Kevin Pietersen - Wayward genius or dangerous egotist?

KP still gets more column inches than any current England player...
KP still gets more column inches than any current England player...
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England won the first ODI against Sri Lanka yesterday but our Leeds team still want to talk about Kevin Pietersen, well who doesn't...?

For a man who has fallen out with a long list of people throughout the course of his career, it was a miracle Kevin Pietersen lasted as long in the England team as he did.

The South African-born 33-year-old's temperament may have been better suited to individual sports like golf or tennis, but it is clear that in the well-mannered sport of cricket he rubbed up far too many people the wrong way, including his team-mates.

More than 8000 runs in 104 Tests at an average of 47.28 certainly helped his cause as did his memorable match-winning innings against Australia at The Oval in 2005 and
brilliant century against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2012. But the fact is that England should have ditched Pietersen when they had the chance in 2009.

It was clear that the petulant Pietersen was trouble even before he broke into the England team almost a decade ago.

When he was with Nottinghamshire in 2003, Pietersen became embroiled in controversy when his captain, Jason Gallian, reportedly threw his kit bag from the dressing room.

After Pietersen threatened to sue Nottinghamshire, he moved to Hampshire at the end of the 2004 season.

Two years later, he slammed the South African quota system in his book and described then Proteas captain Graeme Smith as a 'muppet.'

But it was when Pietersen was named England captain in 2008 that matters began to escalate. Always seen as arrogant, the decision to promote the big-hitting star seemed
strange and risky at the time, but in retrospect appears fool-hardy in the extreme.

After a brief period, Pietersen appeared to get too big for his boots and locked horns with coach Peter Moores.

As matters came to a head Pietersen announced to the world that he couldn't work with Moores. It was a revelation that ended with Moores being axed and Pietersen being stripped of the captaincy.

The England and Wales Cricket Board should at that stage have taken the bull by the horns and told Pietersen he would never play for England again.

But despite always clearly playing for himself and not the team, Pietersen continued to be good box-office and was usually the batsman the opposition feared - the ECB relented.

Ashes victory after Ashes victory papered over the cracks and Pietersen was excused even when he expressed his disgust at being omitted from the one-day side for the series against Pakistan in 2010 by sending an explicit tweet.

The dangerous maverick then decided Twenty20 cricket was where the money was and announced that he wanted to cut his England appearances down so that he could play in the lucrative Indian Premier League.

The ECB bent over backwards in an attempt to placate Pietersen, who promptly called time on his one-day career.

The belligerent behaviour continued with Pietersen's ego threatening to derail England's status as the best team in the world.

Possibly his most bizarre behaviour came in the 2012 Test series against South Africa when he allegedly sent derogatory texts to some of the South African players, which maligned Andrew Strauss, the then England captain, and coach Andy Flower.

Pietersen was immediately axed but was soon 'reintegrated' into the side even though he was clearly having a destabilising effect on the rest of the England team.

The recent humiliation Down Under cannot be completely blamed on Pietersen but his continued presence in the dressing-room has certainly done nothing to lift team morale.

Although he was England's highest run-getter in the cataclysmically bad 2013-14 Ashes series, Pietersen once again fell out with his coach, Flower, and captain, Alastair Cook. A common thread seems to have run through Pietersen's career. It was bound to end in tears.

A great batsman? Possibly. But a good team player? Certainly not.

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