I’ve just finished KP on Cricket, and watched Being Kevin Pietersen (should I sue?) as England’s most polarising cricketer undertakes his next steps in visual and print media. The programme and the book, taken in isolation, are the usual media image portrayals which leave you annoyed at their lack of bite. Of course, though, neither of these are in isolation. Pietersen is not about to rehabilitate himself with anyone, and judging by these two pieces of work, isn’t trying that hard with those who he has no time for, and who have no time for him.
Let’s take the book first. Unlike the visceral KP – the Autobiography, this book took days to finish reading. I really hate bad errors in books, and there is one on Page 2 – Francois Pienaar is named as Francois Pineda, and that gets you started thinking this is a lazy book. It actually isn’t, but I tell you what else it isn’t…. It isn’t what John Crace said, and what the Private Eye review said. Pietersen was exhorted, last year, to include more about the cricket than the arguments. Oh, if there wasn’t one press person expending crocodile tears saying “what saddened me was Kevin not talking about those great innings” there were dozens. So Pietersen does, and the press people by and large ignore it (other than to slag it off as an extension of his out of control ego).
I said in a comment to BigKev that it is a rather dull book, but I don’t mean that as being a book you should not read. When you’ve written a book like the autobiography there is nothing to compare to it. I’ve said about that book on a number of occasions, we mock the sportsman’s autobiography (while they are playing) for being dull and boring (I’m re-reading some of Alastair Cook’s initial autobiography at the momen), but when someone tells it as he sees it, people are shocked. Appalled.
In some places this book is all over the shop, and then in others it brings some interesting insight. I thought it quite re-affirming that the innings of his that I thought was the best (his 151 in Sri Lanka) was the one he did too. The one the English public refer to a lot, his 149 at Headingley, isn’t in the top five. He puts Glen McGrath in his World XI yet whenever he’s interviewed on him (most memorably in the Radio Five Live one with Andrew Flintoff in 2013) KP says McGrath never caused him many issues.
It’s not a book to build bridges. While he is praiseworthy of Swann the bowler, of Prior’s attitude to batting etc. he’s not giving Flower any praise, he’s not giving Moores any praise, and there’s no hint on contrition for the previous words. People will say his inclusion of Jimmy Anderson in his world XI, and his constant references to him as a genius, are just ingratiating. He’s generally nice about Cook, but not his captaincy, not even during this last summer. He clearly believes Cook is not a “flat wicket captain”.
There’s calls for franchise cricket in England, a somewhat silly request for 5 tests at home and 5 tests away each year (and then saying England, India and Australia play each other too much), and throughout there is constant reference to practice, practice, practice. I know of no-one who complains about Pietersen’s work ethic. The impression you get from the media is of a dilettante. A shirker. A natural talent. Pietersne isn’t a natural. He’s worked hard at his batting. He can over-think. He can go off the boil.
You know I’m a fan, and I make no apology for it. Pietersen writes the book the media “wanted” him to (did they hell, Pietersen’s thoughts sell papers, ads) and it sells much less well, gets much less attention and what it does get, is pretty negative. That’s why David Hopps’s excellent review in ESPN Cricinfo is so welcome. Especially this quote:
For those who previously condemned Pietersen’s autobiography as overly confrontational to now dismiss Kevin Pietersen on Cricket as merely an attempt to address his reputation as an outcast star player, just a cynical display of even-handedness and affection towards former colleagues, is an exercise in double standards, a refusal by his critics to accept he has any saving graces whatever he does. Damn him if he does, damn him if he doesn’t.
The book is worth reading, but if I’m being honest, I’d wait until you can get a cheaper copy. KP’s got enough money, and it isn’t a “must read now” like last year’s book.
Which takes me on to the television programme. Being Kevin Pietersen has been dismissed by the likes of Barney Ronay as a hagiography (the first three paragraphs of which needed an editor to tell him to stop being so effing pretentious), or by Mark Webster as not challenging. While no-one is going to confuse this with a hard hitting expose of Pietersen, it remains utterly remarkable to me that some of the things he mentions in the programme, which he’s been mentioning for 18 months, remain totally unanswered by his critics. Bullying? Swann makes one claim, Cook says he doesn’t recognise what he says, but noticably none of them call him a liar. Textgate against Twitter Parody account – the ECB look stupid. KP doesn’t mention the leaking culture, which like it or not, he was evidently a victim of (e.g James Taylor incident) in the TV programme, but again, in the book, it remains unanswered. What charges is he supposed to answer? The one’s about him giving “tactical advice on how to get Strauss out” which now none of the protagonists said happened and which Jessica Taylor brilliantly summed up as being “such bollocks”?
In the programme he is celebrated by no-one from the current era. And his critics will jump on that. All those that say good things about him are his older colleagues. Piers Morgan turns up as the least wanted character reference since Kenny Senior turned up to defend Brian Potter after the fire at the Phoenix Club. It painted KP in a good light with his team-mates, which is really horrible because, as we all know, he ruins every dressing room he’s been in.
It was worth a watch, won’t change many minds, and that’s the sad fact. We’ve wasted his last two years, not him. The fact is we’ve all been filling in the blanks. This will lead into the media stuff that we’re planning. How those blanks are filled, how the ECB were massively let off the hook, and how we cannot tolerate the something extra, different that he brings.
However, it’s a comment like this, by Webster, that needs challenging:
it is ultimately too much like a documentary that is quite happy to simply be about an exceptional England international cricketer who believes he has has been unjustly slighted. And doesn’t mind telling us
That is because, Mark, we’ve never been told. He says he’s never been told why. The comment put to him about not being a player we could build around, was answered. It then became about “trust” instead, though what he could or could not be trusted is another example of fill in the blanks. You can’t challenge KP’s side when the accusors have never provided the slam dunk evidence. I think berating a bloke for putting his side of the story, when the opposite side tried to leak their’s through the dodgy dossier which was ridiculous, is slightly unfair. But hey, I’m a fanboy. It’s now about the book, apparantly. Well, I’ll let SimonH say what he thinks of that, as he so eloquently did on Guardian BTL.
And those things remain. And so will KP in my memory. He played too many, and I saw a few, great innings for the small-minded haters to taint. Just will not happen.