With day one of the third Test washed out, the main talking points here in England are (still) Kevin Pietersen’s decision to retire from one-day and Twenty20 international cricket and England coach Andy Flower’s decision to rest Jimmy Anderson for this Test match.
Speaking on Test Match Special, former England opener Geoff Boycott blamed the Pietersen situation on the ECB: “I know how people feel when they’ve been treated shabbily – and Kevin Pietersen was sacked as captain over the phone,” he said. “Hugh Morris [managing director of England cricket] talks of disappointment, but he’s got no right to expect better treatment than what Kevin was given as captain.”
That there is bad blood between KP and the ECB, stretching back to his acrimonious sacking as captain in January 2009, is well-known. Indeed, KP’s various clashes with the English cricketing establishment since then, including his latest announcement, should be seen in this context.
Another former England captain, Michael Vaughan, was more concerned about KP’s timing: “Kevin Pietersen never surprises me in the way he plays and some of the things he says. He’s his own man but I was really surprised by this … if you are going to go why not go until the end of the [Twenty20] World Cup? … If he has fallen out of love with 50-over cricket why not come out and say it?”
He’s right in that KP was supposed to be one of England’s key players in their defence of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka this September. But it’s his comments about the 50-over format of the game that are interesting here, and lead us onto Boycott’s typically forthright views on the Anderson situation: “If you want to rest him, rest him in the one-dayers. There are that many of them, they add up like the dots on dominoes.”
This summer, England are expected to play in 14 ODIs, a total universally agreed to be too many (although this may yet be shortened if the Aussies go through with their threat to boycott their one-day tour).
Flower, meanwhile, was keen to point out that resting players is hardly a new selectoral policy: “We’ve done this before. We pulled our captain [Strauss] out of a series in Bangladesh so he was fit and firing for the Ashes, and pulled Stuart Broad out of the same series … this is not new territory.”
The fact that England have already won this series has of course been central to the Anderson decision – it’s hard to imagine this happening had the series been finely poised at 1-1 going into the final Test. Using a ‘dead rubber’ situation to give one of the other pacemen a run-out in a Test situation sounds very sensible with the South African series coming up later this summer.
Speaking of England’s bowling options, the best quote of the day came from a very distinguished former cricketer, who commented: “Every side in the world craves players like England have who are tall, aggressive and can bowl.”