England are set to begin the defence of their T20 World Cup title on Friday as they take on Afghanistan. The warm-up matches have been positive as England defeated Australia and Pakistan, however all the talk is about the exclusion of Kevin Pietersen from the World Cup squad and the forthcoming tour of India. Pietersen, who won the player of the tournament as England won the T20 title in 2010, is still missing from the squad after he sent text messages to South African players about then captain Andrew Strauss during the recent test series.
It has been a difficult summer for England as they were simply outclassed by a South African side led by incredible batting performances from Hashim Amla. The Pietersen incident made things even more difficult in what must have already been a tense dressing room. The ECB was right to drop Pietersen from the squad travelling to Sri Lanka for the World Cup and the test squad travelling to India. No one player is more important than the team and if England want to regain their status as the number one test ranked team, they need to play for each other. Kevin Pietersen has not shown the same desire to play for England as the likes of Stuart Broad and others who have missed out on the lucrative IPL in order to play for England. Pietersen has been honest when asked about what playing in the high earning IPL means to him and has previously asked the ECB to not select him for certain matches so that he can play in India.
Whilst Pietersen is without a doubt the most talented batsman for England, he does not have the right to decide when he plays. Unfortunately, the ECB’s bold stance will give greater confidence to England’s opponents in the world cup. Pietersen certainly is a name that brings fans to the grounds but I am sure India will be more than happy to host an England test side without Pietersen; a good player of spin will be crucial when it comes to playing on the sub-continent this winter.
It may well suit England to have everybody talking about Kevin Pietersen as Stuart Broad captains the side in a major tournament for the first time. The media is so focused on Pietersen’s exclusion that nobody is really talking about England as one of the favourites to go on and defend their title. There are still plenty of quality players that specialise in the shorter format of the game. Jos Butler hit a superb thirty-two from ten balls as England beat South Africa in the final twenty over game of the series by 28 runs. Kieswetter looks comfortable opening the batting, probably with Alex Hales who hit a convincing fifty-two against Australia in the first warm up game before the World C,up and Eoin Morgan is a player who can change a match in one over with his big hitting. With the ball, Stuart Broad has been leaking runs lately and will have to address that before the tougher group match against India takes place. Steven Finn has become a fine bowler in the shorter formats and Graham Swann’s input will be crucial as one of the more experienced bowlers.
The world cup in Sri Lanka certainly poses a different challenge than the one faced in the West Indies two years ago, but I expect England to perform well and to have the media talking about performances on the pitch, rather than the egos in the changing rooms. The English cricket side are in a transitional period as Alastair Cook takes control of the test side in November for the first time, following Andrew Strauss’s decision to retire, and you feel that how the twenty over side perform will set the tone for the rest of what is going to be a challenging winter ahead.