So Kevin Pietersen has apologised to the ECB, but just like the switch hit, has forced the cricket world to play third umpire, with people thumb twiddling over whether to press the red or the green button. But when he does actually retire, will fans react the way they usually do? Tears may not flow with the tributes, but writers will try to balance the salt from the batsman’s perspiration, with the runs made from the sweet spot of his bat. Sour moments would be included without a moment’s hesitation, old rivalries brought back, with David winning, and Goliath losing, like always. Or will they choose to ignore his legacy completely?
The peroxide skunk might have given way to a smart crew cut, but KP never really made an effort to stop himself from getting into people’s hair. He wanted to extract better returns by playing for an Indian city in the IPL, than for the three lions tattooed on his left arm — a nation that gave him a county and a country to play for. By choosing to swim in troubled waters, he has made it difficult for himself to leave the game gracefully. Pietersen uses his feet well against the spinners, but with rupees in his eyes he has stepped out to hit a ball which nobody is willing to bowl. The ECB like any other board would have not accepted an offer laced with Hobson’s choice from a cricketer on its payroll. A patient can’t tell a doctor to give him medicines of his choice. Can he?
By hitting the send button to his friends in the South African dressing room, he only aggravated the issue. Pietersen said sorry only after being left out of the final test against the Proteas at Lord’s. Will Andrew Strauss’ boys miss his presence after all this dissing? The answer seems to be in the question.
To be fair to the man, he did well to keep his off-field issues aside as he got to work, coming in at No. 4 in England’s first inning at Headingley, against the country of his birth. There was everything in the knock, typically expected of KP, the well-planned shuffle towards off-stump, followed by some ferocious pulling. Let’s not forget to mention great driving — on the up, down the ground — with a walk, from the crease, past diving human bodies eager to get to the ball, only to watch it go by. With the duke saying hello only to his bat and the fence, the only bye everyone wanted to hear at this point, was from the umpire, not Pietersen. Ninety-nine soon became hundred with a single off Philander on the on-side. The flannels took to the skies, the helmet came off, bat and pad saluting the dressing room. 49 runs later, he would fall, in all irony, to his Delhi Daredevils mate Morne Morkel.
Maybe there is a lesson in it for Kevin Pietersen. That despite all the success he may have enjoyed by moving from Pietermaritzburg, he can’t take his England cap for granted. Who likes to watch a performer using a ladder to pull the curtains down, to signal the end of his own performance? Not when the team is down 0-1, and there is an all important test coming up, with the No.1 ranking at stake.
Contrast this with how an American swimmer decided to bow out in a city that Pietersen decided to call home seven years ago. Michael Fred Phelps.
He is the MP we are referring to in the headline, a man who took to water, to pick up 22 Olympic medals, earning a name and a sobriquet – “The Baltimore Bullet”, that even Triton, the mythical King of the Seas, of would be proud of. He finishes his career on a high, while the world is more interested in asking if he pees in the pool. Phelps responds affirmatively with a matter-of-fact reply, justifying that the chlorine in the water will neutralise his gift to mother nature. The man is clear about one thing though, when he has decided that it’s time to go, he has gotta go! A farewell to arms is supposed to be short, not with all guns blazing. But it’s up to Kevin Pietersen, to decide how he wants to be remembered. After all, there are more than 140 characters in the world, and more than one video camera.
Ignore the toilet humour.
Beamer: a call to Shahid Afridi might help.