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Kevin Pietersen The fact that England has not selected Kevin Pietersen for the ODI series against South Africa and the Twenty20 World Cup has grabbed a few headlines but it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Although he took the unusual step of declaring himself available for England in all three forms of the game via YouTube after previously announcing his retirement from limited-overs international cricket, he is still very much out in the cold.

At first glance, the selectors have shot themselves in the foot because without KP England have little realistic chance of retaining the T20 World Cup. We’ve already seen how England can play without KP, who did not feature in the one-day series victory over Australia, but I just don’t see them winning a major tournament (or beating the likes of South Africa for that matter) without him.

As an England fan, I want to see KP in the side. He’s our best player – witness his man of the match performance against South Africa at Headingley. But he really isn’t making it easy for anyone to like, or even sympathise with, him. It’s easy to understand why he wants to play in the IPL and I wasn’t the only cricket follower to be infuriated by the ECB’s unwillingness to compromise on this. However, I realise why they won’t. It goes back to their failed attempt to establish a credible Twenty20 league to rival the IPL. Until KP got involved with the IPL, the ECB never had to come to terms with it as no central contract players had been bought by any of the franchise teams. This has now been combined – rather toxically – with KP’s disdain for the ECB that has been festering since he was sacked as captain in January 2009.

If it was just this, you could easily blame the administrators – a stance many English cricket fans are used to taking. But it’s not just a problem between KP and the board. The atmosphere in the dressing-room has clearly become poisonous, and from a purely cricketing point of view that’s a major problem. Cricket may be a team game for individuals, but no individual is bigger than the team.

KP is right to feel aggrieved at the very least by the spoof Twitter account, not because it mocked him but because several of his team-mates interacted with it – more of a symptom rather than a cause of the collapse in relations between KP and his England team-mates. When Graeme Swann denied being the man behind the ‘KP Genius’ account, he did so by saying it couldn’t be him as three-quarters of its output weren’t very funny. In effect, he’s saying that he finds 25% of something that takes the piss out of his team-mate to be hilarious. England’s cricketers do have a long history of taking the mickey out of each other, but not in public.

After Twitter came the texting. KP’s text messages to members of the South African team are also beyond regular banter as whatever comments he’s supposed to have made have been to the opposition. If he’s made derogatory comments about Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, then it’s hard to see how he can continue to play while Strauss is captain and Flower is coach – although Strauss, a forgiving man and a realistic enough cricketer to know that he needs KP in his team, will no doubt be looking to see how trust can be regained. But if KP really did pass on tactical information, then that’s tantamount to treachery and the task of rebuilding trust will be a lot harder.

It’s hard not to agree with what KP’s former Hampshire team-mate Shane Warne has to say: “Pietersen and Strauss could have gone down to the pub and had a beer … and if they had to punch the absolute whatever out of each other, then so be it. If you have to get it out of your system then do it. Then come back and put your arm around each other and walk out and play together.” They probably won’t take Warney’s advice literally, but what’s clear is that at some point over the next few weeks, Strauss (who doesn’t play for England in ODIs and T20) will need to sit down with Pietersen to discuss things at length. Flower will need to do so as well. It won’t be easy and it may take a while, but it needs to be done.



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