England’s new era without the enigma that is Kevin Pietersen starts in earnest later this month when they travel to the West Indies for three One Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals before the ICC World Twenty20 begins in Bangladesh.
Since the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) made their announcement on February 4, plenty of former players have criticised the decision for England to jettison their most prolific international batsman of all time.
While they may have a point, in some ways it was the right time for England to end Pietersen’s international career, and the right time for the team to start what promises to be a new era for English cricket.
Poor Shot Selection Regardless Of The Situation
At times, Pietersen would play wonderful counter-attacking innings that could turn the course of a match in England’s favour, and he seemed to do so almost at will.
His 158 against Australia in the final Test of the 2005 Ashes at The Oval will go down in history as one of the best Ashes innings of all time, especially considering England’s dire situation when he came to the wicket.
Some of the shots he played were truly outrageous—especially his switch-hitting that left opposition bowlers totally bamboozled—and he clearly enjoyed his role in the middle order as England’s enforcer.
However, in the recent Ashes series some cracks began to show as England’s most experienced batsman began to give his wicket away in unacceptable circumstances.
On several occasions, the Australians set traps for Pietersen and he obliged by looping up simple catches to the fielders posted to dry up his runs.
His dismissal in the first innings at Adelaide, where he lobbed up a simple catch for George Bailey at midwicket off the bowling of Peter Siddle, was indicative of a player determined to play his way and seemingly not paying attention to the consequences.
In addition, his attempt to hit a ball over long-on’s head in Perth again showed Pietersen was unwilling to be even slightly calmer in his approach to scoring runs.
At 33 years old, he was required to be a role model for younger and less experienced batsmen to show despite the havoc being wreaked by Mitchell Johnson it was possible to score runs regularly without taking any undue risks.
He was unable to do that, though, and despite being England’s leading run scorer in the Tests, has now been removed from future consideration.
Problems Off The Field
It wasn’t just on the field where Pietersen had something of a negative effect, but also off it where he contributed to some of the biggest issues to face the England team in recent times.
In 2009, he had a very public fallout with former coach Peter Moores, the man who had appointed him captain during the previous summer.
The pair had developed a rift over the methods Moores used as coach, especially his decision not to select Michael Vaughan for England’s tour of the West Indies.
It ended with Moores being sacked and Pietersen resigning the captaincy on the same day, as the pair’s ongoing troubles split the dressing room and forced players to take sides.
That left an enormous mess for Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower to clean up in the midst of an important Caribbean tour.
Then, having returned to the team, Pietersen was embroiled in more problems with the England team during their series at home to South Africa in 2012.
He took issue with the demands of England’s international schedule, made clear his desire to play in the Indian Premier League and refused to rule out walking away from Test cricket.
Then, he refused to deny he had sent derogatory texts to members of the South African team undermining Strauss and Flower, and was dropped from the side for the Lords Test.
During the Ashes this winter, there were rumours of further divisions within the team as England were by far second-best to their hosts, with Pietersen again alleged to be at their centre.
He had apparently once again criticised Flower’s regime to his teammates, according to David Hopps of ESPN Cricinfo, and it was decided once and for all he had to go.
No one will ever truly know what went on behind the closed dressing-room doors in Australia and the ECB meetings that took place on Pietersen’s future.
However, it is difficult to forget he has been the common denominator in many of the England team’s issues, and that may have been why he was removed from future contention.
If he was the cause of the problems around the England team, it is understandable Cook and the ECB wish for a clean break and a new start.
Start a New Era
With the resignation of Andy Flower, according to Alan Gardner of ESPN Cricinfo, it seems apparent English cricket is about to enter a brave new era built around several promising young players.
No more is this apparent than in the batting, with youngsters like Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes being viewed as key for the next few years in international cricket.
If they are to truly begin afresh and build for future challenges, it perhaps is not a bad idea to bring some new faces into the team and give them the chance to show what they can do outside Pietersen’s shadow.
Individuals like James Taylor, Moeen Ali and even Eoin Morgan will now have a chance to stake their claims to a place in the Test side and be the ones to bring more success to English cricket.
While Pietersen may have some years left in him, it makes sense with a new coach to be appointed to also start building for the future, allowing other players to get their feet wet in international cricket.
Perhaps Pietersen’s departure will precipitate more players calling an end to their England careers, in which case it can truly be regarded as the catalyst for a fresh start.
It is hard to ignore the fact in Kevin Pietersen, England have lost one of their most talented batsmen, a man able to dominate proceedings and win games almost single-handedly.
However, based on all that has gone before, perhaps it makes sense for England to move on from him and build for the future.
The alternatives may be unproven at Test level, but after a poor Ashes series and a number of dressing-room bust-ups, the time feels right for him to be let go.
The new era for English cricket starts here.