Philip Morris laments the loss of England’s star man with the defence of their World Twenty20 title just three months away.
Kevin Pietersen’s decision to announce his immediate retirement from ODI and T20I cricket came as unwelcome shock to English cricket fans. He indicated he was keen to continue playing Twenty20 cricket, at least until the World Twenty20 in September, but the stipulations of his central contract won’t allow him to. The ECB line is that if you’re retired from one limited overs format, you’re unavailable for the lot.
Upon announcing he had donned coloured clothing for England for the last time, he said: “It is the right time to step aside and let the next generation of players come through to gain experience for the World Cup in 2015.” He cited a heavy workload and increased demands on his body.
But it all feels a bit unsavoury in truth. At 31, Pietersen is arguably at the peak of his powers and statistics alone demonstrate how much he will be missed. He reached 1,000 ODI runs in just 21 matches – equalling Viv Richards’ record – and hangs up his boots with 4,184 runs at 41.84. He is also the only England batsman to have amassed over 1,000 runs T20I cricket and his strike rate of 140 plus is outstanding.
Few will forget the tour to his native South Africa in 2004 in his first winter as an English cricketer. Three barnstorming centuries in a hostile atmosphere announced him as a player of class and bottle and, while his form in the one-day arena has been patchy at times, there is still no one else quite like him.
When on form he remains the only batsman in England’s line-up that has an air of invincibility about him. When he walks to the crease the bars empty, with fans glued to the edge of their seats. He is a player of such outstanding talent that he is capable of the extraordinary. Supporters with tickets to this summer’s ODI and T20I fixtures will be rightly disappointed with his decision. While opposition bowlers across the cricketing fraternity will sleep a little better, fans have been robbed of the star attraction.
His retirement is a warning to cricket boards that players are increasingly fed up with packed schedules. One-day cricket is often tagged on to long and arduous tours because money talks and more games equate to more money. Pietersen’s retirement is a form of protest. He talked about the “intensity of the international schedule and the increasing demands on my body” and the fact of the matter is that Pietersen doesn’t need international limited overs cricket. He will continue to amass a small fortune in the IPL and he will now be able to spend less time travelling and more time with his young family.
The timing of the decision is still surprising though. England are just months away from defending their World Twenty20 crown and Pietersen’s last two ODI innings were brilliant centuries against Pakistan in the UAE, after the second of which he claimed “The next World Cup in 2015 is very much a target for me.” So, why go now?
We already know Pietersen and the ECB haven’t seen eye-to-eye in the past. He famously left the captaincy in acrimonious circumstances and only last week he was fined him for a second time following an outburst on Twitter. But is the relationship frosty enough to stop a deal being made that allows Pietersen to feature in the World Twenty20? This is a player who was Man of the Tournament when England triumphed two years ago. His absence does nobody any favours. It will be interesting to see how the ECB treats Pietersen’s central contract when it is up for renewal later this year. We may be seeing a lot more of Pietersen in a Surrey shirt.
If there is one positive to take from this, it’s that it leaves an opening spot up for grabs for a youngster to make his mark with a view to the 2015 World Cup, but those are some boots to fill. Whichever way you look at it, Kevin Pietersen will be sorely missed.
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