* Prices may differ from that shown
"When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer."
I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew Strauss was forced out early from the England job he loved by the ECB because he wouldn't back down over Kevin Pietersen. He did not want him back in his team and knew if he did back down he would be seen as weak and so no longer have the total respect of his team, let alone maverick Pietersen. Andrew is a rare beast, a man with morals in sport. The sponsors want their marquee player back that brings money into the ECB so bye bye Straussy, Alistair Cook an excellent replacement because he would always allow Kevin back as his authority hadn't been questioned. The period of 'reintegration' is simply enough time for the players to abscond their guilt that Strauss has been 'de-integrated' from the England side as they were not that bothered either way if he as out. KP will get England winning again and so more bonuses and sponsorship for the players. Cook is ambitious as any of those players to be captain. Strauss's time was up in many ways and he left with his head held high, as did Michael Vaughan.
If the truth be told Kevin Pietersen is effectively England's one allowed overseas player, like they have in English county cricket, the senior pro who is there just to get the team results and expects to be put on a pedestal because of that. They don't expect to be ridiculed on Twitter.
Kevin is a cricketer who learned his skills and played his cricket in South Africa and so not remotely English for me. He should not be in the England team. He should be in the South African team. Both sides sold out to let him wear an England shirt and he is a mercenary and should retire from test cricket. I don't care how good he is perceived to be. It's not right he is the team. How can England claim they are a top team if it's South African players winning the matches? Yes I know Strauss and Prior were born in South Africa but they arrived here before their eleventh birthdays and, most importantly, went through the English system so judged against fellow English players to be selected for English age group teams. There was no special treatment with them. And to use the Alan Lamb and Tony Grieg argument is not the same as South Africa were banned from playing international cricket and so these guys had a reason to qualify for other nations -
and the world had a right to see their talent. Alan Lamb still lives in Northampton in England today and respected by the town he played his county cricket for. I have chatted with him about that loyalty in the bar and his heart is it the three lions now. He could live much better in South Africa now his kids have grown up but chooses not to.
KP arrived here when he was 19 to play club cricket for Cannock and working the bar there to subsidize his stay before returning home with his tail between his legs. They kicked him out. But on the recommendation of England captain Nasser Hussein, after seeing Kev whack it around on tour, Nott's signed Kevin in 2002 at the age of 22 and then England came knocking after two prolific seasons in the county championship, an English mom and South African dad meaning he could pick his passport. Nott's also kicked him out soon after. The current and then South African team captain, Graeme Smith, didn't like the bloke and called him 'an absolute muppet, childish and strange'. KP then engineered a row with the South African selectors, claiming he wasn't picked because of racial quotas in their national team, speeding up his English passport claims. Zimbabweans Henry Olonga and the Flower boys had pulled a similar black armband stunt to get their English passports. Really it was because Kev just didn't fit in there and wasn't trying to. The South Africans had a skinful of him and turned their backs on his obvious attacking talent. They kicked him out. He rocked up at the ECB and the rest is history. Then England kicked him out. There's a pattern here guys.
I am a cricket writer in Northampton and although I don't know the bloke I know players like him, ex Northants player and now England spinner Graeme Swann in that category. These guys live on hubris, convincing themselves they are top players so to maintain that level, effectively talking themselves into being great, the ego crushed if they are challenged on that. They expect to be admired and dish out the stick to maintain that standing from their pedestals. But they are surprisingly delicate creatures if their egos are challenged. Swanny crumbled when Kepler Wessels arrived at Northampton to coach the team in 2005 because he simply asked Swanny where is this ability you keep shouting about mate? Kepler confronted Swann on day one in the nets to perform or do one. Swann legged it, ironically to Nott's where the captain and coach of that team had just hurled Kevin Pietersen's kit off the balcony, nearly hitting Graeme on the head, metaphorically, of course.
I know for a fact that banter in the England dressing room is harsh sometimes and I think players like Swann know Pietersen doesn't like it and so do it even more. But the purpose of that banter is to build team spirit and equality in the unit so you play for each other and not yourself. But KP plays for himself and always has and not likely to change that attitude. He is chasing records and glory to be defined by those stats and I suspect the ECB partly banned him when they did because he is near to the all-time English top test century scorer at 22 hundreds. That record is jointly held by Sir Geoffrey Boycott, a very similar character. But you need that confidence, ego and belligerence to bat long and to achieve these records and no coincidence those two have that number of centuries.
I recall a story Ian Bell tells where he was doing a promotional shoot for a sports wear company with Kevin and KP commented that both the trainers they were plugging looked the same, Pietersen asking the sports company to make his shoes look 'different' from Bells, no doubt an extra gold stripe or two, presumably because Kevin felt he was the bigger star.
On the Twitter thing I think it was KP simply getting back at Swan and the likes of Broad and James Anderson for teasing him everyday. Stuart and James are good looking lads and their ego based on that alone as they feel invincible like attractive people often do. This sort of thing develops cliques in the dressing room. Kevin simply can't take that stick and doesn't dish it out when he should so to avoid it coming back his way even more. If you leave him be in the corner then he will start winning England games again, seriously missed in the Twenty20 World Cup. He doesn't need team bonding time as it's that aloofness that makes him so effective. Alistair Cook knows that too well and will lead and motivate him that way now.
I think it all started to unwind when Swann arrived and these two huge egos collided. I have never met a cricketer with as much confidence as Graeme. I recall being at the Northants club end of year evening and the band had cancelled at the last and so Swanny grabbed the microphone and did an hour of stand up comedy and impressions in front of 400 members in their dinner suits and dresses. He wasn't great and took the catcalls and whistles in a good spirit but carried on like a real trooper. He is fearless and smart enough to ignore any critic from his fellow pros now he is an established player. KP, on the other hand, I think just doesn't want to be liked and will remain aloof as he knows you have to do things at that top level not everyone will like so why bother to make people like you anyway? The ECB making him captain was the craziest thing off all and I believe Kevin snapped up the chance so he could be himself more and get more respect through not having to tolerate the stick. Strauss had no real issue with being wound up in the dressing room and understood the importance of it.
Poor old Monty Panesar knows just how bad KP was as a man and leader, two incidents on the sub continent coming to mind. My information from connections in the game tell a story of KP always challenging authority. When Peter Moore's, the then England coach, wanted to play Monty as a second spinner in a test in the dust of India, KP angrily disagreed in front of the team and wanted to use Patel instead and the coach and captain nearly came to blows over it. The second time was more recent when Strauss was captain, England down in the heat of Sri Lanka after Monty had dropped two sitters and so England losing the test. Instead of regrouping for the final test to level the series, KP, and an unnamed (and slightly overweight) Yorkshire fast bowler in the England team, turned on Monty in the dressing room in front of everyone for dropping those catches and costing them the series. Monty was devastated and went back to Sussex in a right mess, Mike Yardy not the only one in that particular treatment room at Hove this summer. Pietersen is poison and should be got rid, young Bairstow the future at number four now, a born and bred Englishman!