The battle for the honour of being the world's best test cricket team should have been one of the highlights of the summer but the Kevin Pietersen saga has cast a very dark shadow over the spectacle. One that for the sake of English cricket needs to be resolved swiftly.
We all know that Kevin Pietersen loves the limelight and the attention of the press, you only have to look at his hair over the years to realise that, and currently he's taking up more column inches than ever before; but one suspects KP may not be quite as happy about this profile elevation as he otherwise might have been.
The reasons for his sudden peak in fame: contract demands, twitter parodies and secret text messages. A strange concoction for a cricket story and it's always sad when the gentlemanly game of cricket descends into the moral abyss that the likes of football inhabit. We like to think of our cricketers as honourable chaps who are only in the game for the pride of the shirt that they wear but the reality is that when it comes down to it money, for most sportsmen, speaks volumes.
There's always been an arrogance about Pietersen, a trait that in truth has made him into the world-class cricketer he is today. Great players throughout the ages have always had a certain air about them, take Viv Richards for example, he was better than most, knew it, and used it to his advantage. But one must be careful with success, use it unwisely and it comes back to bite you on the behind.
Unfortunately for Kevin this seems to be a lesson that he has never learned which has lead to him upsetting the England selectors, the England coach, the England captain and the entire England dressing room. The problem he has is that in recent times the England setup has become so strong and so successful that they've decided that they can cope without the genius of KP.
Pietersen wanted his slice of the IPL big bucks, and who can blame him. If he had lodged a simple request to the board asking whether he could skip the tour of New Zealand to compete fully in the IPL season and then subsequently accepted their response of 'no chance', all behind closed doors there wouldn't have been an issue. Unfortunately the discussions were subsequently 'leaked' (one has to say that the ECB aren't entirely without fault here, they're privacy settings recently seem to have been set to 'colander' mode).
It seems that Kevin wasn't happy about his bosses wanting him to work and angered the ECB and many of the public by quitting fifty over cricket to concentrate on the two more heralded forms of the game.
To be fair to him international fifty over cricket is incredibly boring and redundant in the current cricket universe but he has now been seen to want to pick and choose when he plays, which coupled with his apparent ego has resulted in the phrase 'he thinks he's bigger than the game' being quoted left, right and centre.
What's really put the final nail in Pietersen's coffin is the texting scandal.
We all know that not all players in a dressing room are going to get along on a personal level, Geoffrey Boycott seemed to make a career out of it, but it's one thing not liking your teammates and another to commit treachery.
If the reports that Pietersen gave advice to the South Africans on how to dismiss Andrew Strauss are true then there can be no way back for him. It is after all a lesser form of match fixing. It's true in all forms of team sport that you can't be successful playing alongside someone you can't trust to perform, but how can you trust someone who has a reputation of actively trying to undermine you?
Andrew Strauss has been an extremely competent and professional England captain throughout his tenure. He'll know full well that Pietersen is one of the greatest talents in world cricket and is big enough to put personal differences aside for the sake of the team. The fact that Pietersen has been sending 'banter' (the modern man's version of abuse) about him to the enemy would have hurt Strauss but would surely have been forgiven, however in trading tactics Pietersen has reached a point from where there should be no return.
Crisis talks are said to have been scheduled for this weekend and the ECB need to sort this matter out one way or another and quickly.
This is a delicate time for England. Having been dethroned by South Africa in the test format they need to be distraction free for the one day series, the T20 World Cup and their preparations for a vitally important tour of India.
Strauss in particular needs to clear his head of the matter as he strives to rediscover his batting form. If he hasn't by the end of the India series then he'll undoubtedly be staring down a barrel.
As for Pietersen, he needs to do whatever is necessary to rebuild the bridges he has burnt. The IPL is certainly a great earner for the big names, but without international cricket he may not be a big name for much longer.Suggest a correction