Many were surprised by Ian Bell’s omission from the South African touring squad.
One of the loudest critics was Kevin Pietersen, labelling the decision “pathetic”, with a bonus dig at Alistair Cook, “Captain Cook himself, he can go two years without a Test hundred yet he can play every single game”.
Would Bell appreciate KP’s support? His reaction on Twitter was humble and diplomatic, saying he’s going to enjoy family time then try to win his spot back. No KP histrionics needed.
While some believe KP’s willingness to speak his mind and avoid the mind-numbing ‘cliché speak’ is refreshing, others believe ‘The Walking Ego’ is on a power trip, desperate to stay relevant while England move on without him.
Aussie fans remember KP bursting on the scene during the 2005 Ashes; tall, confidence bordering on arrogance, silly skunk hairdo and lots of strokes. His 158 at the Oval historically secured the Ashes. KP fulfilled his on-field potential, scoring over 8,000 runs in 104 Tests at a tick under 50.
KP also showed that an abrasive off-field personality can hurt even the most talented player.
His nine year Test career was dotted with controversies.
While playing with Nottinghamshire in 2003, KP voiced his displeasure when Notts were relegated to Second Division and even threatened to sue.
One year after the Ashes triumph, KP criticised the South African quota system and later described Proteas captain Graeme Smith as a “muppet”. While KP may have been bitter that he had to leave South Africa (partly due to the quota system), this petulance smacked of sour grapes.
KP was made captain in 2008 under Peter Moores. A year later, KP and Moores butted heads, with KP declaring he couldn’t work with Moores. While KP got his way with Moores’ sacking, he also lost the captaincy.
In 2010, KP was dropped from England’s ODI team. Rather than take it on the chin and get back to the nets, KP vented his frustration with an explicit tweet. While it was removed, the damage had been done. Two years later, KP was in trouble again for Twitter misuse, openly criticising Nick Knight’s commentary skills.
Arguably KP’s biggest controversy was “text-gate”. During the second Test of the 2012 home summer against South Africa, KP was caught sending the South African players derogatory tweets about English captain Andrew Strauss, including advice on how to dismiss him. KP was dropped for the final Test at Lord’s, which South Africa won by 51 runs to claim the series 2-0.
England’s nightmare Ashes loss in 2013-14 was the final straw for KP. He scored a relatively modest 294 runs at 29.40 (with just two fifties) and was dropped for good. Was he a scapegoat or was it a convenient excuse to finally get rid of him? His arrogant dismissal in Adelaide probably summed up his series. With England 2/66 chasing 570, KP was on four when he advanced Peter Siddle and hit him straight to George Bailey at mid-wicket. Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary described it as ‘Very very poor indeed from such a great player, flicking right into the trap and now England are in trouble.’
As a Twenty20 freelancer (with stints in the IPL, Caribbean Premier League and South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge), KP played for the Melbourne Stars in the 2014/15 BBL. He scored 293 runs at 42, with a high score of 67 not out. In interviews, KP was articulate, confident and candid. He also impressed with guest commentary for Channel Ten. Many negative perceptions of KP were changed. Was he actually a decent bloke after all this time?
Then he tried to come back for the 2015 Ashes. KP did everything right, scoring 355 not out for Surrey against Leicestershire. With those runs behind him, surely he’d walk into the England team again? Andrew Strauss, now National Director of Cricket, declared there was no room for KP. There’d been plenty of bad blood between the pair. Strauss, commentating in the MCC v Rest of World match, called KP a naughty word off-air. KP hit back in his controversial biography, saying Strauss let a bullying culture run through the England team. Critics of KP would call this karma; all of KP’s big mouth antics had finally caught up with him.
To be fair to KP, he hasn’t done anything illegal (though the texting drama pushed some moral boundaries); he comes off selfish, arrogant and unafraid to voice his opinion when he doesn’t get his way.
KP’s stint with the Stars showed if he concentrates on batting, he’s actually fairly likeable. For all his controversy, he’s actually a talented cricketer and deserves to be remembered for on-field runs rather than off-field stupidity and soap opera drama.