Over the weekend, Kevin Pietersen has released a video in which he completely backed down from his demands to retire from ODI cricket and play a full IPL. But he never apologised for any of his actions and he never mentioned textgate. The selectors gave him six hours to do so and when he either did or could not they dropped him anyway.
It was the right thing to do. As good as it was for Pietersen to back down from his demands, the manner in which he did so was not a matter that suggested he was trying to bring about an end to the affair. If he wanted to end things he could have said all of that directly to the ECB and also apologised for his behaviour. Instead he tried to garner public sympathy whilst simultaneously saying ‘your move’ to the ECB. I do think he deserves credit for dropping his ridiculous demands, but this was not even vaguely the right way to do it and he abjectly failed to address any of the other important issues. The ECB, for all their faults in this saga, did the right thing by telling him what he still needed to do and giving him an extra six hours in which to do so. As he did not, they were quite correct to still drop him.
The issue seems to primarily be the texts Pietersen sent to his friends in the South African dressing room and whether or not they were derogatory about Strauss and Flower. There can now be little doubt that they were and Pietersen seems absolutely incapable of actually apologising for them, or even trying to explain them. This is not, contrary to what a lot of people are saying, a matter of someone simply having a whinge to a friend about their boss. Not only was the friend in the opposition dressing room, one’s captain is not the same as one’s boss. Cricket is a team sport; it is not the same as an office environment. It is very important for the team that players show respect to their captain in a way that simply does not exist in most workplaces. Pietersen’s snub of Strauss at the press conference (which he implied was a mistake, but for which he did not apologise) and the texts he send to the opposition players may be acceptable in a standard workplace, but they are not acceptable in a dressing room. The eleven who take the field must play as a team and part of that is showing respect to the captain. Pietersen seems unable to understand that and looking at his history, never has. This is also why the people who ask why Swann was not dropped for the comments he make about Pietersen in his book or whether Strauss had said anything about Pietersen during the saga are missing the point. Pietersen isn’t the captain; Strauss is. That’s not to say they management or other players ought to be dismissive of anyone who is not the captain, but that it is a different situation. There are different rules and protocols to be observed and quite rightly. Unless Pietersen admits that his behaviour was not acceptable and actually apologises (and to the ECB, Flower and Strauss instead of the media this time) he should not be picked.
England will be without Pietersen for the Lord’s Test and contrary to a fairly popular view they most certainly can still win. Pietersen is a very good player, but he is not superman. He has a Test average under fifty which is less than Jonathan Trott and barely higher than Alastair Cook. He played a match winning innings at Colombo earlier this year, but he also cost England good positions in Abu Dhabi and at the Oval. There is no guarantee at all that he would have made a good score at Lord’s instead of getting out to a stupid shot after getting set; he does the latter with regularity. The last time England played without KP was in a must-win Test against major opposition at the Oval in 2009. England won by 197 runs. He is an asset, but he is not the only reason England win or even the main reason that England win. To say that England cannot win without Pietersen is utter lunacy.
I don’t think this is the end of the saga, however. I expect it will continue to rumble on in some form almost no matter what happens. Pietersen’s history suggests that even if he is allowed back in the future he will still do or say something at some point. In the immediate future though, there is the matter of whether he and the ECB can find enough common ground to get him to sign a new central contract. He has made this easier with his climbdown, but he will still need to answer for the texts he sent, on feels. But there is quite a bit of time left until the contracts are handed out and there is every chance that he will find his way back into the good graces of the ECB before then. I would not say it’s likely, but there is still a chance he could play against India in December. Either that, or we can expect the tour to be dominated by coverage of how Pietersen is playing in the Big Bash League instead.