by Michael Clarke made for frustrating viewing; it has always been the Pietersen way to take the risk, play the big shot, and to hell with the consequences.
And that approach was fine in a winning team, but in a team devoid of confidence and with the rest of the batsmen in horrible form, watching your best batsman get caught on the boundary – with a man positioned there especially for that shot, as he did in both Perth and Melbourne – was pretty galling.
The issue is that by not making public what it is that has suddenly made Pietersen persona non grata, the ECB has essentially made him a scapegoat for the Ashes debacle.
Relations between former team director Andy Flower and Pietersen had never fully recovered from the summer of 2012 and the derogatory text messages sent to South African players about the then England captain Andrew Strauss, something that Pietersen apologised for.
Flower’s departure last week from the role had seemed to open up the possibility for Pietersen to stay in the team, but that door now looks firmly shut.
Alastair Cook, the England captain, was instrumental back in 2012 in leading Pietersen’s reintegration into the side, but some 18 months on he seems to have gone along with the view the South African-born player no longer fits in England’s ethos.
If Downton’s words are to be believed, Pietersen has been sacrificed as much for team spirit as anything else.
Only those in the dressing room know what the problem really is, but it is hard to think of many teams who have cut ties with a player because he was not popular within the ranks.
A lot of sportsmen are abrasive, confident individuals. It is who they are and a major factor in how they get to the top of their profession. But character defects can normally be brushed aside for talent.
Take Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez, as an example.
The Uruguayan has been involved in his fair share of controversies – banned for more than 20 games through various suspensions, and threatened to hand in a transfer request last summer – yet his sensational form this season has propelled the club towards qualification for the Uefa Champions League for the first time since 2010. All past misdemeanours have been forgiven, those threats to walk away last summer are all but forgotten in a flurry of goal celebrations.
Stories of Pietersen not being a natural fit in the England establishment have been rife for years, but when he was racking up the runs that did not seem to be a major problem. But Pietersen struggled against Australia in the last two Ashes series, scoring just one hundred in 10 Tests, home and away.
That is still better than a lot of the other English batsmen mustered, but whether this is fair or not, Pietersen is judged by different standards. Players such as Jonny Bairstow, Michael Carberry and Root can fail, or play a poor shot, but Pietersen does the same, the groans go up a notch.
That is the price of greatness and being put on a pedestal. Great expectations lead to great disappointment if they are not met.
If Pietersen had struck 500-600 runs in Australia it would have done two things: one, England would have almost certainly not been whitewashed 5-0. They would have still lost, but they would have been more competitive for sure.
Secondly, no matter how much of a problem he is in the dressing room, dropping him would have been almost impossible for the ECB to justify.
The decision has been made, however, and it will be fascinating to see who will bat for England this summer in the Test series against Sri Lanka and India.
On the face of it only three players’ names are etched in to be there, barring injuries. Cook had an awful tour in Australia with the bat, but the captaincy protects his spot as an opener. Ian Bell will likely bat at No 4, and Ben Stokes will take the all-rounder spot at No 6. Ballance and Root – poor county form withstanding – will likely be persevered with, but who opens with Cook is still up for debate, as well as who bats where in the middle order.
These are all problems that need to be addressed in England’s immediate future, unlike the Pietersen one, which is now consigned to the past.
At least until the summer’s inevitable first batting collapse that is.