In this last few weeks, the ECB and PCB have ridden like Lady Godiva on bareback and revealed their naked self to the world.
They have each interacted with a high profile player under their remit with a diametrically opposed view on how to embrace the black sheep in their flock.
On the 1st February 2012, a youthful looking Pakistani named Mohammad Amir walked confidently through the gates of the Portland Young Offenders Institute in Dorset and back into society.
On 13 March 2015, that same convicted spot fixer and criminal made his way out to play for Omar Associates in Pakistani domestic cricket.
The PCB have backed Amir. Most of the published commentary has backed Amir. I sense the wider cricket community have largely backed Amir.
The narrative goes something like this:
Amir was young. He was under pressure from his captain to bowl those no balls. He was naive. Impressionable. He has served his time.
He is extremely talented.
He is young.
The ECB are a conservative organisation.
In fact, English cricket culture is unique from the rest of the world. Where most of the world see the game as common and open, the English cricket culture comes from a place of privilege, proper behaviour, egg and bacon jackets and those from the ‘right kind of family.’
Kevin Pietersen is a rogue. A talented one, but a rogue nonetheless.
He has a personality.
Whilst a member of the English squad, he expressed his opinion openly to his teammates and the administration. He did this behind closed doors and not via the media.
Kevin, like most men, has made mistakes.
He sent a text message to his South African opponents that he probably shouldn’t have. The message had nothing in it that was damaging to his team. Captain Strauss has admitted so in his book.
However, Kevin paid a price. He was stood down and ultimately ‘re-integrated’ back into the team at a later date.
Officially, all was forgiven.
Kevin carried on where he left off.
He made world class attacks look like average grade cricketers. He becomes England’s greatest ever batsman. He continued to challenge the team leadership in what most would fairly deem was the proper environment. It was all away from the media’s ever sensitive ears.
But the conservative ECB leadership didn’t like challenge. They make Kevin the scapegoat after a 5-0 losing Ashes campaign.
Appearing ‘disinterested’ on the field, looking out a window and whistling in a meeting.
Something like that.
Is being different an issue for Kevin Pietersen or is it one for the ECB leadership? Who holds the can to ensure a team gels?
Ultimately, a culture that rewards subservient behaviour rather than one that respectfully challenges is a poor one.
Kevin Pietersen is not a spot fixer. He has never been under suspicion of cheating. He has never been convicted in the courts of cheating. He has never spent time behind bars.
He is guilty of not allowing himself to be constrained by a conservative culture. He is guilty of believing Colin Graves when he said that there was a ‘clean slate’. He is guilty of thinking the ECB had changed.
Yes, he is guilty of publishing a tell all book after he was fired from the ECB.
He is therefore also guilty of allowing the ECB leadership to hold personal grudges against him.
Is he guilty of letting those grudges dictate selection policy?
If Pietersen was 25 instead of 34, would the ECB be acting in this manner? They have shown via the re-integration process previously that age is a large factor when considering what to do with non-conforming talent.
The same accusation can be pointed at the PCB.
Asif and Butt have had their papers stamped ‘never to return’.
However, because of Amir’s age and skills, the PCB have embraced what he could mean for the future of their team.
Amir cheated his teammates, his country, its people and the game of cricket.
Pietersen did not cheat his teammates, his country, its people or the game of cricket.
One is young.
One is old.
One only admitted his wrongdoings, and only after being backed into a corner.
The other accepted a punishment for what in hindsight did not warrant it.
One gets a hero’s welcome from a board looking for a champion stallion to back.
The other is already the people’s champion.
Both are cricketers. Both made mistakes. Both will have teammates not 100% comfortable about their return into the national squads.
Is cricket now trumpeting through its actions that Kevin Pietersen is worse than a convicted spot fixer?
That argument is now quite easy to win.
Are you happy that cricket has embraced this value set?
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Reproduced with permission at First Post