His England career ended the way it started almost ten run-packed years ago and, deep down at least, Kevin Pietersen probably wouldn’t want it any other way.
With all eyes on him once more following the release of his eagerly anticipated autobiography-cum-diatribe ‘KP’, Pietersen has not just hammered the final nail in his international coffin, but lowered himself into the ground and replaced the soil. Chapter by scathing chapter, word by brutal word, he has burned his England bridges and scattered the ashes far and wide.
But there is an overwhelming sadness at the way this complex character, this supremely-skilled sportsman, has been cast aside, especially at a time when his abilities show no sign of seriously deteriorating and his experience is of more use than ever to England’s crop of emerging young stars.
Yet at 34, Pietersen’s career was on the down, not the up, and he must have known that the end would come sooner rather than later. And, after all, he was always unlikely to go quietly.
The noise began in 2005 when he was greeted with jeers on his return to South Africa, with England’s one-day team. After one scintillating innings, the partisan home crowd turned their backs on him - just as KP felt his country had done years before. But after smashing his final century of the series, the jeers had turned to cheers and the same crowd stood to applaud him. He didn’t just make hundreds in England wins - England won because of his hundreds. But no amount of flamingo shots and magnificent innings can save him now.
Very few have spent any length of time in Pietersen’s company, but many have an opinion on the player and the person - either he was wronged, or a divisive influence. Whatever the truth is, his book raises an important question about the very dynamic of the dressing room - the most sacred of places. Professional sportsperson wax lyrical about the ‘dressing room’, which invariably contains a ‘great set of lads’. But what goes on behind that closed door can often be vastly different - even when a team presents a united front in times of victory. If there is, as KP alleges, a culture of bullying in the England set-up, then his words to expose it could prove every bit as vital as his runs. And let us not forget, that there were plenty of those; 13,797 in international combat, to be precise. And, at just 34 years of age, there would undoubtedly have been many more in the tank.
For KP, the end has come too soon and, if managed properly, this great entertainer could have given us so much more.