Can ECB afford Pietersen’s premature exit?
Just like his career, his shots have been controversial as well. The switch-hit reverse sweep, which even dispatched Muttiah Muralitharan for a six, is yet to be legalised by the ICC. I was lucky enough to watch two of the most elegant batsmen of modern era, Mahela Jayawardene and Pietersen bat at the Feroz Shah Kotla against the Mumbai Indians during IPL 2012.
Pietersen came to the crease when Mahela was dismissed while attempting a switch-hit. Robin Peterson came to bowl in the 18th over and Pietersen was at the strike. The South African had won a game for the Mumbai Indians in which he had smashed one switch-hit off Piyush Chawla for a six. But Pietersen showed him a more elegant one as it cleared the rope without much ado. 20 runs came off that over and even the ardent Mumbai Indians supporters (me included) were mesmerised with his clean hitting.
With just three and a half months to go for the T20 World Cup, Kevin’s decision to retire from all international limited overs cricket with immediate effect is a huge blow for the England Cricket Board and the fans. While the fans will want him to play in the World T20, the ECB might just take some more time to amend the rules for the sensational right-hander if Kevin is to play in the shortest version of the game.
Recently, Pietersen had announced his desire to withdraw from the ODIs. However he had said, “For the record, were the selection criteria not in place, I would have readily played for England in the upcoming ICC World Twenty20.” The right-hander’s contract is due to expire in September and the board said that he will be downgraded which means he can only play Test cricket. According to the rules of the ECB, any player who opts to play either ODI or Twenty20 cricket, will be ruled out from both the formats.
The ECB at the moment is ignoring what Pietersen is capable of contributing single-handedly. It was his four consecutive innings - (73* off 52), (53 off 33), (42* off 26), and (47 off 31) in the four successive victories in World T20 played in the West Indies which helped his team seal their first major limited-over trophy. And in the last two of his ODI appearances, he scored back-to-back centuries against Pakistan.
For a man who is one of the most elegant right-handers of modern era, a decision like this is difficult to digest for many. He is modest in saying that he has decided to make room for the youngsters. From a cricketing perspective, there is no reason why Pietersen should quit the shorter versions, moreover when he is at his peak. He is undoubtedly one of the cleanest hitters of the ball. When he charges down the track, there are no half-measures. The moment he shimmies down the wicket, the fielders make up their mind to watch the ball sail over them into the stands.
The ECB should reconsider their decision as this impasse may go against them and England will miss their most exciting batsman at the big stage in September. Kevin, the game-changer, is an asset for the England cricket team and its time the ECB mellows down to bring back the man, who made them the T20 champs; the man, who can single-handedly do an encore.