Sport | Should Kevin Pietersen have been sacked?

YES – Ste Topping

Should Kevin Pietersen have been sacked by England on the basis of the recent tour of Australia alone? No. It’s difficult to make a case for any England player making a good account for themselves Down Under this winter, and Pietersen did put in some more than respectable batting performances, particularly at Melbourne where he hit 71 and 49.

To make Pietersen a scapegoat for the recent failures of the national side is absurd. But let’s be honest, Pietersen should have been sacked a long time ago. The texting scandal of 2012 was swept under the rug by the ECB once Andrew Strauss retired. However, teammates, fans and the media will always be quick to remember the scandal that rocked the national side during the series against South Africa.

When Graeme Swann retired and proclaimed some of his teammates to be “up their own backsides”, everyone believed he was taking more than a slight swipe at Pietersen, and no matter how much Swann denies this sentiment it is still accepted by the press and the supporters that KP was a target in the Twitter rant.

Even if the scandal was put aside once Strauss stepped down, it is no surprise that Pietersen’s national teammates would still be slightly wary of his temperament, attitude and loyalty.

When Roy Keane publically slated the lack of leadership at Manchester United on MUTV in 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson decided he had gone too far and got rid of him. United didn’t exactly fare too badly following his exit either, winning the League Cup the next season and another Premier League title the season afterwards. Sometimes controversial decisions have to be made for the good of the team.

English cricket is now going through a period of transition. The current generation has had massive amounts of success, Andy Flower has worked wonders in getting the side to the top of the world and Pietersen has played a major role in this. But this has reached its natural end, Flower has stepped down and Pietersen has become the first big name to get the chop.

Other players could be set to follow if their performances don’t improve, but it’s no surprise that KP has been the first to go. With youngsters like Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Scott Borthwick emerging in the national side, English cricket would not benefit from a potentially disruptive influence.

NO – David Grant

My first reservation regarding the dismissal of Kevin Pietersen is the timing. Why now? If those in the upper echelons of the ECB hoped to dispose of England’s talisman why was his career allowed to continue after the South African texting scandal of 2012? Since that controversy England appear to have adopted a halfway house and now strayed from it.

Should such a supposedly disruptive influence have been permitted to remain within the set up for consecutive Ashes series in 2013 if the morale within the squad was irretrievable and the relationship between KP and Captain Cook irreparable? The ECB’s reversal to the opposite extreme and their truncated and delayed explanation for their decision demonstrates a lack of capability at the ECB.

Furthermore, this seems like the most irresponsible hour to grant Pietersen his marching orders. A team already emaciated by the unexpected loss of Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann faces losing its most gifted starlet. England have now opened another vacancy in an increasingly inexperienced English middle order. Meanwhile England have their calendar to consider. This disruptive saga comes weeks before the T20 World Cup and a five test series during the summer against India. If England underperform in 2014, critics may start pointing fingers at the ECB for expelling such an experienced batsman.

Whilst I appreciate the public don’t discover the events behind closed doors and these clearly have huge permutations, the simple fact remains that England have jettisoned one of, if not their best batsman. Pietersen averages over 47 in tests and has more centuries over all formats than any other Englishmen. Strategically dropping such an attacking batsman, who can accumulate vast numbers of runs quickly, equates to cricketing suicide.

These are not my only doubts over the sacking of this charismatic, enigmatic and contentious character. Pietersen’s sacking has occurred without a team director at the helm, (since the end of Andy Flower’s tenure), surely diminishing the importance of the job and leaving a minefield and unanswered questions and problems on the desk of the Zimbabwean’s successor to the role.

One must feel for the English fans, his flamingo shot and switch hit will disappear from the international summer. KP, a born entertainer cannot thrill his admirers on the biggest stage. England’s loss is India’s gain, where Pietersen will return to the Delhi Daredevils franchise after being bought for £880,000 in the IPL auction on Wednesday.

Image courtesy of the BBC

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