Saturday, 12 February 2011

Why KP (could) walk away from ODIs

So if the reports are to believed, Kevin Pietersen will hang up his proverbial fifty over boots after this World Cup, to lead a life of luxury (well, tests and T20s).

While he's since come out and refuted the claims on Twitter, Kev may well leave 50 over cricket after the World Cup anyway. But the question is - why has it taken him so long?

Since the advent of twenty20, 50 over cricket has proved to be a bit of an inconvenience on the international calendar. Very few (if any) countries play 50 over one day cricket domestically (favouring 40, 45 or even split innings games) showing that as a format, it's pretty outdated. And while the ICC have come out and said that for the foreseeable future One Day Internationals will be 50 over affairs, players (if the Daily Mail article is to be believed) evidently aren't that bothered about playing it.

For people like Kevin Pietersen, however, it isn't so much the overs in a day that's the problem - it's the fact that he has to be there. Kev has a young family; wife Jessica (off of Liberty X), and his 10 month old son, Little Man*. (*Probably not his real name). As a player of all formats, he left for Australia in October, and after the tests, T20s and 50 over games, he arrived home on Wednesday. To play in the 50 over World Cup, he has to leave for India tomorrow. So that's four days at home over the last four months. While admittedly he is staying out in India (of his own choice) to play IPL, he's said that the life of a sportsman is short, and he's entitled to earn the money while he can. And with his achilles injury that could potentially cut his career even shorter, the money could dry up very quickly.

So why bother playing in a fifty over World Cup? The lure of a World Cup can be granted to him in the T20 format, so why should be bother spending an extra few months away from his family to play in an outdated competition that doesn't interest him?

I'm not advocating scrapping ODIs (for the record, I support ODI cricket but as 40 over contests), but I can totally see why increasingly players like KP will choose to pick and choose what formats they play. Some see tests as the ultimate so drop T20s (like Michael Clarke) or ODIs (like KP could). And some know their bodies can't handle five days of running in, so drop tests (like Flintoff or Shane Bond) so they can continue to play in shorter formats. And some are just old and want to earn a quick easy buck so they just play IPL and freelance themselves playing T20 around the world.

Cricket is changing, and there are different skills and qualities required to play in the different formats. With the rise of specialist T20 players (like a David Warner) who don't even play in 50 over games, we could easily see three separate teams for the three separate formats. But that issue is secondary to the packed international calendar which will see international cricket lose it's premier players. If Pietersen does decide to walk away from 50 over cricket, it won't be surprising - and don't be too surprised if he's the first of many more to follow.

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