Kevin Pietersen’s unlikely bid to take on England in a tour match in Canberra this week is over after Chris Rogers was called up to captain an Australian Prime Minister’s XI.
England limber up for the Carlton Mid Tri-Series and the subsequent World Cup with a game against an ACT XI today before taking on the PM’s representative team at the Manuka Oval on Wednesday.
The hosts were due to be captained by Mike Hussey, but the veteran Ashes winner was ruled out after suffering a calf injury in the Big Bash.
A high-profile replacement was required to lead the side in his absence and Pietersen, controversially sacked by England a year ago and engaged in a toxic war of words with his former employers ever since, cheekily put his hat in the ring.
While playing for Melbourne Stars on Saturday, he declared himself “always available” while chatting with commentators on the player mic and later tweeted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reiterate his hopes of featuring.
But his advances came to nothing, with Australia Test opener Rogers instead handed the prestigious role.
The 37-year-old will go head to head with one-time Middlesex team-mate Eoin Morgan, who was named as England’s one-day captain in place of the sacked Alastair Cook last month.
Asked about Pietersen’s eagerness to line-up against his old colleagues, Morgan played a reassuringly straight bat in his first media conference as captain.
“I think it was very ambitious,” he said. “It’s a hugely prestigious game, for the Prime Minister’s XI. To give an opportunity to somebody who is not Australian is pretty ambitious.
“When sides tour England and we put out Lions teams we give opportunities to our youngest and best.
“I don’t think it would have spiced up the game at all. It doesn’t really bother me.”
Announcing the change to his side, Prime Minister Abbott said: “It is disappointing that Mike Hussey won’t be available to take his place as captain but I am pleased that Chris Rogers has accepted the invitation. Chris has a wealth of international and domestic experience and after a successful Test series he is well placed to lead the team.”
Speaking about his appointment as captain, Rogers said: “It’s a great honour for me to be selected as captain of the Prime Minister’s XI to take on England.
“I’m looking forward to following in the footsteps of Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and others in leading this PM’s XI under lights at Manuka Oval.”
The PM’s XI also includes paceman Pat Cummins and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who were named in Australia’s World Cup squad yesterday.
England seamer Stuart Broad believes Pietersen’s sacking last year was “unnecessary”, but feels the batsman’s absence has given younger players a chance to shine.
Broad thinks Pietersen’s form – he averaged under 35 in his final 12 Tests – meant he could have just been dropped, and that would not have led to the media frenzy that his sacking caused.
“It just became a bit of a media uproar, the whole sacking, it just seemed a bit unnecessary when every other player in the history of the game just gets dropped for poor form,” said Broad.
“His form was pretty poor over 18 months, every other player just gets dropped.
“Obviously Kevin’s very disappointed with that and every player should be disappointed if you’re not going to represent your country again.
“It could’ve been handled very differently, I think, by everyone.”
Pietersen’s name continues to linger around the England team – despite him criticising team-mates, including Broad, and the ECB in his controversial autobiography – and the 34-year-old remains determined to resume his international career.
Yet Broad thinks that is unlikely due to Pietersen focusing solely on the Twenty20 format in the last 12 months as well as the emergence of players such as Yorkshire duo Joe Root and Gary Ballance in the national team set-up.
“He’s not played any red-ball cricket for a year so I don’t think a return in Test matches is very likely and he’s not set the world alight in white-ball format either,” added Broad. “The three Test matches we won in the summer against India were probably the strongest performances I’ve played in in the 74 Tests I’ve played, and they were without Kevin Pietersen.
“The guys who have come in – Joe Root, Gary Ballance – have been the shining lights of the England team.
“When you lose a great player, younger guys come in and perform, so actually if Kevin Pietersen was still in the side would Joe Root have taken the responsibility on this summer and averaged 99? Probably not, but he became the shining light of the England batting line-up.”