After weeks of speculation, Kevin Pietersen was axed from the England team. A mixed and often turbulent journey with his adopted nation has come to an end. The decision is bold and borders on the line of stupidity. Shrikant Shankar feels the England think-tank must be prepared to face a long wait before getting back to their glory years, especially without their best player.
Kevin Pietersen has always stoked a lot of enthusiasm amongst everyone when playing the game. His flamboyant nature, coupled with a dash of arrogance has not been well-received by all in the England cricket team’s hierarchy. People in top positions seldom like their subordinates having a mind of their own. If the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) officials thought there is one way to achieve what they want, Pietersen thought there was another. This obviously did not sit down too well with them.
Many times in the past Pietersen has brushed alongside with the officials and teammates. His supposed indiscretions in the past have been well-documented. But one thing is certain — when Pietersen walked out into the middle of a cricket field, he gave his all. That is precisely the reason the decision to axe him from the England setup seems strange but bold. Ever since Andrew Flintoff retired, Pietersen has been England’s best player. He may not always be the top-scorer, but he will win matches on his own.
England suffered their worst tour Down Under in history in 2013-14. As mentioned many times earlier, England entered the Ashes as favourites, but it was Australia who won 5-0. The One-Day International (ODI) series was won by Australia 4-1 and the Twenty20 International (T20I) series was won 3-0. A real hiding is the term which is apt for what England received in Australia. Captain Alastair Cook said during the Ashes that they were all doing things right in training and preparing in the right manner, yet the results went against them.
Now something had to give. If the England players were doing the right things and still they lost my massive margins, what went wrong? The ECB had to look like they were doing something about the situation. First team director Andy Flower parted ways and then Pietersen was axed. Does this solve the problem? There is no definitive answer at the moment. The mental trauma that England players endured during their tour Down Under will last for a long time to come. So, there is no quick fix. At times like these one would need their better players to be around and help guide the team and its youngsters along.
Removing Pietersen only out of the equation also suggests that he has been made a scapegoat for the Ashes debacle. What about the others in the team? Barring Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, everyone flopped in Australia. At least amongst that, Pietersen was the leading run-scorer. Words from within the dressing room have been taken into consideration and the decision to axe him was unanimous. The others also have to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Were things so unstable that it had to come to this? Again at this moment the answer is not clear.
If tough decisions have to be taken, then so be it. But the ECB have to be prepared to face the consequences. The England team is at their lowest ebb now. If they have to start afresh, then things will take time. A lot of patience will be required and more bold decisions have to be taken. In football, may times the manager of a team axes a player, even if he is their best, for the sake of the team. At times it works and at times it doesn’t for the team. The important thing is whoever makes such decisions must be clear in his or her judgment and must know what they are doing.
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson knew what he was doing when he removed high profile names like Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and many more from his teams. United went onto greater heights. The big question is, do the people in the England think-tank know what they are doing? Again the answer to that question is not clear at the moment.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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