Kevin Pietersen could arguably be called the most naturally gifted batsman that has played for England in the last 15 years. He has a natural ability to score runs and excite the crowd which sets him apart from the rest. And with that immense talent comes what many say an immense ego, but is that really worth alienating him from the England squad?
You can, by looking in from the outside at many other sports, see that having an individual with a unique natural talent and may not necessarily be the best team player is normal. The Maverick who plays by a slightly different set of rules, is not greeted with the same level of hostility that Kevin Pietersen has received from the ECB.
Take the stats regarding his international test career, he scores a century in 1 out of every 4 tests, a half century in 1 in 2 of the remainder. Over 8000 total runs scored, a batsman who can single handily win a test match. He on occasion has even added the odd wicket, and provides a useful asset in the field with a catch in 60% of the tests he has played.
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But, and even with those stats there is a but, the ECB due to off field disputes and incidents and an ongoing lack of trust on both sides, feel that there is no place for him in the England team. Would this have happened to a footballer, or a basket ball player or would they simply have been picked? Because even though they may not the best team player, you still need those players in the team to produce moments of magic that win you games. And after all in sport isn't winning the whole point of playing the game?
In recent history, could you have seen Brazil dropping Neymar because he didn't like some of his team mates and was vocal about it. Would the Brazil selectors drop him, because they don't like what he said in the press about the team? Would they sacrifice the possibility of winning, over some internal squabbling or would they accept that with supreme talent come a few individual quirks that need to be worked around?
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Wrong to alienate
Or in snooker the governing bodies, alienating Ronnie O'sullivan from playing the biggest tournaments because he speaks his mind as is not politically correct in his approach or his interviews to the press. No they wouldn't because he is unique, the most gifted player to play the game and alienating him hurts the sport and the fans. He still draws more viewers to snooker than any other player whether he wins the tournament or not.
So back to English cricket, which is currently in a poor position, to discard one of the most talented individuals to ever play for the international team. And why? Beecause he disagrees with the way things work, and is vocal with his opinions or criticises some of his team mates. Yes some other members of the squad may not be overly keen on Pietersen in the dressing room, and they are entitled to be they don't have to be friends.
And in day to day life, who gets on with every person they work with? Exactly not everyone but they still go to work and do their job because thats what they get paid to do. And of those people who may not want to make small talk, ask how many of them would be upset by him going out and scoring a century, which turns a tedious spectacle of a test match from a loss or a draw into a win all due to them producing some magic? Exactly again nobody, because professional sportsmen want to win above all else.
Take an example from football Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole did not speak to each other off the pitch for years, but still had a hugely successful relationship on it. And because of that, they brought results to the team and medals for both of them as individuals. I guarantee that they would put up with each other again, if it mean't they had won more. And in football you wouldn't be dropped because you don't get on with all of your team mate, if it mean't your team would suffer because of it, you get dropped for poor form and nothing else.
Cricket is still seen by many as an elitist sport, played by public school boys and at an international level, managed by an old boys club, who are completely alien to most of the general public. The ECB seem to put petty internal politics, over the idea of picking the best players who can produce a winning result which is what the fans want to see.
The fans don't care that Pietersen and the ECB don't see eye to eye! They want to see Pietersen in the middle, his bat slicing ball after ball to the boundary, bringing excitement and runs to the game. Test cricket can be a tedious and drawn out affair that lacks excitement, but a few players like Kevin Pietersen bring that excitement, that rush the air of expectation and the screaming fans to the game, and it is something severely lacking for England right now.
The man puts bums on seats, brings atmosphere to the crowd, and that is because of the maverick personality and character that he is. You never know what is going to happen in any sport, but with Kevin you are always expecting it to be special. And, as a fan, that is what you pay entry for.
Regardless of what the ECB may think, people want to see the mavericks the individuals they want to see moments of magic from players that can score centuries. They want the best players in the side, and if that means that you have to accept that not everybody is the same, and some people will speak their mind, live with it for the good of the sport. Excited fans keep the game alive, and that is why the 20/20 format is the most popular in the sport.
Sport has always been about these players, the unique individuals that break the mould and bring a level of risk and excitement to the game. Look back in history and it is not the the solid team player who never spoke out, never upset anyone, never pushed the buttons of the manager who inspire kids to take up the game. Nobody starts playing football wanting to be Dennis Irwin as great a player as he was, they want to be George Best! They pick up a cricket bat wanting to be Kevin Pietersen scoring 352, with the crowd cheering every stroke. These are the heroes and icons that inspire people to play the game.
Until the ECB find somebody with more talent than Kevin Pietersen to do that for England, which on recent form is impossible. They should ask themselves where they want the future direction of cricket to head, because ignoring one of your best players, for anything other than the fact they aren't scoring runs is not good for the game.
In my opinion the ECB and the structure of cricket needs to be examined, it needs to stop being an old boys club, and actually concentrate on delivering a spectacle that the fans want to pay to watch. And to do that it means picking the best players every time to produce the best cricket and to win games.
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