Too soon to do a real valedictory. I’m not feeling overly wonderful, so this will have to do.
Let’s start with the tone deaf.
You have to admire their front. After the Difficult Winter, the pretty much sanctioned demolition of the bloke’s character, ambitions, performance and attitude, both via whisper and outright leaking to journalists who made it their point to revel in it, they thank him now? That what he said about the coming presence of white ball, and especially T20 league cricket, has now been sanctioned by the same organisation? That we were denied a couple of extra years of potential genius because he had the brass neck not to conform to the Flower doctrine and making his points known. That Cook was backed unequivocally during years of performance dip, yet the slight trending down of KP was treated as if he was ready for the OAP home. That they allowed Downton to make that craven decision, and then put it in the hands of someone who called him a “c**t” live on air. And only now, when the corpse is in the coffin, so to speak, you say thanks.
I hope KP is considerably more charitable than I am.
That England Cricket showed their face today, so to speak, and followed it up with a clip of his 2005 hundred, to say thanks is symptomatic. The England cricket team is just not grabbing the attention of any of us at the moment. A man who grabbed attention, who polarised opinion, but who played sensational innings was dealt with by the head office with all the aplomb of me on a skiing holiday. While England prepare for a series in New Zealand, with a team with luminaries like James Vince impersonating a test player, we thought we could kick out our exciting player with a 45+ average. What a time to be alive.
Pietersen was obviously massive fuel for my fire, both here and on How Did We Lose In Adelaide. We’ve been over the ins and outs of the 2013-14 aftermath to death. But fundamentally that incident shifted my cricketing axis. From unconditional support for the team, with a healthy indifference to cricket administration, from watching the cricket egging on our players, I suddenly felt horribly conflicted. I couldn’t get excited about England cricket putting some ethical dribble over actual performance. I couldn’t get over how the media fell in line, parroting the ECB line, and in many cases glorying in it. I couldn’t get over how KP was made to keep quiet while his contract ran off, but the ECB could leak like a sieve. And most importantly, and this matters so much more now, the penny dropped – the ECB did not, do not, and will not, give one single shit what you and I think. When it came to a massive decision, put in the hands of an utter imbecile in Downton, and the furore followed, you were told. “Shut Up”. “Nothing to do with you”. “Outside Cricket”. A profound effect not just on me, but on a lot of us who piped up when we were being told to pipe down. Where we impertinent to question the great and the good. Now, with the ECB showing its sheer disdain for its own members, do you have anything to say? Do you not realise the points we were trying to make? That the oft quote that KP was the symptom not the illness was and is correct? Don’t rage about their high-handedness now when you were tickety-boo with it in 2014 and 2015.
Sure, some of the critics I had, still have, think I am obsessed with Pietersen. Yes, I liked him as a player. Yes he has human flaws. Yes he can be arrogant. But four years on do you really know what went on in that dressing room on that tour to say why he needed to go? You’ve never been given it straight, because we might have to focus on what others did to precipitate it? Flower can still preside over a disastrous A tour but nothing ever really gets said, outside of Dobell who says Flower might admit he went too far, by the press. No, his is a dignified silence, while KP’s silence during the 2014 summer was punctuated by persistent snide digs at a so-called propaganda machine. Yet you, some of you, had a pop at me for the temerity I had in asking why. Because you were so blinded by your hatred for him that reason or the need to know went out of the window. And, deep down, you’d rather England lose without him, than win with him.
That KP’s final game was for Quetta Gladiators in Sharjah, dismissed for 11 by a bloke who has been accused of chucking again, shows the pitiful nature of the sport today. England’s test team slides into irrelevance, a 4-0 Ashes defeat is shrugged off like a minor case of the sniffles, and one of our greatest ever batsmen is finishing out a career in a garish purple outfit in an Emirate outpost. There will be tributes, many of them out of the side of the mouths of the media, but the one thing I will always be thankful for is that I saw him in the flesh, I saw three excellent test hundreds, I saw him in two 300 run partnerships (belying the not a team player bollocks) and I got to watch a lot more of him on TV. And without him, we would have lost the 2005 Ashes.
I don’t do greatest evers, I leave that to clickbaiters. But I’ll be all over the media’s response to this. The fact is that many of us lost a bit of our love for England cricket in the wake of his dismissal. These are passionate cricket fans the sport in this country needs to keep not alienate. His retirement today is a reminder of why. Arguably one of the most important players in English cricket history packs it in, and the repercussions will remain.
Have a great retirement, and thanks for the memories. To the critics. Thanks. You did us proud. I hope you are proud.