England Cricket: Why Kevin Pietersen Has Made the Right Choice
The international cricket schedule is packed. Add into that county matches and lucrative foreign competitions, such as the IPL, and the wear on a top-level England international cricket player is tremendous.
In 2012 England will play six Test matches, Thirteen One Day Internationals and four Twenty20 matches. This will all happen before the ICC Twenty20 World Cup later this year.
Kevin Pietersen’s relationship with the ECB has remained strained ever since his resignation as captain in 2009. He was replaced by Andrew Strauss after a series of disagreements with coach Peter Moores.
In spite of this, he remains England’s most naturally talented and exciting batsman, bringing his penchant for the switch-hit and a number of other less orthodox strokes to the fore when he is at the crease. He can score plenty of runs in a hurry and tip the balance of a match with a sudden flurry of runs.
His record as the fastest player to ever achieve 5,000 Test runs, as well as having the second highest run total in his first 25 Tests of all time, behind only the legendary Sir Donald Bradman, add to his credentials as one of the world’s top batsmen.
On top of this, he can also serve as a capable bowler when required.
If there is one major flaw in Pietersen’s game, it is inconsistency. "KP" can hit a double century in an inning, only to follow up by cheaply giving away his wicket. This often happens when he is trying something spectacular or flamboyant, as he did in trying to reach a century with a six while on 94 against South Africa in 2007, or slumping in form as he did again against South Africa in 2010, averaging a mere 27 after returning from injury.
Pietersen’s talents are not limited to the Test arena, and he is an even more destructive batsman in limited overs cricket. His style is more fitting there as exciting shots become more common, thanks to the proliferation of domestic Twenty20 cricket in the IPL.
In the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup, Pietersen was named player of the tournament. He scored 248 runs in four matches and finished as the second highest run-scorer. This was in spite of missing a game against New Zealand to be at the birth of his son.
In retiring from international limited overs cricket, Pietersen wants to extend his own career as a professional cricketer. Approaching 32 years old, Pietersen is nearer to the end of his career than the beginning. He is towards the end of his prime.
Keeping himself fresher by missing the intensive England ODI schedule will help to extend his career in Test matches, as well as letting him collect a nice retirement fund from playing in the IPL.
The ECB has made a huge mistake in its stubbornness over Pietersen, who wants to play in Twenty20 matches but not in ODI’s. The ECB’s policy is that a player cannot pick and choose which formats they play in. They can play in only Test matches or only in limited overs cricket, but they cannot play only one format other than Tests.
While not giving in to a certain player is a good thing, passing up on such a talent as Pietersen in England’s first ever title defense of the World Twenty20 is taking a huge risk. They're passing up on one of world cricket’s best run scorers.
Pietersen’s decision has been accepted, with the added caveat that should he "do a Chris Gayle" and start touring the world’s domestic Twenty20 circuits. He will be putting his legacy as one of England’s greatest batsmen at risk and gain a new reputation as a mercenary who plays only for the money.
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