England still don’t need Pietersen

It was reported in the Telegraph that Kevin Pietersen had refused to sign a four-month contract with England before being left out of the touring squad to India. In other words, for all his talk about committing to England and wanting to play for England when given the chance to return he decided that he did not want to do what was required of him. His arrogance is staggering; he is labouring under the delusion the one calling the shots. He has to be forgiven by Flower and his (former) teammates to come back and whilst that ought indeed to happen, Pietersen does not seem to grasp that it is not down to him, the one seeking forgiveness, to set the terms. He must show humility and contrition for his behaviour over the whole summer to be allowed back and a large part of that is simply accepting the terms given by Flower and co and then actually working to get back into the side. It should not have to be stated that giving one’s public ‘apology’ via an agent and then haggling about one’s penitence is not the path to forgiveness.

In the meantime, we will be treated to more hysteria about England not having a chance in India without Pietersen. I’m not sure on what this is based; it’s not like England have been cruising to victory in Asia with him. Excluding the two match series in Bangladesh in 2010, Pietersen has played 16 Tests in Asia of which England have won only two and lost nine. England have not won any of those six series, the best result being a 1-1 draw in India in 2006 and of course Pietersen himself led the team to a 0-1 defeat in India in 2008.

The individual averages are even more damming. Pietersen in his career averages only 33.94 in Tests in Asia (excluding Bangladesh) in 31 innings. There are six batsmen with better averages in Asia in those same Tests (excluding Owais Shah who played only one) with the list topped by Marcus Trescothick and Paul Collingwood. And yet I have not heard anyone suggest that England cannot win in India without Collingwood or Trescothick. Amongst current players Pietersen is behind Cook, Prior and Trott (and Strauss, if one wishes to look at until-very-recently-current players as well). Despite all the suggestions that he can take the game away from oppositions and counter spin in a manner of which no one else is supposedly capable, the fact is that he either can’t or doesn’t. I’d much rather have Colly back than Pietersen.

But perhaps that is harsh. All it really shows is that Pietersen is not some talisman to lead us to victory in India. And whilst that is an important point it does not mean that he has not been vital in the wins we have had elsewhere. England’s most notable victories in recent times have come in the 2009 and 2010/11 Ashes and in the 4-0 win over India in 2011. Perhaps Pietersen was integral to those? Well, not quite. He’s been good, of course; he’s been useful. But he has not been the main factor. Pietersen actually only played two matches in the 2009 Ashes, during which he averaged only 38. To be fair, few of the batsmen had a good series, but that was still only a bit more than Graeme Swann who averaged 36 in all five Tests. Pietersen was also outscored in the series by Jonathan Trott who played in just one Test.

In 2010/11 Pietersen finished behind Cook, Trott and Bell in the series averages (and was not even close to the first two) despite scoring 227 in just one innings at Adelaide. That one innings was an outstanding display and utterly deserving of all the praise put on it. But the other four Tests got him just 133 runs. He helped England win that series, but he did not do so alone and was not even the biggest contributor. And of course, that only looks at the batting. He was not at all involved in England bowling Australia out for 98 in Melbourne.

The only one of those three great wins where Pietersen really was the main destroyer was in 2011 against India. He scored 533 runs at an average of over 100 with a pair of centuries (one of them an unbeaten double ton). Once again there were some brilliant innings and his contributions are deservedly praised. But once again he was not alone. He was the highest of seven England batsmen to average over fifty (and barely scored more than Ian Bell) in that series and once again the bowlers did just as much work. He was a huge help for England but he was not the reason they won.

The conclusion is obvious: Pietersen is a good player. He is an asset to England, but he is not the only asset. England can win matches when he is absent or not contributing and they can lose matches when he plays. He is one player not The Chosen One. The suggestions that England can not win without him are likely a product of a combination of hyperbole and poor memory; they certainly do not have a factual grounding.

3 thoughts on “England still don’t need Pietersen

  1. really like the way you’ve written this bandon, but i think it’s quite one-sided. loads of cons as to why he shouldn’t be there, but to make it fair i reckon you need to balance it out with (at least some of) the pros!

    interesting and fair stat about pietersen in asia.

    fwiw i think KP’s served his time with a yellow card, he screwed up and has probably received a proportionate amount of punishment, even tho it wasn’t handed to him directly!

    4-month contract was a bit of a piss-take and he’s right to reject that if it doesn’t allow him to plan ahead. why should he freelance for england for 4 months and £50k-odd (with the risk that he’s dumped afterwards if ‘bad behaviour’), when he can play in the big bash for £150k at a bare min?

    no right thinking person would deny him the opp to make as much £££ as he desires.

    thankful that cook will be sensible enough to at least allow him back at some point…england miles stronger with him in the team.



    1. Perhaps I could have been more explicit about them, but I thought that mentioning some of the astonishing innings he has played (Adelaide, Lord’s) were the main pros.

      With regard to the punishment, I think you are half-right. As far as his actual behaviour over the summer I would say that missing the rest of this year is probably enough. But the problem is that he keeps digging his hole deeper and deeper. If he had accepted what he had to do from the start he might have even been back already; that he is still out in the cold is his own fault.

      The contract was one-sided, but I think that was the point. No one would deny him the opportunities elsewhere, but it did give him the choice: he could put his money where his mouth is and demonstrate that he really was committed to England and to working his way back or he could go for the riches of T20. He chose the latter. It was his own decision, but it shows that he is not willing to do what it takes to come back. He is not willing to work for his forgiveness. He has every right to make that decision, of course, but it comes at a cost.


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