Kevin Pietersen failed by ECB mismanagement
Cricket boards can ruin careers and no example demonstrates it better than the England and Wales Cricket Board’s treatment of their star batsman Kevin Pietersen.
The decision to retire is always best left to the player unless he carries on without form and fitness, and Pietersen, England’s highest run-getter across all formats, should have been allowed to make that call.
The ECB, however, decided that the time had come to move on without Pietersen and after informing the batsman announced the news to the cricketing world.
It was nothing new. Just like they had done in the past, the board yet again demonstrated their inability to manage Pietersen.
The ECB could have left Pietersen out of the squad for the tour of the Caribbean, and asked the batsman to lay out his plans, but the board went further in deciding that it was “time to start the rebuilding process”.
After England’s disastrous tour of Australia, where Pietersen failed like most other batsmen but was still the top scorer, heads were expected to roll but the ECB should have tried to integrate old with the new rather than looking for scapegoats. It is not as if Pietersen was holding back the development of a talented domestic cricketer.
With coach Andy Flower quitting, the ECB had a chance to put Pietersen under a different regime, which could have helped the batsman to regain some much-needed confidence and form. The ECB, however, lacked the desire to do so. It seems his larger-than-the-game image became too big for the ECB to handle.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan hit the nail on its head when the BBC asked him about the ECB’s announcement.
“The ECB need to explain exactly what KP does inside the dressing room that they can’t manage any longer. You have to manage mavericks; you can’t have clones around you all the time,” he said.
In fact, the ECB has never been able to work with Pietersen; sometimes being too harsh on his indiscretions and at times ignoring him completely. There was no middle ground between them and often that was due to the divided opinions that Pietersen inadvertently built as his career progressed.
The ECB failed to handle the situation properly in 2009, when he got into a tiff with then coach Peter Moores. Pietersen, who had been handed the captaincy, was forced to work with Moores despite criticising his coaching style. Predictably, it all felt apart with Pietersen resigning and Moores being sacked.
Pietersen reiterated the desire to lead but it fell on deaf ears.
The ECB turned their back on Pietersen again when he sought their permission to play in the Indian Premier League. He was made to choose between national and IPL commitments, which eventually led Pietersen to resign from one-dayers and T20 Internationals in 2012.
He did make a U-turn on that decision but the ECB never took him seriously for a role in limited-over formats, one of the many reasons for England’s decline in ODIs and T20Is.
Pietersen must share the blame too. He often put himself in trouble with his Twitter tirades that forced the ECB to take disciplinary action, some of which forced him to sit out key international fixtures.
Strangely, the ECB was tight-lipped in January when Pietersen was selected in the 30-man provisional squad for next month’s World T20 in Bangladesh and suddenly they say he is no longer part of their plans. Once again Pietersen was fooled into believing that things were getting better for him in the England set-up.
Pietersen could have gone on to achieve a lot more in his career had the ECB shown more faith in him and treated him better.
Cricket will always have mavericks like Pietersen but the key lies in managing them, a job that the ECB couldn’t fathom.