Let us give thanks, yet again, albeit reluctantly, for Kevin Pietersen.
Some of us are doing just that today, if only because the former England cricketer with a giant talent, matching ego, and an unerring knack for causing trouble, has performed something of a miracle by shoving his political counterpart, Nicola Sturgeon, off the front pages.
Yes, we will soon be as sick of his strutting presence as of late we have become of hers – but as any yachtsman at sea knows, any port suffices in a storm.
For the benefit of readers outside the United Kingdom, I should explain that KP, as he is known to his friends (or Absolute Cunt to his enemies), has been told that he will not be returning to the England cricket team for the foreseeable future, if ever. The ‘ever’ is more likely as KP is now 34 – not a ripe old age for a batsman, it’s true, but ripe enough to qualify as what commentators are given to calling ‘the evening of his career’.
KP, some readers will recall, has endured an enforced exile from the squad for reasons that are petty if you admire him and grave if you don’t. (The majority, I might add, admire the skill but loathe the man.) His worst crime, by almost unanimous consent, was to send to England’s South African opponents a number of texts critical of his captain, Andrew Strauss, including one in which he called him an offensive name (Doos, which is a softer Afrikaans word for cunt). He is also said to have been perpetually disruptive in the dressing room and occasionally diffident on the field of play.
In an ironic twist of fate, that very same Andrew Strauss has now been appointed as Director of Cricket, a new post designed, apparently, to give the national game the strategic direction that it has, apparently, been lacking. On the first day of his appointment this weekend past, Strauss fired the coach. On the third, he ‘fired’ KP, citing a lack of ‘trust’ between player and management.
Strauss has come under attack from friends of KP, accused of being spiteful and vindictive. It was Strauss, I should mention, who referred to KP as an “absolute cunt” a harder English version of the Afrikaans doos. (This he said in an aside while commentating on television, forgetting that his mike was still on.)
As fate would have it, the very day that KP was summoned by Strauss to receive the news, he scored a triple century for his county team, Surrey. It was one of the great innings in the history of cricket. And that, as far as KP was concerned, answered in the boldest way possible those critics who said he was past his best. More to the point, it fulfilled a criterion that the new chairman of the cricket authority, Peter Graves, had strongly implied was a condition of KP returning to the national team. KP would be ‘hard to ignore’, Graves had opined, if he played country cricket and scored runs. Graves now denies that this was the conditional endorsement that everyone, including KP, took it to be.
England cricket fans, preparing to welcome this summer the all-conquering Australian team for an Ashes contest, are as divided over KP’s virtues as Scottish and English voters are over Nicola Sturgeon’s. Neither figure is likely to fade away any time soon.
Both are formidable players. Even voters south of the border agree that Sturgeon wiped the floor with her English counterparts during the recent election debates. All cricket fans agree that KP is the best English batsman of his time, and would introduce star quality into a national batting line-up that could use some fear-inducing muscle.
Red lines, in the newly minted phrase, need to be drawn.
Perhaps, in the KP affair, they have been. Few would bet on it, mind you, given English cricket’s record of dithering, mismanagement and a propensity for making left turns while signalling right, and vice versa. In Sturgeon’s case, the prospective red lines are still being twiddled with on a drawing-board somewhere along Whitehall. And the same sins of commission and omission with which the cricket authorities are charged, many could equally be directed to the British government.
KP may soon disappear from the newspaper headlines. Sturgeon will be harder to dispose of. She will be back.
But, meanwhile, thank you Kevin for the brief respite. I never thought I’d say this, but we may even come to miss you.