A Marriage of Convenience – England and KP renew their vows

The extended family are relieved. After apologies, tears, flattery and a period of ‘re-integration’, it seems that for the moment, Kev’s marriage may be back off the rocks. However, writes this relationship counsellor, despite appearances, it’s not really. After the last domestic, it seemed KP and England would be filing the divorce papers and Kev would be running off to his flashy younger mistress, Tee (20), an English-born Indian temptress, whose lustrous curves and ample moneybags have turned many heads. But ultimately, it seems, Kev and Easy Bea, his wife of some eight years, have realised that life without each other would be like watching the Champions League T20: shallow and pointless.

Easy Bea comes from a noble blood line – her mother, Teasy C. Bea had numerous relationships with successful men – Gower, Botham, Gooch, to name but a few. Bea’s grandmother, Emily (Em) C. See and her similarly named ancestors had been batting their eyelids at successful batsmen since the late eighteenth century. Easy Bea’s heritage is steeped in history, greatness and class. Kevin, by contrast, is the son of a colonial commoner. In a rags-to-riches story, Pietersen travelled to England to court young Bea, and after a whirlwind romance, they were finally married in 2005.

It has, without doubt, been Pietersen’s ambition to be an accepted member of cricketing high society. While, no doubt, there is some love there (for instance, Kevin had Bea’s family crest tattooed on his upper arm), in reality Easy Bea is a conduit for Pietersen’s ambition.

Alright, let’s drop the pretences (not least because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to think up relationship and marriage metaphors). Pietersen and the ECB need each other. Pietersen, a man who one could never describe as being reserved and unambitious, is acutely aware of his perception and his place in cricketing history. The last thing someone with his… let’s be blunt and call it ego, for want of a better word… wants, is to be forgotten, to be unmemorable. Pietersen wants to be great. You can see it in the way he plays – like Bradman and Tendulkar before him, KP wants to be someone whose mere presence at the crease can fill a ground, or draw a million eyes. He doesn’t want people in 20 years to say:

“Do you remember that Kevin Pietersen?”

“Oh yeah, played a few Tests for England, didn’t he? Good player, but not great. Now that Alastair Cook, he could play…”

The controversial part of this argument is that I think Pietersen would have been just have happy trying to be great for South Africa or Australia, or anyone who would have him, as he is playing for England. They are nothing more than a means to that end – his place in history. All the patriotic body art is nice, but it’s just trying to cover up his lack of a national identity. Since South Africa’s rejection of him, he’s been a career mercenary – he would have fought for anyone so long as he ended up standing on a pile of corpses somewhere.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising Pietersen for playing for England. I’m not some sort of xenophobic Englishman who believes in the sort of ridiculous qualification requirements that Yorkshire CCC have had over the years, that mean you have to have been born under a full moon in Barnsley, Leeds or York to someone wearing a flat cap and holding on to a whippet. In fact, I respect Pietersen’s ambition. But he can’t have his cake and eat it – his desire to get a quick buck in the IPL (somewhere, incidentally, where it is much easier to achieve his dream of filling grounds with his outrageous batting) has got in the way of his bid for greatness. He wants the big money and the Test match prestige, which might work for another country, but with England’s year-round schedule, it’s unfeasible. He has a choice between being a great batsman for the ages, or a rich but ultimately forgettable show-pony. Unfortunately, he seems to be incapable of making a firm choice on it – he’s been back and forth like a Murray – Djokovic rally and it’s becoming rather tiresome.

The ECB, though, need Pietersen just as much. Firstly, he does fill grounds, and Test grounds at that. Since Flintoff’s retirement, Pietersen has been the great crowd draw, an unpredictable soap opera of a cricketer, whose batting is full of cliffhangers and plot twists. With Cook and Trott in England’s top three, a little light relief at four is exactly what’s needed. Secondly, from a batting point of view, he is, on his day, England’s most talented and experienced batsman. Without him, England would have gone to India this winter with a top six featuring a debutant, a rookie, two plodders and two players who were made to look like Chris Martin on an off day against mystery spin. It would have been like lambs to the slaughter as soon as an Indian spinner unleashed the doosra.

So the differences have been patched up, for now at least. It remains to be seen which of the two hamsters in KP’s brain which at times seem to be working the controls will come out on top – the one that wants to play Test cricket, or the one who wants to play T20. It’s been a real humdinger of a power struggle between them over the last few years. I wouldn’t put it past Pietersen to walk out on the ECB again within a year. A marriage of love? No, it’s never been that. A marriage for convenience? More likely. Just don’t expect it to be plain sailing…

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