It wasn't so long ago that Mario Balotelli whipped off his playing shirt to reveal a t-shirt with 'why always me?' scrawled across the chest. One wonders if KP might be calling him to ask for stockists details. There's a horrible inevitability when it comes to news about KP - it's always going to be picked up on by the media, it's always going to be widely reported and it's always going to prompt plenty of debate.
But KP may be right to ask 'why always me?' in this case. His initial decision was to retire from one day internationals, before being told by the ECB that because the contracts were "closely linked" with the T20 selection policies, a player had to retire from both. Putting aside the fact that the ODI and T20 teams have two different captains, one of which does not play in the shortest format of the game, it was this statement that caught everyone's interest:
"… we have a selection policy that means that any player making himself unavailable for either of the one-day formats rules himself out of consideration for both formats"
Yet when Strauss retired from limited overs in 2011, he received "special dispensation" from the ECB, allowing him to keep his central contract. There isn't any special ruling for KP. Pietersen, the #1 ranked T20 batsman, hit two hundreds in the recent one day series in the UAE. He has scored just over 4,000 runs in his one day career. But this isn't enough for the ECB to waive a ruling that, quite frankly, makes little sense.
The ruling appears to be there to protect one day cricket - if a player can quit one format, it arguably dilutes the quality of that format. Graeme Swann said recently that he’d like to see 50 over cricket scrapped. Back in December, KP criticised the selection format for the limited overs teams. One day cricket is the least loved of all the formats in England. It can be a drag to watch unless you are there live. It lacks the history of the test game and the energy and pomp of T20’s.
One day scheduling is just as detrimental to the health of the game as any lack of player interest. This year, England play twenty two one day games. Twenty two games. At the expense of an extra test against South Africa? At the expense of fan interest in a five game series against Australia that, realistically, will prove nothing? It’s overkill. If the ECB were so dedicated to protecting the health of the shorter formats and protecting their players, helping them to avoid burn-out should be just as much of a priority as gaining revenue from the games.
And what of KP? Last week, he was fined for a few choice comments over Nick Knight, a move which seemed petty and, once again, designed to protect the ECB’s financial interests given their deal with Sky. KP’s personality will always be held against him, by both the fans and the management. His poor captaincy, the disagreement with Moores, the first Twitter spat – they all hurtle him into the headlines. Strauss has barely put a foot wrong in his tenure as an England player and then captain. Maybe that it was the ECB meant by ‘special dispensation’ – rewarding a player based on how many positive column inches they attract.
KP will continue playing tests. But that isn’t the point. His experience at the top of the order worked for England – in Flower’s own words, it gave them stability. He would have played a crucial part in England’s World T20 campaign, given that it was only recently he hit 100 in the IPL. But then maybe that counts against him; maybe turning his back on the county championship negates his right to retire from one format. The ECB will say they want to avoid players picking and choosing what games they play, whilst simultaneously omitting a crucial, in-form component from their T20 squad. There is, of course, a principal to be laid down. No one player is bigger than the team. But in this context, it seems to be one rule for one, and one for the other. Sometimes, it is all about KP.