“IF only it was about bat and ball eh?!” That tweet from Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale yesterday summed up perfectly the current situation surrounding the sport.
For as you might have heard, a new cricket book has hit the shelves.
No, not 10 for 10: Hedley Verity and the Story of Cricket’s Greatest Bowling Feat, which tells the tale of a true sporting hero, but KP: The Autobiography, which tells the tale of Kevin Pietersen, the most divisive cricketer of modern times, a man who could start a fight in an empty pavilion.
Packed into 315 pages of explosive score-settling are Pietersen’s claims of bullying in the England dressing room, weak management, inept coaching and more failings than you could shake a stump at.
It is a book which its critics would say essentially condenses 100,000 words into the following statement: “I’m right, and everybody else is wrong.”
A few hours earlier, Gale – with pointed reference to the racism storm that has engulfed him lately – also tweeted: “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last month it’s don’t believe everything you read.
“Brez doesn’t even know his own password!”
Brez is Tim Bresnan, Gale’s Yorkshire team-mate and brother-in-law, and Gale was responding to reports on Wednesday night that implicated Bresnan – along with Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann – in the parody Twitter account @KPGenius that poked fun at Pietersen a couple of years ago.
Alec Stewart, the former England batsman and current Surrey team director, has claimed that he was told by the account’s creator, Richard Bailey, a friend of Broad, that the three players had access to its password on their mobile phones, while Pietersen, in his book, cites this account as an example of the bullying that went on.
However, there is no suggestion that Bresnan, Broad and Swann did, in fact, contribute to the account, while the England and Wales Cricket Board yesterday said it conducted “a thorough and robust investigation” at the time and spoke to the three players concerned, and that they were satisfied they had nothing to do with it.
Bresnan took to his own Twitter page yesterday to proclaim: “Disappointed to be implicated in the #kpgenius account. I 100 per cent did NOT have any password. And I wasn’t involved in any posting.”
Thus the fall-out from Pietersen’s autobiography continues apace...
I haven’t yet read the book myself and have no plans to do so unless somebody sends it to me for Christmas, like an unwanted pair of socks, but I feel as though I know every barbed word, every piercing observation, such has been the firestorm of publicity that preceded its publication yesterday.
However, I suspect I am rather like most people in that I am already bored to the back teeth of revelations which, regardless of whether or not they are true, are detracting from the real business, the great game of cricket, and which are not really revelations at all when you think about it.
For is it any real surprise that the likes of Matt Prior and James Anderson might not be the nicest chaps in the world, or that Andy Flower is a “mood hoover” who could “walk into a room and suck all the joy out of it in five seconds”, or that Pietersen himself – a bona fide cricketing genius as opposed to a parody Twitter genius – is deeply flawed?
The only surprise, I would suggest, is that anyone is surprised, for does it not all rather sum up professional sport in the 21st century – an often joyless, win-at-all-costs environment in which great significance is attached to matters of great insignificance?
At some point in the not-too-distant future, English cricket will have to move on.
It will have to do so without Pietersen, who will only play for England again if he sells enough copies of his book to perform a financial takeover of the ECB.
Alastair Cook – no doubt choking on his cornflakes as he read the allegations this week – must rally his troops for the challenge of a seven-match one-day series in Sri Lanka, a tri-series in Australia and then the World Cup before England return to Test duty next spring.
It will not be easy as England prepare for the ultimate challenge: that of trying to win back the Ashes next summer, and it is fair to say the Australians will be chuckling from Alice Springs to Adelaide and all points between at the current chaos encircling their enemies.
Of course, lessons must be learned from the Pietersen saga – not least how to better manage maverick players like him: something that Michael Vaughan, for example, never found difficult.
But there is no point raking over all this for months on end, or allowing it to detract from the business of winning the Ashes.
There has been fault on all sides – Pietersen, his England team-mates, the England coaching/backroom staff, the ECB, you name it. No one comes out of it smiling – save, perhaps, from Pietersen’s publisher and bank manager, who must be turning cartwheels of joy.
Pietersen, of course, is a magnificent cricketer.
To watch him bat is to remember why you fell in love with the game in the first place.
Sadly, cricket is only part of the KP story.
England must now put cricket first – and attempt to put this chapter behind them.