Cape Town – England may be one core batsman weaker on paper
for the decisive final Test against South Africa at Lord’s from Thursday, but
they might also be more united and cohesive as a team than at any prior stage
in the series.
And if you placed yourself in English shoes just for a
minute, which of those scenarios (given that it is well-nigh impossible, by my
book, to find some sort of wishy-washy middle ground on “KP-gate”) would you
Some observers from both nations appear bewildered by the
ditching of Kevin Pietersen from the home squad for Lord’s.
Don’t count me among them, please.
There is every reason to suspect that Pietersen, for all his
undoubtedly sublime qualities at the crease, has been guilty of at least some
glaring elements of mutinous, irregular and erratic behaviour in the last few
A subsequent, self-orchestrated YouTube chunk of relatively
humble pie at the weekend wasn’t going to make things hunky-dory again, just
Tellingly, that occasion also failed to deliver any – perfectly
understandably sought, yes? -- denial by Pietersen that he sent text messages
to Proteas players during the Leeds Test containing derogatory comments about
England’s captain and coach, respectively Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.
I first sensed that something was not quite right in the
camp of the No 1-ranked Test side (still tenuously the case ahead of the last
encounter) from quite early on in the long-awaited series combat.
There has just been an unusual lethargy - an undemonstrativeness,
if you like - to England’s general body language, as if some infection has
We now know that it almost certainly has, in the shape of
the single-minded Pietersen’s initially simmering, but now more fully boiling
spat with his employers over his choice of formats for availability for England.
I also fancied that the faeces was about to truly hit the
fan when Pietersen, at the post-match presentation after the drawn middle Test
at Headingley, pointedly praised the leadership of an old nemesis in Graeme
Smith, the opposition captain.
Those aware of the history between the two will also know
that not terribly long ago such an event would have been about as likely as the
head of the Glasgow Rangers Supporters’ Club saying what a jolly fine team Celtic
It’s simple and clear-cut, I believe: Pietersen went
considerably too far in rebelliousness and immediate, meaningful censure had to
follow, even if neutrals worldwide will hope that the impasse is eventually
resolved. (Like him or not, KP is too influential and mercurial a player to be
removed from the Test arena when it so badly still needs cricketers like him.)
“No player is ever bigger than the team,” England’s senior
strike bowler James Anderson -- who has no track record of special aversion to
Pietersen, as far as I am aware – succinctly pointed out in the wake of the
As a Pietermaritzburg-born player in the England set-up,
Pietersen should be particularly conscious of the fact that to a certain extent
he will always be treated as an outsider, so cosying up to very South Africans
they are doing battle with at present ranks among the more bizarre acts of
sporting behaviour, if that is indeed what has been happening.
It is undeniable, in pure personnel terms, that the
sidelining of the 32-year-old greatly weakens England’s batting line-up for
their must-win Test.
Yet persisting with him under current circumstances, I’d
suggest, would have been regarded as lily-livered and only kept the home side’s
collective harmony at the sort of less-than-optimum levels that may well have
contributed to their dicey situation of 1-0 down with one to play.
Here’s one more thing to chew on: yes, KP may have lit up
the Headingley stalemate with his shuddering innings of 149, but wasn’t he also
a part of the England team bludgeoned by an innings at The Oval?
Whilst it remains my firm belief that the impressive Proteas
will do enough to secure the series at Lord’s anyway, I also have a gut feeling
that England could produce their most passionate, animated performance of the
series thus far.
And if they do, a certain Kevin Peter Pietersen ought to be
quite worried about the prospect of adding significantly to his 88 caps for his
For he has been flirting too recklessly with the good nature
of his England team-mates running out.
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing