A huge amount of fuss followed Kevin Pietersen’s dismissal in the first innings of the opening 2009 Ashes test. “You have to watch the highlights…to appreciate how ghastly a shot it was” concluded a perplexed Jonathon Agnew on TMS. “That was daft”, agreed Geoffrey Boycott. “He’s let the worst bowler from both teams get the best batsman out in both teams.
England’s top scorer is developing a reputation for soft dismissals. “Thit’s how I plee”, the naturalised South African habitually responds. But I can’t help feeling that some of the criticism aimed at him is due less to his performance, and more to both his personality and his passport.
“He does have a big ego,” Aggers reminded us. He also has the confidence, arrogance and genius that creates mistrust within the British psyche – like Nick Faldo or Andy Murray his single-minded drive grates with a nation formerly proud of simply taking part. Added to that the apparently permissible xenophobic attitude towards white South Africans (not dissimilar to a pre-Obama USA), a squeakily over-savvy and polished approach to the media, and a Rusedski-esque puppy-like attempt to please, and there’s a queue of pundits awaiting their opportunity to criticise.
Criticising KP for these reasons is not acceptable. He does, however, remain culpable. Pietersen is blessed – or perhaps cursed – by a talent and dedication which makes him England’s best batsmen by a boundary. Until he realises the additional responsibilities on him – and accepts that he needs to change the way he plays – he will allow the door for unacceptable criticism to remain open.
Sort it out KP; you’re driving (and sweeping) us all nuts.