As the British public remains transfixed by the success of Team GB in the London Olympics, the Kevin Pietersen story took a rather gloomy turn for the worse.
Following a stunning 149 against his native South Africa during the second Test, the 32-year-old batsman did not give the upbeat man-of-the-match interview the media were expecting.
Instead, Pietersen hinted that next week’s final Test at Lord’s may be his last.
The Surrey player was unwilling to give any assurances that he would represent England at Test level again following the final match in this three-match series, citing “obstacles” must be resolved.
It appears that following Pietersen’s retirement from one-day, and therefore by default, Twenty20 cricket, the rift between England’s most talented batsman and the management is far from resolved – in fact it may be getting worse.
Pietersen, in no mood to play the golden-boy role, shot from the hip on Monday night.
Rounding on journalists, he claimed, “you guys are always going to speculate and make me out to be the bad guy”, after feeling mistreated by the constant attention about his career.
The former England skipper added that his decisions are “not about money”.
What is obvious to those looking-in, is that England’s game changing right-hander is excruciatingly close to bringing his career to a premature close, which would be a criminal end if allowed to happen.
The ECB have stood fast in the face of Pietersen’s request to be allowed to sit out England’s ODIs due to scheduling, unwilling to budge from their policy that centrally contracted players cannot pick and chose between one-day formats of the game.
It is noble that the ECB is attempting to stand up to the financial might of the Indian Premier League – Pietersen’s desire to play, and presumably collect his full salary, for the Delhi Daredevils – thought to be in the region of £1.3m – could mean the curtain falls far too early on a glittering international career.
For Pietersen to fulfil his wish to pick up his full IPL cheque he would have to miss next summer’s two-Test visit of New Zealand.
Sadly, the ECB must wake up to the fact that money will ultimately talk, even if Pietersen protests otherwise.
If a player, who made a mockery of one of the best bowling attacks in the world at Headingley this weekend, were to walk away from the stage he claims to love, the outcome would be painful for all those involved, and in particular the fans.
It may be true that never should a player be bigger than the team, but sometimes in sport it is starkly obvious that certain players have a value that cannot be quantified in terms of simply being a sum of the parts.
No one really knows the ins and outs of the discussions between Pietersen and the ECB, but for the sake of every England cricket fan up and down the country, a compromise must be reached before the biggest box-office attraction in English cricket walks away from the game.
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