Kevin Pietersen: ECB brave to drop him, says Jonathan Agnew

 

The decision to leave Kevin Pietersen out of the England team for the third and final Test against South Africa is clearly a very brave one by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

With England having to win the match at Lord's to level the series and stay number one in the world, there must have been a temptation to bite the bullet and deal with the Pietersen issue afterwards.

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England players are well paid and you must be available to play. You sign the contract, like Pietersen did, or you don't

Jonathan Agnew

But it shows how disenfranchised he is within the set-up and how aggrieved the ECB are with his comments about team spirit and even more so about reports he sent text messages to South Africa players  during the Headingley Test.

It has been reported that the content of those messages was not very flattering about either captain Andrew Strauss or team director Andrew Flower. It is my understanding that Pietersen was asked to apologise for those text messages and he has not done so.

The subsequent YouTube interview he conducted to explain his decision to make himself available to England again in all forms of cricket was both a violation of his contract and a last-ditch attempt to salvage his place. He was asked not to do it and yet he still did.

The decision to omit Pietersen is a real statement by the selectors - and one backed by the board - that the team comes first. Until he demonstrates that he understands that ideal, Pietersen will not play.

The move will split opinion but in a team sport you have to have 11 individuals pulling together. You can have different types of people in a squad but they all have to play for the team and respect both their team-mates and the game.

Trying to manoeuvre things so he can play for England and play a full season in the Indian Premier League is not the way Pietersen should be behaving.

Certain New Zealanders do it, as does Chris Gayle of West Indies, but that is because their boards do not have the money to pay them well. They accept players can earn big sums in the IPL.

Pietersen's international record

Test debut: v Australia (Lord's), 21 July 2005

Test record: 88 matches, 151 innings, 7,076 runs, highest score 227, average 49.48, 27 fifties, 21 centuries

One-day international debut: v Zimbabwe (Harare), 28 November 2004

ODI record: 127 matches, 116 innings, 4,184 runs, highest score 130, average 41.84, 23 fifties, nine centuries

T20 international debut: v Australia (Southampton), 15 June 2005

T20 international record: 36 matches, 36 innings, 1,176 runs, highest score 79, average 37.93, seven fifties

But English cricket can afford to pay their players well and that is why they are top of the world rankings and both New Zealand and West Indies are not.

England players are well paid and must be available to play. You sign the contract, like Pietersen did, or you don't.

Pietersen is going to have to show commitment to the team. I also know the ECB still want to know about the texts he was sending to the South Africans. That is unfinished business.

The selectors will also have to decide what to do for the one-day internationals against South Africa and the World Twenty20 starting in September.

Pietersen retired before the previous one-day series against Australia and England won comfortably without him. So you would have to question whether he deserves a place anyway.

The message to Pietersen is clear: he has to be a team man, fully committed and nothing less.

Most of the players will think it is the right decision to leave him out. They will know their job is certainly going to be more difficult without him, certainly when it comes to scoring runs, but they all buy into the team ethos. England bowler Jimmy Anderson said on Sunday that the Pietersen saga has been a distraction. 

The irony will not be lost on many that we have this rather sorry saga running alongside the Olympics, where the commitment and delight of the athletes is there for all to see, achieving great things on lottery grants.