Narcissism is a terrible fate

What happened seems indefensible.  England sacked its best batsmen with scant explanation.  It was insufferable deceit, followed by silence to spite the truth.  But Kevin Pietersen had promised the world for a decade and was prone to sending the world to hell.


Pietersen seemed to play without the honesty to recognise right from wrong.  He is irreplaceable on the field and reportedly infuriating off it.  Yet he remained, despite the staggering arrogance and ease of dismissal, England’s best batsman during the Ashes.


He would rather get out swishing to midwicket or caught at long-on than cleaned up and bowled, like his captain, Alistair Cook was several times.  And Cook is guilty of his own sashayed swishing, hooking Johnson to fine leg in Adelaide and getting caught for one.


Simply, all of England’s players must apportion blame upon themselves.  To publicly garrotte Pietersen for misplaced bravado is ridiculous.  That it took a week for a fumbled explanation to emerge after the sacking is shameful.


That the issues centred on one facet – trust, was almost predictable.


Cook does not trust Pietersen.  It isn’t about batting.  Pietersen’s defensive excuses are meaningless, not when the evidence is so clinical.


The very existence of hope and hype for victory were sacrificed by England’s ineptitude.  Recriminations, predictably, are bad.  Jonathon Trott fled home suffering from stress.  Graeme Swann retired.  Matthew Prior was dropped.


But Pietersen was the only player sacked.  It wouldn’t be Pietersen without the drama.  Aside from scattered moments of glory in Melbourne, that something would go wrong in the aftermath of the Ashes was almost guaranteed.


It went wrong.  What Pietersen flaunted was no longer conspiracy.  Another life few were aware of except the perpetrator and his teammates was exposed.  The fraud is apparent. There can be no denials.


When Pietersen closes his eyes, images from the Ashes will provide a grim matinee, a flash of agony cruelling sleep.


A tour is a long time for a cricketer.  It can be much longer in life.  It can end careers.


Yet all England players, in the wake of the Ashes, are tarnished by the same angst and hurt, the same fleeting images of self-betrayal and contemptible self-destruction.  The Ashes were an abject failure.  One team is responsible, not just one man.


If England can’t trust Pietersen, how can they trust each other?


It wouldn’t be England without the drama, there’s just too much pathological history to suggest otherwise.  When things seemed so damn good, when victory was theoretically certain, what should’ve been the best tour of their collective lives degenerated into apology.


More than a month afterwards, England remain so damn sorry for themselves.  Promises reaffirmed before the Ashes were privately renounced.  Words of triumph, sentences of the future abandoned for all to see.  The world has gone to hell.


It is Pietersen’s fault.


Victors write history, the vanquished suffer it, but the truth can be written different ways.  No one, however, respects a liar.


On the evidence provided by the Ashes, the English team are salutary liars without conscience, branded by wreckful history.


When trust is broken, explanation is sought.  Some people might believe Pietersen and the words he uses in his looming biography.  Others might choose to believe Cook is right and the best man to rebuild the side.


A performance like the Ashes creates mistrust, which can be ruinous.  No one knows what to believe.  Reputations have been destroyed.  Explainable actions, no matter how dreadful, remain unexplainable.


What happened is clear.  England lost the Ashes 5-0.  Pietersen was sacked because he is untrustworthy.


Much has been discussed and written and no one seems clearer to the truth, which is to ignore the proof.  That no one trusts Pietersen does not need explanation.  Upon that calamity, ability does not ride.


Cook does not care about Pietersen and his batting anymore.


He is not, unfortunately, the first sportsman to be sacked for matters of trust.  Sexual mistrust forced Wayne Carey to resign from North Melbourne.  Barry Hall couldn’t be trusted not to punch opponents so Sydney told him to quit.


No one trusted Jason Akermanis’s loose lips at Brisbane.  No one trusted him at the Western Bulldogs either.  Brendan Fevola breached trust at Carlton and bettered his worst at Brisbane.


Those men were exceptional footballers, match winners with few poor performances.  When they were no longer trusted, their wonder no longer mattered.  They were out.


At 33, Pietersen might’ve played another fifty Tests.  History has been rid of a rare talent.  Records that might’ve been broken will be busted by someone else.


Anecdotal evidence suggests Pietersen deliberately wore the wrong sponsors t-shirts to various events.  He didn’t like travelling with the team.  He criticised his coach, Andy Flower during a team meeting.


His petulance cannot be blamed on anyone else, narcissism is a dreadful fate, but there has to be more to his sacking than incorrect shirts and criticism.  No incidents involving alcohol, women, drugs or other lurid behaviour have been linked to Pietersen.


It is a wonder he has been so quiet.  The innocent rarely suffer in silence.


If Pietersen tells the truth right now he’ll never have to remember anything.  He’s not going to play for England again.  He can say whatever he wants.  And he hasn’t apologised to Cook, his teammates or the sponsors.


No one need say sorry if they’ve done nothing wrong.


Cook, as captain, had the luxury of apportioning blame.  It was all about trust, simple as that.  There are no grey areas with trust.  A man is either trusted or he is not.


Scoring the most runs during the Ashes is irrelevant.  It wasn’t the manner of Pietersen’s dismissals or his dressing room behaviour.  It is his entire persona.  He is far too trusting of his abilities.  He put too much faith in his ego.  His teammates cannot stand him anymore.


Knowing he can never rebuild the trust, Pietersen can now relax.  Each training session, conversation and statement will no longer be scrutinised for signs of misbehaviour.  He can wear whatever shirts he wants.


How he handles the future will be interesting.  If, as expected, he plays the same, then Pietersen will stay the same.  There will never be redemption, not for England, and that will be a shame.


But this is Pietersen.  Men like him should offer a disclaimer to supporters, my history might be bad so if you support me, whatever happens from now on is your fault.


That disclaimer, though, is a copout.  People love performers.  Watching Pietersen inside a great innings was intoxication.  Shame he sabotaged everything he worked for.


Confronting the truth is always brutal.  Getting sacked may have many layers, but there is only one way to tell it when the explanation needs to be vague.


Blame it on trust…



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Interesting Mike but let’s face it if Pieterson had not been a star he would have been given the boot when caught giving info to the , South African side .
    A star player is always given more lattitude than a fringe player but when you go to rock bottom teams generally want every 1 pulling in the same direction there were too many rumblings re , KP that he was not
    Dustin Martin is another example if not a star player would , Richmond have taken him back NO . Would a stronger club probably not , Would other clubs have taken him 15 years ago definitely .
    It will be fascinating how these sort of situations develop in the future Thanks Mike

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