x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Fate of Kevin Pietersen baffling

Decision by the batsman to retire from Twenty20 internationals – apart from the one-dayers – was a result of English cricket's policy that one has to be available for both forms of the game. Audio

Kevin Pietersen scored a century in his final one-day international in Dubai in February. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
Kevin Pietersen scored a century in his final one-day international in Dubai in February. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

Ah, it seems like only yesterday when Kevin Pietersen breezed into our lives with a squashed ferret on his head, smashing all those runs against the country of his birth, then celebrating by all but devouring the three lions badge on his helmet.

He was colourful enough anyway, but all the more so because it was happening in the blue kit rather that whites. This man was so patently born for limited-overs cricket.

Yet, eight-and-a-half years on, the cricketer most suited to technicolour has condemned himself to a life in monochrome.

Today, England's most gifted entertainer managed to challenge two significant edicts of the game within the space of a couple of hours.

The timing of his retirement from one-day international cricket made it seem like he was sulking over the ICC's recommendation of altering the lbw rule to make the switch-hit – of which Pietersen is the exponent extraordinaire – more of a risk for batsmen.

It quickly turned out that he is, indeed, in a strop – but not with the game's rule makers. More like the policymakers at the England and Wales Cricket Board.

According to his testimony, they have clipped his T20 wings by ruling he cannot play on in that format unless he is available for 50-over internationals.

So out with the bath water goes the baby.

"For the record, were the selection criteria not in place, I would have readily played for England in the upcoming World Twenty20," said the man who was the player of the tournament when England won that trophy in 2010.

What a dreadful waste. In Dubai earlier this year, he made two centuries in what appears to have been his last two innings in the blue kit.

They were both made while opening the batting, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks.

But therein lies the point. Pietersen is only 31. He is not exactly an old dog, more middle-aged in batting terms.

He has plenty of runs left in him, so his impending absence seems ludicrous.

The ECB say players need to be available for both on account of the fact "the programming and planning for ODI and T20 format cricket are very closely linked".

That seems a bit of a stretch. They never had a problem with Andrew Strauss when he was one-day captain, yet nowhere near the T20 side.

The same goes for Alastair Cook now.

Yet who is to doubt the wisdom of the current bosses of England? Pietersen may be a star player, but this England side have already proved they are not beholden to stardust.

Shortly after Andrew Flintoff left the scene, they went to No 1 in the world rankings.

And they won the last home Ashes with Pietersen absent through injury.

In cricket, the adage of being a long-time retired does not always wash. In Pakistan, for example, it is just something to say to pass the time.

We could well see Pietersen again in pyjama cricket. But it is unlikely to be on this England management regime's watch.


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