Pietersen-ECB battle will end in tears

Some cricket fans in India must be mildly confused by the storm that Kevin Pietersen seems to be at the centre of in England.

Updated: August 09, 2012 13:05 IST
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Bangalore: Some cricket fans in India must be mildly confused by the storm that Kevin Pietersen seems to be at the centre of in England. As the brightest and the best in England try to make sense of what's causing such an unresolvable stand-off, it seems that the crux of the issue is that Pietersen doesn't like the fact that he has to follow a set of rules that are applicable to all England's players. He feels he's a bit special, and therefore should be allowed to do things a bit differently. What must be confusing to Indian fans is just what the problem is with this.

After all, in India you have a situation where Sachin Tendulkar decides on a series-by-series basis whether he will play or not. Tendulkar plays in the Indian Premier League as the highly-paid icon of the Mumbai Indians team, and he can't seriously expect his employers to allow him to sit that out. With this being the case, the logical thing for him to do is to sit out less-important One-Day International series, such as the one that just concluded in Sri Lanka. While some questions have been asked about this, the situation is one that most parties are comfortable with.

The basis for this is that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has consistently maintained that any player wanting rest only has to ask and it would be granted. While Tendulkar can safely take this option, others less established have resisted the temptation, knowing full well that their places might be taken by someone who steps in to fill the breach. The only other player who has voluntarily skipped a series is Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but, again, he is in a position to do so. The Board's decision to adopt such a policy has meant that players now rarely complain about the schedule. In private they may moan, but in public they can hardly complain, given that they voluntarily spend the best part of two months at the IPL when they could be resting if they so badly needed it.

If the England and Wales Cricket Board is attempting to draw a line in the sand with regard to Pietersen's demand that he be allowed to play the full IPL for the Delhi Daredevils, the story is unlikely to end here. If Pietersen is not allowed to miss some or all of England's home Test series against New Zealand next year, there's every chance that he'll call it quits. If the ECB allows him to pick and choose, their claims of working hard to maintain the primacy of Test cricket will stand exposed.

If the ECB, like cricket officials around the world, don't inspire much trust, it's becoming clear that Pietersen is now at that stage where he is testing fans' patience to the hilt. His plaintive cry that "it's not easy being KP" and that "people love to watch me" have done their bit to alienate even those who were thus far prepared to overlook his self-centred attitude in the face of the brilliance he occasionally produces on the field. When Pietersen blames a parody twitter account - interestingly followed by many of his team-mates - for vitiating the atmosphere in the dressing-room, it won't be long before he loses the support of his colleagues.

That the ECB will set an incredibly dangerous precedent if it allows Pietersen to miss Test matches to play in the IPL goes without saying. But, they're going to find that swinging to the other extreme is not going to bring them much joy either. If history is anything to go by, the ECB has been anything but supportive of its players taking part in the IPL. If you look at it purely from the ECB's point of view, they have every right to adopt such a stance. Except, it might cost them their best player.

With Pietersen not really spelling out exactly what his issues with the ECB are - he says it's not about the money, it's about the schedule, about playing in the IPL and much more - it seems likely that this will end in tears. The question Pietersen and the ECB will have to ask themselves, though, is whether they'll be able to live with themselves after this tussle has reached its natural conclusion. The price the loser pays might just render the entire exercise pointless.

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