Cricket needs to address the player-board run-in (or stand-off) issues at the earliest. The problem in its entirety lies in the adamancy on both the sides. Ultimately, the nation’s cricket is at loss.
Kevin Pietersen’s announcement of retirement from limited overs’ format was certainly a shocker. In his statement Pietersen said, “With the intensity of the international schedule and the increasing demands on my body, I think it is the right time to step aside and let the next generation of players come through to gain experience for the World Cup in 2015”.
The last two ODIs that he played for England saw him score 111* and 130 respectively against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. His last T20 score was 62 against the same opposition. These not only show the kind of form he carried but a collective loss ofEnglandcricket, the board and lastly himself. Certainly, his frequent run-ins with his ‘adopted board’ have led to this decision.
The England Cricket Board (ECB) had a rule stating that central contract players would have to make themselves available for both formats in the limited overs or nothing. Pietersen, however, was keen on continuing in T20s and quitting ODIs. The board refused and resultantly, the decision was announced by him. “For the record, were the selection criteria not in place, I would have readily played for England in the upcoming World Twenty20,” he said. His central contract would also be downgraded as he would be only chosen for the Tests henceforth.
A point worth noting- he has not announced his retirement from club cricket and the Indian Premier League. This further would start the never ending club versus country debate and giving impetus to the new concept of freelance cricketers. Chris Gayle was an example to this until sometime back when he wasn’t considered for any national commitments by the West Indies Cricket Board due to their stand-off. Now the differences, although not completely, have been resolved temporarily and he has made himself available for the ODI series against England now. Freelance cricketing is a very disappointing thing to have happened. Imagine the plight of a West Indies cricket fan when he sees Gayle bludgeoning the opposition in club games whereas the national team performs miserably in the batting department!
Such incidents only hurt the game. A balance has to be struck somewhere in between. Alternatives would emerge only when such impressive cricketers go. But players like Pietersen and Gayle have made it to this level due to impressive skill and rigorous training. Nurturing the young guns will take a lot of time and their nation’s performances would be at a greater risk till then. Instead, if the training continues with such players being around, a pool of competitive cricketers would be created making them ready for major events such as the World Cup in 2015.
Rigidity is the least needed thing in such times. ECB must rethink its stance on the central contract and ensure players’ wish as well. Also, it is a sign for other boards not to be egoistic about issues and resolve them quickly for the betterment of the game.
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