Nightmare situations

Kevin Pietersen...all’s not well with him and the ECB.-AP

Kevin Pietersen may also be dealt with harshly and eased out of the Test side just as Allen Stanford has been eased into jail for more than his lifetime, writes Ted Corbett.

Two beautiful dreams have died. Two men steeped in hubris sought to make cricket their exclusive playground and both woke to find that was an illusion too far.

The first vision had the idea that the tall and powerful Kevin Pietersen, known as KP to cricket lovers worldwide, would give England such an edge in Tests, one-day internationals and T20 matches that they would be triple champions.

He was not only known as a match-winner but as a batsman who could fill a ground by his own personality, the strength of his strokes and the speed of his scoring.

After eight years in which he tried every colour in his hair dresser’s palette, sported every exotic item of clothing in the London boutiques and spoke his mind with total frankness, he realised that he did not need to deck himself out in such dazzling splendour.

His admirers loved him for his batting and just hoped that he would more often produce great results for England. They waited patiently for his big scores to return, hoping against hope that there was a Lara-sized accumulation in his latest bat and glad that after half a dozen or more adventures with show business ladies he had at last settled down with the girl of his dreams and had the baby that made his family complete.

All seemed to be going smoothly when the winter tours finished; KP was back at his best with two successive hundreds. Now — and this shock came out of the blue for those of us who see little of what the celebrity Press writes about him and would probably believe only half of it anyway — suddenly stories appeared indicating that all was not well.

Just as suddenly we heard he had told the England and Wales Cricket Board that he felt he could not continue to play in all three forms of the international game. He wanted to continue as a Test player but to drop the ODIs and concentrate on T20. It was wearing him out, he said.

The reply from Andy Flower, the coach, was that it was not within the ECB agreement to pick and choose between the two forms of limited overs matches and that Pietersen had to play in both or neither. There were long discussions but what have been called “Pietersen’s people” would not give way. The ECB also stood firm.

I believe that was foolishness. Were England better off with Pietersen? Yes, of course. Was he an exceptional player, able to win matches at all levels? Yes, certainly. Would spectators flock to see him? Naturally. Would life as we know it come to an end if he — and he alone — were allowed to pick his matches? I doubt it.

I have told the story of the great English football manager Don Revie accepting transfer requests without blinking an eye. “If that man no longer wants to play for Leeds United I am not going to try to change his mind,” he used to say.

If Flower had been as far-sighted and made an exception for Pietersen the result would have been a greater benefit to England.

Of course, we all imagine that there were faults on both sides but I am sure that if the Flower reaction had been: “Thank you, KP; it will give us the chance to play a youngster in the one-day side” it might even have brought about a change of mind by Pietersen.

Perhaps there is still time. I like to watch KP bat if only because you never know what is coming next. That is always sport at its best.

The other dream was also a nightmare. Allen Stanford, also tall and powerful, arrived suddenly on cricket’s doorstep. Against all convention he landed a helicopter at Lord’s, opened a box of (real or imaginary) dollars and seemed to be the man most likely to fill the game’s coffers forever.

He brought wide, avaricious grins to the faces of men more famous for scowling. His open treasure chest made them think they would be rich forever; his prize money for the one-off T20 game in the Caribbean made a few of their cricketers wealthy in islands where there are as many poor people as in any quarter of the world.

Now he has been found guilty of fraud on a massive scale, he is no longer a knight and only days after Pietersen stepped aside from the one-day internationals he was sentenced to 110 years in jail for conducting what is known as a Ponzi scheme which consists, basically, of paying people profits from their own payments.

He says he did no harm, that no one lost money because of his scheme. All I know is that some famous men lost face because of their faith in his cash.

Money, as we have often observed in this column before, is at the root of all evil and I guess the American authorities had plenty of evidence to send him to jail, although whether there is any justice in such a long sentence, there must be some doubt.

It smells too much of revenge for its own sake and — in a game where some men who have cheated the system have been allowed to return — that is hard to accept.

I am concerned that Pietersen may also be dealt with harshly and eased out of the Test side just as Stanford has been eased into jail for more than his lifetime.

That would be a nightmare.