Kevin Pietersen’s Catch 22

Kevin Pietersen hit 326* while you were sleeping. Sure, it was in a county game, but still. Three hundred and twenty-six runs – all of them his.

Strangely, just as this news filtered through, the UK media subsequently reported that new ECB director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, has told Pietersen he will never represent England again.

This all happened within the space of a few hours. Pietersen hits a triple ton; Strauss informs Pietersen he’ll never play for England again. Social media explodes. The cricketing world is utterly mystified.

At last look, a ECB source has clarified that “no-one” is banned from playing for England, but “anyone who wants to has to perform at the highest level.”

In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, any pilot who requests a mental evaluation for ‘insanity’ in order to avoid flying is, according to the system, demonstrating his own sanity in making the request. You can’t be insane if you’re making such a request, because it indicates a sane mind to do so.

Kevin Pietersen, too, has entered a Catch 22. He can only play cricket for England again if he hits runs at the highest level. The highest level being England. The second highest level, county cricket, apparently doesn’t count.

The ECB is an absolute laughingstock right now. It’s incredible to think that just two years ago, English cricket was at an all-time high, having beaten Australia 3-0 in emphatic fashion.

England cricket had the chance to cleanse itself (administratively) and start again. Instead, they’ve hired Strauss, a man who has clear ‘beef’ with Pietersen over an incident dating back to 2012, where Pietersen texted something negative about Strauss to his South African opponents. He is also alleged to have tipped them off about Strauss’ weakness to bowlers who come around the wicket.

If that’s the extent of it – a bloke calling his captain a c*nt to some mates and telling them he has a bit of trouble facing blokes who come around the wicket (something they would already have known, surely) – then I think Pietersen’s life ban is incredibly severe. To be fair, Strauss got his own back at Pietersen soon after on live television.

If Strauss is to do as expected tomorrow (Tuesday UK time) and officially call time on Pietersen’s career at a press conference, then it will be viewed as a “line in the sand” moment. Strauss asserting his authority. No favours. This is what I’m here to do, make the tough decisions.

But perhaps it would be a stronger statement to let bygones be bygones. To recognise the value in calling Pietersen back into the test fold. He is, after all, the Best English Batsman Seen in a Generation. He still has a lot to offer. English cricket is in crisis, but at the same time there’s a bloke sitting in the stands that averages over 50 against Australia, and you’re not going to pick him simply out of spite.

This whole situation is absolutely baffling to the rest of the cricketing world. On one hand, they’ve axed Peter Moores – a man widely seen as a “good bloke” – and drawn a black line through Kevin Pietersen on the basis he’s a “bad bloke.”

In Australia, you can be the worst bloke imaginable and still play cricket for your country. It’s the same in business, politics and the rest of it. Outcomes trump all else. Sociopaths are truly the backbone of our economy. But in England, there’s still a posh elitism pervading through society. You have to be the right type of person to play for us.

You could probably draw some parallels with the recent UK election results. The rise of the Scottish National Party has again fractured the UK along nationalistic boundaries: Scotland v England. Newly elected Tory leader, David Cameron, will have to exercise some solid “man management” skills if he’s to keep the union together. He can’t just tell Scotland to get fucked, like Strauss has allegedly done to Pietersen.

As I just said, Pietersen averages over 50 against Australia. He’s hit four centuries against Australia, including a double century. Despite struggling somewhat during the 2013-14 Ashes series, he was still England’s highest run scorer.

Of course, in reality none of this even matters, because Australia are going to pump England 5-0 with or without Pietersen, but the fact remains: he is their best player. It’s just very hard to understand, that’s all.

Pietersen hit 326 not out yesterday. Three hundred and twenty-six runs – all of them his.

By Dave Edwards

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