A Pietersen-less England will be easy to plan for

2012-06-15 00:00

KEVIN Pietersen’s retirement from one-day international and T20 cricket will hurt England more than they realise, considering they do not have a player of his calibre waiting in the ranks.

When Pietersen walks to the crease, he has a certain swagger not to dissimilar from the king of cool Sir Viv Richards. The consistency Richards had may have eluded Pietersen, but there is no doubt that he is England’s best short-format batsman and they will sport a thinner look without him.

The Maritzburg College product has always had the ability to ruffle feathers or turn the administration on its head. Who can forget how he strutted into South Africa in 2005 on the back of racial quota noises and went on to silence crowds in Bloemfontein, East London and Centurion with rip-roaring hundreds. His unceremonious exit from Hampshire, the infamous Peter Moores spat, his subsequent tweet after being dropped from the England side following a prolonged bout of poor form in 2010 and his slating of Nick Knight showcased the ugly side of Pietersen that any board would like to be hit for six over cow corner. His replacing of Graham Thorpe was the talking point ahead of the 2005 Ashes series and the Surrey left hander was at last playing in a side where his resourceful counter attacks were being rewarded. Of course the decision to pick him ahead of Thorpe has gone down in English cricketing folklore.

The fact that Pietersen took time out to play in the Indian Premier League — a league the England and Wales Cricket Board detests — has not endeared him to the ruling body. While the ECB has sharpened up its administrative skills from the dark days of the Test and County Cricket Board, their player management skills leave much to be desired.

While James Anderson and Stuart Broad were given some rest ahead of the crucial series against South Africa, Pietersen’s request was not granted, prompting his petulant behaviour.

Broad and Anderson are bowlers and they get through a much higher workload than Pietersen might ever do in one season, but cricket is not for prima donnas and it has done well without them.

Pietersen’s ODI record reads as follows: 4 184 runs in 127 matches at an average of 41 with nine hundreds.

It may look modest compared to his Indian and Australian counterparts, who play a lot more cricket, but England has blown colder more than hot in 50-over cricket. The fact his first four ODI hundreds came in defeats and a tie were symptomatic of England’s struggles.

When he fired, the other England guns seemed to go to battle with wet gunpowder.

His contributions in the 2010 ICC T20 World Cup earned him the man of the series award; while on the other hand, it earned his adopted country a coveted ICC trophy they had so craved since 1975.

Granted, the ECB has been patient with him whenever he has gone through poor spells and England won the 2009 Ashes and the 2006/07 Tri Series in Australia without his services, but since 1992, England have just not been able to click in coloured clothing.

Their struggles have become endemic. The Chris Gayle-West Indian Cricket Board spat has been an object lesson in how the board and player should not treat each other and considering how far the ECB has come, they would do well to avoid the same situation.

A Pietersen-less batting order is going to be much easier for opposing captains to plan for. No doubt AB de Villiers will be happy to see the back of the owner of the number 24 jersey.

England have the batsmen to set up matches, but without the game-breaker, their gains will wallow in shallow mud.

They have succeeded in his absence once before, now the question is, can they do it again without him?

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