I don’t want to write about Kevin. I don’t want to even think about Kevin, let alone talk about him. It’s too sad. So this won’t be about Kevin. Much…
Actually, this is all about Kevin. I can’t help it, what else is there to write about in our beloved game at the moment? Shall I go on about how Hales has been released to play for the Mumbai Indians? Or shall we discuss what the New Zealand bowling line up is likely to be? Or, heck – whether Guptil is ever going to score runs at Test level?
Nope. It’s all about England’s most successful ever international run gatherer.
I am not going to go over the stupidity of it all, others have done that far more eloquently than I ever could. But for clarity’s sake – I am mad as hell, and am raging against Cook (a poor, weak captain) and am generally anti-ECB! I have already poured my venom over Twitter, Facebook and even the airwaves! I can’t bring myself to do so again in this blog. I am basically spent.
Whilst not old enough to have experienced the Basil D’Oliveira story at first hand, I did live through the days of Mad Ray and Lord Ted. I remember the petition to get David Gower back in the team, and the ‘Bring Back Botham’ days. This is similar to the first and different to the latter. Gower and Beefy were spent forces, way past their best. The desire of the cricketing public to see these two colossi return was more nostalgia than reality. They were trading on memories. Both spent more time uncorking wine bottles than uncorking drives in the nets. Basil was youngish (his age was always vague) and Kevin is on fire. He has just scored 355 not out. He scored 290 in a day. There are Twitter users out there suggesting that 355 is more than Captain Cook will score in a whole Ashes series. It was scored under tight circumstances against tight bowling, and it wasn’t a fluke. He has looked imperious since he came back to Surrey. A couple of low scores and a couple of not outs aside, that monster innings against Oxford University (the Mighty Oxford) was also scored against the back drop of wickets tumbling.
The best run scorer we’ve ever had appears to be in the form of his life, ahead of an English Ashes Summer.
Why do I care so much? Why am I so upset? Is it just because of my sense of British propriety, of it not being fair? Why do some people not care? Why are many celebrating his demise? Do they love cricket less than me? Why do many people have an irrational hatred about Kevin, a man that they have never met, will never know and is – at heart – simply a young man with a burning desire to play a game?
On a cricket Facebook group I read this comment, “I just wish this nightmare would end”, written by a level headed young man who was not talking about the crisis in Nepal, not suffering a health issue or a bankruptcy. He was talking about Kevin. A couple of days ago I spoke on the BBC about this, and another contributor told me he was so delighted that Kevin was banished. When I asked him whether he was a real fan or not, he told me he was a season ticket holder to a county, read Wisden etc. He loved cricket and hated Kevin. He HATED Kevin.
However… When pressed he indignantly spluttered, “But he’s not even English…!” Can this be it? Can all these Kevin haters be racists? Why do they not share this hatred amongst half of the other members of “Team England”? Is it his attitude? His arrogance? He IS arrogant, true – but that arrogance is surely not misplaced. He is a great player and he knows it. His awareness of this talent is what makes him the player he is.
Some feel that his dip in form in the middle part of his career is due to him becoming MORE English!
So perhaps this is the heart of the matter. It’s down to him being an alien, trying to be something people feel he isn’t. They feel he’s a “wrong un”, an imposter, and all those runs don’t count, because he didn’t make them for the team, oh no! Kevin is selfish and only scores runs for himself! He doesn’t care about the game, just his personal ego and his average! He’s lost so many games for England playing rash shots! And all that crap about “It’s how I play”! He should play to the game’s needs etc., etc., etc.
Those arguments are all rubbish, of course. When one player scores runs the team scores runs. It is impossible to play purely for oneself in cricket unless one scores extremely slowly. Kevin’s “The way I play” plea has rendered him more runs than anyone else for English cricket. In that horrible 5-0 series he was able to bat long for few runs when the situation demanded it. And while everyone else was getting out to stupid shots (Cook hooking over and over and over again…) the anti-Kevin brigade never talk about it. They all slag off Kevin. They say that he would have been a much better player had he been responsible, yet forget all those matches he won for England., What more could be expected of a batsman, than to score runs on a massive scale?
Even in that match for Surrey against Leicestershire. I am a Leicestershire supporter. Surrey were facing a first innings deficit. Leicestershire were bowling well. Kevin won them that match. We would LOVE to win a game. It’s been a while…
So I suspect it’s got something to do with him being a foreigner in every sense of the world, and of not belonging to us. Whether they felt that when he was scoring those hundreds for England, we will never know. They won’t be able to give us a straight answer, their hatred and rage blinding them. I will just presume they grudgingly acknowledged his genius and took the winning with pleasure, despite in being due to this impudent runt of a South African.
Why do I care about this so much? I don’t know. I love cricket and I love heroes. I love the drama of cricket, and the way personalities collide. My own profession is to sing opera, big dramatic musical works on big dramatic stages. Kevin Pietersen against Brett Lee in 2005… Nothing operatic can match that for drama. He has given me through his cricket so many moments of pure unadulterated sporting joy! There seems to be something shared when a great sportsman achieves something that matters to the watcher. Kevin’s joy in his feats is my joy.
I was a kid when the aforementioned greats retired. When Botham, Gower, Lamb, Gatting, Gooch all faded away to be replaced by the Athertons, Crawleys, Ramprakashes the game seemed pale. None of these lads knew how to treat a barmaid. They all only kept food in their fridges. Robin Smith provided some colour, but it wasn’t enough; and college and girls and beer seemed more important than some match at the Oval. I fear that this crop of young ‘professionals’ will do the same to today’s kids. The game needs colourful mavericks, not establishment Yes Men. When Kevin ruled himself out of going back to the IPL due to an injury, he posed for a photo of himself next to a private jet about to fly to Dubai! Rock and Roll! What would Cook do, pose with a chicken on his farm?
And those bloody interviews. When Ballance scored one of his first centuries for England, he gave a breathless joyful interview. No media talk here. After his last one, he told Aggers that the team was to thank for his personal success, praised his batting partners and talked about taking the bloody positives. Swap his Zimbabwean accent for Root’s Yorkshire one and nobody would know who was who. Boring media talk in platitudes. Kevin’s interview after the 355 was about how he hopes that will get HIM into the England team, because HE wants to win the Ashes. It was honest and actually interesting. He just wants to play a game.
I started this blog with no answers, and haven’t found them in the writing. I genuinely don’t understand why it means so much to me. I have suspicions but no certainty. I genuinely don’t understand the hate, but again have suspicions – although not enough to shout RACIST at a Kevin hater. The only certainty I have is this – the game is poorer without Kevin in it, crazy hairstyles and all, raising his bat at yet another ridiculously brilliant knock, in white clothes.
And in a game that actually means something.