Cricket - Pietersen sacking: The expert verdicts

The end of Kevin Pietersen's England career is overdue or premature, a management failure or vindication - depending which expert pundit you listen to.

PA Sport
Cricket - Pietersen sacking: The expert verdicts

View photo

Kevin Pietersen sacking

After the England and Wales Cricket Board announced Pietersen's omission from future plans, a succession of former national captains encapsulated the divided opinion which has surrounded the South Africa-born batsman throughout his near 10-year international career.

Michael Vaughan believes England have, ultimately, been unable to effectively man-manage their gifted "maverick"; Nasser Hussain concludes the ECB have simply decided "enough is enough".

Alec Stewart finds the sacrifice of a "box-office cricketer" both "unfair and unjust", and Geoff Boycott insists England captain Alastair Cook and former team director Andy Flower must shoulder some responsibility for Pietersen's departure.

Some of the most strident support for the decision came from former England bowler Bob Willis, who praised the decisiveness of new ECB managing director Paul Downton

"Full marks to Paul Downton - he's put his stamp of authority on the job," Willis told Sky Sports News.

"He only really started yesterday officially in the job ... it's a dramatic decision and one that really says England have got to move on.

"Let's be honest - Pietersen has disrupted every single dressing-room he's been in.

"Everyone was toeing the party line in front of the cameras about his relationship with Andy Flower and the rest of the team, but clearly there had been problems on the Australian tour.

"Very bravely, Paul Downton and ... a unanimous decision by the rest of the England management [means] it's time to move on. A line in the sand has been drawn.

"Captains and team directors have all suffered because of Pietersen's behaviour.

"No man is bigger than the game, and England have decided Kevin Pietersen got too big for his boots."

[LINK: ECB unanimously fire Kevin Pietersen]

Mike Atherton, writing in The Times, suggested that Pietersen's ability to alienate those around him was at the heart of his downfall.

"Ultimately, he ran out of allies during the two days in which the final decision was made to cut adrift England’s leading run-scorer," Atherton wrote.

"Even Alastair Cook, the young captain who had taken Pietersen back into the fold after the retirement of Andrew Strauss, now wants to rebuild an England team without him...

"Pietersen has done well to fall out with Cook, the most easy-going and forgiving of sportsmen. Cook was instrumental in Pietersen’s reintegration after the 'textgate' row that led to his brief suspension from the team.

"For a while, this move looked to be inspired, given Pietersen’s profound influence in helping England to win a Test series in India for the first time in more than two decades. But recently, Cook has come to realise that all that glitters out in the middle is not necessarily gold in the dressing room."

Also in The Times, Simon Barnes has a rather more blunt take on things: "Kevin Pietersen is a classic a***hole-genius... when I say brilliant, I am not reaching for the nearest adjective. I mean brilliant as in quite exceptionally, almost ludicrously talented, talented in the way that very few people are in any sport.

"He could play the game as if it were the easiest thing in the world while making the finest players of his time look like over­promoted, overawed schoolkids.

"Let’s put him up there with Lionel Messi in football, Dan Carter in rugby union, Roger Federer in tennis; people who seem to have come to the game from a different dimension. Not just because they win a lot, but because for them the very act of engaging with a ball is radically different from anyone else’s."

[LINK: Factbox: Kevin Pietersen's career]

View photo


Vaughan acknowledged that talent and said he was privileged to captain Pietersen to Ashes victory in 2005, at a time when he was at his most eager to please.

The current England regime might nonetheless, according to Vaughan, have done better to harness and harmonise a cricketer described just last month by limited-overs coach Ashley Giles as a "million-pound asset".

Pietersen's farewell follows Flower's resignation last week, and a meeting at Lord's between Downton and selectors on Tuesday, as the implications of this winter's 5-0 Ashes whitewash stack up.

The lure of riches and profile in the Indian Premier League has been a development Vaughan never had to contend with in his working relationship with Pietersen.

"I got him at the best time," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "He had so much to prove, and I thought he was a joy to captain.

"I never had one ounce of problem from him - they came when the IPL came around."

Even so, Vaughan senses England should have handled Pietersen differently in recent months to ensure the ongoing success of his 'reintegration' after his previous troubles with management.

"They've distanced him - he fielded at fine-leg for the whole series ... he was going doolally. I thought he could have been managed in a better way.

"England lost 5-0 and need a huge scapegoat. He didn't have a great series, by his own accord, but the ECB need to explain what he does that they can't manage any longer. You have to be able to manage mavericks. You can't have clones around."

Vaughan believes there have been more appropriate times to shed Pietersen, if that is what England wanted.

"The chance to get rid of KP was in 2012. They had every right. The 'textgate' was disgraceful, and he knows that. I think it's mad to make a decision now."

The Daily Telegraph's Paul Hayward echoed Vaughan's demand for a proper explanation:

"The worst Ashes tour of all has ended with England dumping their best cricketer. Perhaps a disastrous trip to Australia needed one last lurch into the bizarre.

"If Kevin Pietersen really was Problem No1 once Andy Flower resigned as team director, justice demands that we hear a detailed explanation for his expulsion...

"Plenty said they watched Alastair Cook’s bedraggled team just to see Pietersen wave the mighty willow. If this was stretching a point in his defence, there is no denying the awkwardness of this moment.

"To consign the great entertainer to the wilderness when England are so low is a decision that flies in the face of sporting reality, however strong the case against him...

"And how strong is it? Was he late for team meetings? Was he rude to the captain or the coaching staff? Was his attitude to the warm-up games as high-handed as some allege?

"With England now stripped of their only bar-clearing talent these questions assume an almost judicial weight, because no player, however self-absorbed or annoying, should lose his international career on the back of generalised dislike in the camp."

[LINK: Maverick goes out with a whimper]

Hussain reacted with mixed feelings to a "massive shock".

He told Sky Sports News: "It's a bold move when you go without one of your best players ... so there must have been things that were happening behind the scenes that Flower and Cook weren't amused with.

"It would be nice to know from the ECB, if you're going to axe one of your best players, what those things were. It is about man-management - however disruptive a player is, you can still try to manage most players.

"But history tells you with Kevin he hasn't really got a foot to stand on - whether it be back in Natal or Hampshire or Nottinghamshire, or Peter Moores or Andrew Strauss or Alastair Cook or Andy Flower, wherever he has been he has been a problem.

"Eventually English cricket has said 'enough is enough'. Some people believe in cutting out the virus and moving on; other people just say 'man-manage your best players'."

Stewart is decisively in the latter category.

"He was quite outstanding," he said of Pietersen, on Five Live.

"Many people enjoyed watching him bat - a box-office cricketer - and now sadly it has all come to an end. When we were winning, we didn't hear anything.

"When we lose, everyone is pointing fingers at KP - and I find that unfair and unjust."

Boycott added: "Cook and Flower haven't been able to manage him, and have to accept some responsibility.

"He was an individual ... I was one (as well). You can be an individual within the team but not an individual full stop - take it or leave it. They've taken it for long enough, and now they've said they'll leave it."

Not going to the West Indies means Pietersen will not have a showdown with the big-hitting Chris Gayle.

"No @KP24 for the Caribbean tour later this month against W.I?That's really sad for English/International cricket!Don't let the fans suffer," Gayle tweeted.

"Was really looking for the hype of having @KP24 in the caribbean, would be big tickets sales for us. #Sad - Learn to MANAGE Big Names!!"

And finally, the Daily Mail's Mike Dickson takes a different angle, wondering how the England captain has managed to emerge smelling of roses.

"Alastair Cook is clearly a decent man - and a lucky one, too. This has been a strange final reckoning for England after a shambolic tour of Australia: gone is an outstanding coach and gone is the best player in the team, but the captain who so haplessly presided over it all out in the middle has been retained.

"An outsider, an Australian for example, might find it curious that the one leading player in the saga surviving intact is the one who remains so unproven in his job...

"He emerges as bomb-proof, and perhaps he will one day reveal what some in authority clearly see in him. His apparent move against Pietersen looks about the most decisive thing he has done all winter so, who knows, we may even come back to look on this as a start."

View comments (54)