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By Venkataraman Ganesan
The irascible Kevin Pietersen once remarked — “An Achilles, if it doesn’t heal right, there could be a danger of not playing again.” Now his mercurial career has been abruptly terminated by an insidious Achilles taking the shape of a cricketing board. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in an inexplicable move that has left umpteen number of cricketing pundits, fans and followers uniformly stupefied, decided to call time on the career of one its most distinguished representatives. The whimsical justifications proffered by the ECB have however fallen flat in their attempt to vindicate what can only be termed a pure and irrational knee-jerk reaction.
Following the debacle characterising an exercise in catastrophe, or simplistically the Tour Down Under, the wise men of English cricket seem to have decided that the time was ripe to ‘rebuild’ a cricketing structure that was dangerously ‘tottering’. And as their first move they have unwittingly knocked down the veritable edifice that has been lending solid, uncompromising and intimidating support to that very structure! With the unfortunate turn of events surrounding Jonathan Trott and the sudden loss of form accompanying many key players, it is only logical that a rebuilding exercise steadfastly focus on choosing the best and balanced side. And a side which has no place for one of the very best gracing the game currently is more of a morbid joke than a formidable force. I can almost hear Mohinder Amarnath’s uncontained chortles as I write this.
Over the past decade, Pietersen has regaled the cricketing world with an approach that can only be categorised as inimitable. The Pietersen style of flagrant cricket that has had an unnerving effect on many a flummoxed and frustrated opponent has been the key to many a memorable English success. A daring batsman capable of collaring any attack, Pietersen’s vibrant and uninhibited style of batting epitomises a trait that is utterly bereft of any fear of failure. This unique blend of passion and power has resulted in Pietersen being a prolific run-getter for England in internationals. Even during the current disastrous tour of Australia, where with the exception of a handful of players, the English batting wilted and folded with a bare minimum display of grit and gumption, Geoffrey Boycott’s ‘Mug’ with the bat was one of the few batsmen who looked capable of tempering a rampaging Aussie attack. While it cannot be denied that he executed quite a few strokes of brazen indiscretion, his teammates were not exactly distinguishing themselves with acts of courage and common sense. Consigning the future of such a powerhouse cricketer to the bin, without concrete and rational reasons is to say the least ridiculous.
On the 15th of January, Ashley Giles famously said that Pietersen was a million dollar asset. If so, English cricket seems to have experienced a recession of gargantuan proportions. In his work “Master Of Stupidity”, Toba Beta writes that ‘sometimes humour makes more sense than reasoning.’ This laughable act of mediocrity executed by the ECB bears perfect testimony to Beta’s claim. Paul Downton and his coterie have not only miserably shot themselves in the foot, but they are also trying to pretend that no gaping hole exists.
The sudden axing of Pietersen begs for answers, warrants explanation and demands reasoning — answers that are sensible; explanations that are logical and a reasoning that is non-evasive. The ECB is duty bound to douse the fire that it has unnecessarily kindled and ludicrously stoked. The time for clichéd responses and rehearsed lucidity is long gone. Meek and timorous explanations such as rooting out invidious and vile influences on a younger breed of players; infusing youth and fresh blood into the squad are pathetically inadequate. Claims and contradictory counter-claims coupled with theories that are at logger heads with each other only go to exacerbate the confusion that has been triggered by the ECB. Desperate situations do call for desperate measures. Now the onus is on the ECB to demonstrate the existence of a situation that was so desperate that only a remorseless sacking of a key component of the English cricket team would have remedied the situation.
But is there a method to this madness? Are there sufficient validations that reinforce and bolster this move by the ECB? On a plain reading of the events leading up to the sacking of Pietersen, the obvious answer has to be an overwhelming ‘NO’. The ECB seemed to have acted in great haste compromising transparency, sacrificing accountability and diluting common sense. While the ECB does seem to garnered the support of a motley crew, the explanations posited by them are more of a pitiful whimper positively lacking conviction.
During the course of the past couple of days as the ignominious saga has unfolded, many have taken recourse to adjectives in describing Pietersen, the personality. Words such as maverick, arrogant, brash etc. have done their dutiful rounds. However, it would be most appropriate to describe Pietersen the cricketer as a much loved heretic, a refreshing dissenter from established dogmas; an opponent of blind conventions and an anathema to set norms. A heretic who has been both loved and hated across many a country; a heretic who has been both accepted and abandoned by his own cricketing board; and more than anything else a heretic to whom the cricket world owes a debt of gratitude for his innovations and inspiring acts.
To quote Martin Buber “we can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves.” The ECB would do well to redeem themselves by taking a leaf out of the open book of this heretic. It is time for the ECB to execute a ‘switch hit’ and reinstate Pietersen to where he rightfully belongs. This would be a volte face which would bring lots of endearing support and enduring credibility to the ECB. The rebuilding of English cricket has to start with the laying of the first brick that has ‘KP’ inscribed on it.
(Venkataraman Ganesan is a Chartered Accountant by intent and a lawyer by accident. He has a maniacal penchant for books, more books, still more books and lot more books, when he is not watching cricket that is! He loves his Scotch and scribbles for fun. He blogs at www.the-venkyloquist.com)
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