If Pietersen can afford to retire, we know where we stand
07:52 GMT, 5 June 2012
07:52 GMT, 5 June 2012
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If the back and forth in the Kevin Pietersen debate resembles one of those tedious clay-court baseline rallies (his fault, their fault, his fault, their fault), then one thing is clear: all national boards bar India’s are now at the mercy of their players.
Of course, this has been true for a while. Just ask Barisal Burners/Matabeleland Tuskers legend Chris Gayle. But when the biggest name in the world’s second-most powerful cricket country decides he can afford to quit two of the international’s game three formats, we know where we stand.
Bowing out: Pietersen retired from limited overs international cricket last week
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Before we jump down any throats, it
should be made clear that Pietersen has not yet signed to play in this
year’s Big Bash League. His agent is even on the record saying this will
But it’s hard to imagine that a
batsman who is not yet 32 will – between now and his retirement – limit
himself to Test matches, a bit of IPL and some county cricket for
Surrey… especially if his decision to sacrifice ODI and Twenty20
international cricket begets an unintended consequence in the Test-match
Still, let’s take Pietersen’s stated
reason for his limited-overs retirement at face value. He cites the
‘increasing demands on my body’, and here, to a degree – but only to a
degree, since the extra cricket he plays in the IPL is entirely his
choice – the game’s administrators should pay attention.
At the risk of repeating ourselves,
the international schedule is almost as ridiculous and ramshackle as the
English domestic calendar, with its chaotic mixture of different
starting days and times, and quarts squeezed into pint pots. The
international calendar, a Babel’s Tower of commercial opportunities, is
exhausting enough to keep track of. Goodness knows how the players cope.
So when Pietersen is accused of
chasing the money, let’s be quite clear that he is merely following the
example set by those above him.
Greed is now an unquestioned part of
the game, even though anyone who questions it is usually scolded for
threatening to deny star cricketers the right to earn as much cash as
possible (and here I admit that the difference between owning three
houses or four is lost on me).
The excess of international cricket
was borne out on Sunday, when Jimmy Anderson was rested from this week’s
third Test against West Indies at Edgbaston. Squad rotation has become a
necessary evil, not least in a calendar year in which England play 15
Tests, almost twice as many as they did in 2011.
Packed schedule: England play 15 Test matches this year
The ECB, then, can feel irritated by
Pietersen’s decision; equally, behind the scenes there are those who
wonder how many other England cricketers would willingly give up a large
chunk of their international careers.
But they should not be surprised. And
if they are surprised, they are simply being complacent. Well-paid
though their centrally contracted players are, a few stand to earn more
from a life of Tests and Twenty20 freelancing. We may not like it. But
that’s the way it is.
The mercy, for the time being, is
that Pietersen is unlikely to trigger a stampede. By and large, national
pride still counts for plenty among England’s cricketers. Players may
grumble occasionally, as Graeme Swann has done about the 50-over format.
But still they turn out for their country, knowing it is how posterity
will judge them.
England, though, have been warned –
not just by Pietersen, but by cricketers from the less well-off nations
who increasingly place lucre above national lustre.
Loyalty is a two-way street. But there will always be those who spy something more attractive travelling in the other direction.
Parting shot: Pietersen hit two 50-over tons in Pakistan
THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS
Ireland’s Indian creates history
Until now, Sion Mills CC in County Tyrone traded on the fact that, in 1969, it played host to the day Ireland bowled out West Indies for 25. But another legend was added on Sunday when Dundrum’s Indian professional Ravi Patel cracked six sixes in an over during an innings of 167 (including 18 sixes) in the Ulster Shield.
The previous day Patel, who hails from Pune and lives alone in a caravan five minutes from the Irish Sea in County Down, had scored 53 from 15 balls. Reporting the innings on Facebook, he was goaded by friends into trying for six sixes on the Sunday. And he delivered. In a radio interview on Monday he said he had already played in the Indian Cricket League. Perhaps the IPL will now come calling…
Get that tournament a window!
The news that some of New Zealand’s finest may miss the first Test at Lord’s next May because of a clause in their contracts which allows them to play five weeks of IPL is yet more evidence that the IPL needs a window on the Future Tours Programme.
Double-booked: Kiwi stars such as Brendon McCullum (above) could miss the Test series in England next summer
The first part of the English summer, in which the weaker of the two touring sides traditionally visits, is becoming a farce: Sri Lankans turned up under-prepared in 2011, West Indies are missing some beguiling names this year, and next year it will be New Zealand’s turn to take cricket’s realpolitik on the chin. Who wants to pay good money to watch England duff up a New Zealand side without Brendon McCullum, Dan Vettori and Ross Taylor
Since the IPL appears to be here to stay, the only solution is to treat it as the ICC treat the Champions League, and slot it into the FTP. Ideally, of course, the BCCI would recognise the damage the tournament is doing to other cricket nations and agree to limit its span to four or five weeks (this year, it lasted 7). But a longer window, which would at least allow other countries to sort out their schedule so as not to belittle their own attempts to stage international cricket, may be the best we can hope for.
In good Nick: Compton has made a fine start to the season
Deprived by the rain
Bad luck to Nick Compton, who was denied the chance to become the first player to score 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May since Graeme Hick in 1988 because of the weather. The temptation, in any case, is to belittle Compton’s near-achievement, since this season began in late March. And yet the 13 first-class innings he squeezed in between then and now are only two more than Hick required to reach the mark 24 years ago.
And the remarkable thing about Hick’s feat is that his sequence included two double failures at an apparently crucial moment in the pursuit: 8 and 11 against Somerset at New Road (not long after taking a handy unbeaten 405 off them at Taunton), followed by 6 and 7 at Grace Road against Leicestershire. By the time the touring West Indians visited Worcester on May 28, Hick was still 153 short of four figures. Against an attack including Patrick Patterson, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop, he made 172. Not bad, really.
But will it make any difference…
It was easy to miss in the ICC press release last week, but a provisional independent report into the accuracy of international cricket’s two ball-tracking devices suggested 100 per cent agreement with 14 ‘examined sequences’ from last year’s South Africa v Australia Test series. Much more of this, and one or two administrators may have to concede that Hawk-Eye and Virtual Eye are not the educated guesswork they conveniently believe them to be.