Thursday, July 19, 2012

KP - Bigger Than The Team?

That seems to be the accusation being thrown in the direction of Kevin Pietersen after his retirement from OD and Twenty20 internationals and then his 'flirtation' with returning to the fold.

From England's point of view it is essential that they stand firm. The difference between the success this current side is enjoying versus the relative success under Michael Vaughan (no messrs Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist et all also helps) is that they a team in the truest sense.

Players such as Flintoff and Harmison were fine ones but also divisive at many times. This England team is greater than the sum of its' parts, able to dig deep when required with even their OD travails slowly being tackled. KP after all didn't take part in the recent blowing away of Australia.

To write off KP as an arrogant, selfish, flashy and self interested is simple enough but to do so is also slightly naive. Whereas the greatest are true team players such as Dravid and Kallis, many of the world's great talents are selfish, everyone used to dance to Brian Lara's tune as an example.

Some players require indulging, to be made to feel a little special but there is a feeling here that KP is not actually asking for such.

If you read what Pietersen is saying, he is basically stating that he wants to be able to play the IPL fully whilst continuing playing for England. England players are well enough off we hear you say but who in the main does not want to maximise their earning potential, especially in such a short career?

The issue is one between the selectors and the players, in this particular case KP but the reality is that it is the ICC and the Cricket boards that are forcing players to choose, this situation is arising because of the unquenchable thirst for revenue through the saturated and dull ODI format.

England are due to play South Africa for the unofficial test championship, a mouth watering prospect yet we will only see three tests, why? Simply because the ECB chose to play 5 ODIs against Australia despite the knowledge that almost a year of unbroken Ashes cricket will follow in 2013. Is it Kevin Pietersen's fault that so many needless (and sometimes meaningless) ODIs are scheduled?

The weather in the UK is often bad enough yet tests are being pushed to May and September to accommodate more and more ODIs. This blog has been critical of India's continued commitment to test cricket but the ECB should be taken to task over where its priorities lie given that England is the last bastion of regular sell outs for test matches.

There is no doubt that KP is acting in his own self interest but his complaints have much more than just a hollow ring to them when the ECB is clearly acting in their own financial self interest. The likes of Bresnan and Swann are playing with painkilling injections and the extra ODIs are certainly not helping, there is simply too much cricket.

There can be little arguement also that the ODIs help to prepare the England side even. Seven (count them) ODIs were played at the end of the last Ashes series leaving the team tired and seemingly disinterested in the World Cup that followed. England sank without trace.

The priority after South Africa will be the ten Ashes test matches, surely two extra tests against South Africa would be better preparation (certainly in terms of finding an established No6) than the five money spinning ODIs against Australia this year?

England have said that players cannot pick and choose their matches and formats, rightly so but at the same time Andrew Strauss was excused a trip to Bangladesh to recharge his batteries so accommodations can be made.

What is wrong with KP saying that the next World Cup is a step too far but that he'd like to help England win the upcoming T20 version? England to a degree are cutting off their nose to spite their face by excluding arguably their best T20 batsman.

The IPL has been a pain in the backside for the ECB since its' inception but the reality is that unless more financial wrong doing in India is exposed it isn't going to go away. Players aren't going to not want the money or the experience of playing in India either.

The ECB can continue to force players to choose and will feel justified in doing so. The ex players will talk of the pride of playing for your country but the likes of Kerry Packer and  also rebel tours to South Africa in the past have proven that money talks.

The powers that be can simply say 'these are the rules and be damned' but in doing so they risk losing their most talented players - as those are the ones that the IPL wants - like they are doing with KP for the T20 World Cup. This is not the first time this has happened and it won't be the last - No Nonsense.