Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Kevin Pietersen was more trouble than he was worth

Kevin Pietersen's England career is over and out

Many moons ago I was captain of a reasonably successful football team at college.

And when I say team, I mean it. For a couple of years that group of young guys ate together, drank together, partied together and on the pitch played for each other like our lives depended on it.

We were a close knit bunch.

Well, except for one lad, who happened to be the best player in the squad.

He didn't hang out with us, had his own pals, and basically only came into contact with the rest of the boys for matches or training.

Being the skipper, I encouraged him to become part of 'our group' because (a) I thought it was the right thing to do (b) he seemed a decent bloke and (c) I reckoned it would make us an even stronger side. No joy.

It wasn't that he was ignorant or nasty about rejecting the overtures, it was just that he had his life and was quite content not to be part of ours.

Fair enough. The theme continued during game time.

He was a man apart then too, capable of producing heroics to win a match when all seemed lost, lifting us to heights on the field that we never really contemplated because we were having so much craic off it.

He may not have been part of our gang but he was very much part of our football team.

The thought of not playing him because he was seen as an outsider would have struck me as stupid and a crazy waste of his talent.

That's exactly what numerous people, famous and otherwise, have been lining up to say about the English Cricket Board's controversial decision this week to axe Kevin Pietersen from their international set-up.

His good pal Shane Warne and former England captains Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart, for instance, have all come out defending KP and slamming the ECB.

Me? As you may have gathered I'm all for sportspeople being their own men, mavericks even, but when there are indications that they are having a negative impact on the team, then it's up to those in charge to put a stop to it.

I'm behind the ECB on this one.

I know we are dealing with completely different levels here but back in the day with the college team, our 'individual' did not have an ego the size of the Grand Canyon and never had a detrimental impact on the spirit within the dressing room.

Can you say the same about Pietersen?

This is the man who 18 months ago sent text messages to the South Africans in the middle of a series undermining then England captain Andrew Strauss.

This is the man who could only last six months as England skipper having had a rift with then coach Peter Moores.

And this is the man who recently kept getting himself out with ridiculous dismissals during the 5-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia when England needed him to perform most.

Often accused of not being liked by team-mates, it appears the final straw came Down Under when Pietersen fell out with captain Alastair Cook, who feared the 33-year-old's high maintenance behaviour was setting a poor example for younger players.

I'm reminded of Luis Suarez's antics last summer when he kept going public about leaving Liverpool.

Manager Brendan Rodgers handled it expertly, and at one stage instructed the South American to train away from the first team, feeling his attitude at the time would affect other team members.

Suarez learned a lesson that he was not bigger than the club and could not do what he liked, returning to become a shining example of what a team player should be.

A short, sharp punishment like that would not have worked with Pietersen, who has been given more than enough chances because of his ability with the bat, which incidentally still lags far behind that of proper modern greats like Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis, all of whom, unlike KP, averaged over 50 and scored 10,000 runs or more in Tests.

It was interesting that England's new managing director, Paul Downton, said he wants to "rebuild not only the team, but also the team ethic and philosophy".

England have a better chance of doing that with Pietersen not around.

Best player he may have been for England, but ultimately he became more trouble than he was worth.

The team, looking for a new coach after the departure of Andy Flower, can start afresh.

And KP can move on to becoming a cricketer for hire for the various one day and Twenty20 competitions around the world, before he ends up commentating for Sky.

I wouldn't rule him out of Strictly Come Dancing or Celebrity Big Brother either.

He may no longer play for England, but you haven't heard the last of Kevin Pietersen. His ego will see to that.

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