London: Kevin Pietersen’s miserable summer took another turn for the worse on Friday when it emerged that his attempt to take up a commentator’s role at the World Twenty20 next month could be vetoed by the International Cricket Council.
ESPN Star Sports announced on Friday that Pietersen would be working for them during the tournament in Sri Lanka, where England will be trying to hold on to the trophy they won in the West Indies in 2010.
Yet the event belongs to the ICC and it has the right to vet commentators used by the host broadcaster. Pietersen could fall foul of that process should pressure be brought to bear by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Pietersen’s latest move, which has angered many at the ECB with its insensitive timing, looks like another provocation and could have implications in any possible attempt by him to secure a central contract.
Having criticised his team-mates in the dressing room, he would now be doing so to millions of viewers — an unavoidable situation if he wanted to do the job properly.
ESS, which holds the broadcast rights for ICC tournaments, said yesterday that Pietersen — who was named player of the tournament when England won it in 2010 — would be on its “presentation and analysis team” during the event. “I’m very excited at working at the World T20 and watching England defend their trophy,” Pietersen said yesterday, before realising that it had to be ratified by ICC.
Current players have worked in television and radio before when under contract, usually when they have been injured, and James Anderson and Matt Prior will both be in Sky’s London studio during the tournament.
But as one senior ECB source said of Pietersen’s latest move: “It is hardly the act of a man trying to build bridges.” Pietersen is meant to be meeting Andrew Strauss over the next few days to explain himself over the texts he sent to South Africa’s players, but this latest move is unlikely to endear him either to his Test captain or to the selectors, who will decide whether or not to offer him a new central contract next month.
To them, it will be another point of conflict with a player increasingly alienating himself from the team ideal.
Strauss and the ECB management are still smarting from the fact that Pietersen has not yet conveyed any kind of regret for his actions in person, choosing only to communicate through his agent and PR men.
Perhaps he has sensed the weight and hardness of opinion against him and has thrown caution to the wind. If not, you have to marvel at how poorly he is being advised. Pietersen is a superb batsman but there is a sense that his presence has shackled some individuals in the squad, such as Ian Bell, who has grown in his role as an opener in the 50-over game since Pietersen’s initial retirement from limited-overs internationals.
Before rain washed out yesterday’s first one-day international between England and South Africa in Cardiff, the Warwickshire batsman once again gave a glimpse of why he has become so highly rated. The morning start had already been delayed to 2pm and the match reduced to 24 overs when, after a single delivery from Morne Morkel — a wide — the players went off again for rain. Play briefly resumed after 10 minutes, with the match reduced to 23 overs, but only 5.3 overs were possible before the rain returned. In that time, Bell smashed 26 runs off 18 balls, including two sixes off a Morkel over that went for 16 and two fours off Lonwabo Tsotsobe. It was the kind of dominant batting for which Pietersen is famous, but as Bell has shown, it is no longer exclusive to him.