English Cricket has been thrown into turmoil with the simultaneous resignations of the Test and one-day captains Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood respectively. Vaughan retired in tears after the series defeat against South Africa and also asked not to be considered for the final Test at The Oval, thereby giving some breathing space to his Pietersen. He has, however, said that he wants to continue as a batsman now.
He is hoping that playing without the responsibility of captaincy will help prolong his Test career, and since he is only 33, which is young by English standards, he should have a few more runs ahead of him.
Vaughan was under increasing pressure after South Africa escaped from jail in the first Test after being asked to follow-on, and then won the second Test. England had a good chance to level the series after Collingwood's brilliant century in the third Test, but Monty Panesar was unable to use the fourth innings wicket to spin England to a win, as he couldn't at Lord's.
Pietersen, who was born and brought up in South Africa, has been accepted as English by most in England, as opposed to Darren Pattinson, who, from the first ball, faced hostility not only from the public but also from the England dressing room. There has been lot of debate about Pietersen's appointment and while some former players are questioning whether his lack of experience would come in the way, some are worried his natural flair might be curbed by the pressures of captaincy. Some are also hinting at dressing-room issues since Pietersen is seen as his own man and is not always bothered about the team.
They point out to his dismissal in the recent Test that England lost, trying to hit a six to get to a century. Of course, the switch-hit shots that he played earlier were ignored, for if anything, that had more of a risk element than the attempted loft shot that failed to clear the fielder at deep mid-on. To rub it in, Collingwood played the same shot to hit a six and get to his century, so comparisons were bound to follow.
Pietersen will be well aware that there will be many who will only be waiting for him to falter. It won't be a surprise if there is an incident somewhere where it will be remarked, like it was in Tony Greig's case -another South Africa born England captain — that he is not really English.
That happened in the World Series cricket way back when Greig aligned himself with Kerry Packer and became a pariah in the eyes of the English cricket establishment.
Still, just like Greig galvanised English cricket with his unorthodox approach to the game and got a series win in India, Pietersen may well do the same to English cricket — by a strange coincidence, England are to tour India later in the year. Collingwood's resignation was anticipated after the hue and cry over the run out that occurred in a one-dayer against New Zealand earlier in the summer. He refused to withdraw the appeal despite the umpires offering him the chance to do so after the collision that left a Kiwi batsman stranded a long way off the crease.
He was also banned for slow over-rates and Pietersen was skipper for the final one-dayer in that series. So Collingwood's resignation wasn't as much of a surprise as Vaughan's was. It is good to see Andrew Flintoff back in England colours, and he was really storming in to try to get SA wickets and win the game for England.