Flamboyant import Pietersen will be missed
England's Kevin Pietersen runs to the Balmy Army on the hill in celebration after making his double century on the third day of the second Ashes test at the Adelaide Oval, Sydney, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010.(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
So those dozy Englishmen have finally done it; they have driven their best, most dynamic batsman into retirement.
Yes it is only retirement of the limited-overs variety, but to think that Kevin Pietersen will never windmill his way to the crease in English pyjamas is an outrage.
Of all the players who have led England on their heartbreaking march to the top of world cricket, KP has been the one most responsible for their sustained success.
Admittedly he did it with the help of others, but when England were still something of a joke back in 2005 it was KP who turned them around.
He was everything the team needed, everything his teammates were not: he was a foreigner.
Remember, English cricketers of the time still regularly woke in cold sweats, bent entirely out of shape from the terrible midnight visions of a rampaging Merv Hughes.
Australian cricketers had feasted for years on the weakness of England’s cricketers.
It had rarely been pretty, but Australians had long found it beautiful all the same.
No longer could England afford to wheel out the likes of Robert Key, Michael Atherton Alec Stewart or Graham Thorpe.
Pietersen offered a way out.
As Pietersen and the other foreigners came in, slothful laziness was replaced by foreign concepts like professionalism and intensity.
In a brutal, efficient shake up, ambition became entrenched as the dominant characteristic of the England Test side.
To complete the squad the ECB had scoured Pub Darts competitions throughout the country to find the most aggressive, anti-social, competitive scum that the South Africans could teach to bowl a bouncer.
Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard headed the list and were ushered straight in.
The ECB knew none of these men had the discipline or genuine class required to be long-term successes, but they were fearsome, ferocious examples of what a nation long forsaken by God could excrete.
Memories of 2005 stir instantly.
Glenn McGrath, the latest in a long line of champion Australian fast bowlers, had just dismissed English struggler Ian Bell as an immediate follow-up to his dismissal of captaincy-puppet Michael Vaughan.
Like Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner, Da Vinci’s The Last Supper or Hilton’s A Night in Paris, McGrath’s spell had been proof of true human genius.
For a lifetime, an eternity, this genius had been Australian.
As McGrath prepared for his hat-trick delivery, it seemed little had changed.
However, as the jubilant Australians looked to the player’s entrance, out he strode.
His ridiculous hair style – over-dyed and over-stylised – screamed for attention like few before him, but his confident manner screamed of nothing but intent.
He marched forward, shoulders high, muscular arms locked in furious wind-milling, and scanned his surrounds.
The Australians watched on in an unfamiliar mixture of awe and disbelief; how could an English cricketer confront them in such an important contest with such fearless bravado?
Pietersen meant business in a way no Englishman had before. No Australian was surprised to learn that he was really a South African.
“Leg stump please?” he asked the umpire in calm arrogance, etching his land claim into the dusty fifth-day pitch.
The resultant confrontation offered stomach-churning, spine-tingling excellence from both sides.
Ultimately though, it was Pietersen who dominated.
Having marked a line in the sand KP then proceeded to spend the afternoon stepping across it, dragging his adopted nation with him as he flicked the Australian bowling disdainfully into empty leg-side pastures.
There could have been no more emphatic authentication of the beginning of this bold new era in English cricket.
Pietersen’s innings has since been a performance etched alongside the greatest ever in test-cricket’s magnificent history.
His score eventually read 158, but to England and its cricketing powerbrokers it had been worth so much more. It had secured them the Ashes for the first time since 1987.
Vicious, anti-social dart-throwers Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard had helped them along the way, but it was obvious to all concerned that it had taken a foreigner to carry England that final journey, to drag the side over the line.
It was a line, once crossed, the ECB would refuse to retreat back to.
And with KP in hand it had always seemed unlikely they would ever need to.
Now, for their limited-overs teams at least, they’ll need a re-think.