| Back to pavilion: Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen and his IPL ‘crime’
The real reason why Kevin Pietersen was sacked from the England team was because he was seen as a fifth columnist who had become the principal cheerleader for the Indian Premier League.
To be sure, Pietersen provided his many enemies among the English cricketing establishment and writers with the perfect excuse to get rid of him. He made “inappropriate remarks” about his captain, Andrew Strauss, in “provocative” text messages, apparently containing an Afrikaans swear word, to two of his IPL friends in the South African team, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.
But what the Pietersen affair has revealed is the underlying hatred for the IPL.
“At the root of all England’s problems may be the Indian Premier League,” declared Stephen Brenkley, cricket correspondent for The Independent.
He quoted the South African Jacques Kallis: “You keep in contact with a few guys that you wouldn’t have before the IPL because you’re teammates... It has changed how international players look at each other.”
Michael Henderson, in the Daily Mail, spat venom at Pietersen and his $2 million contract with the Delhi Daredevils: “His primary loyalty now is clearly to Delhi Daredevils... He is incapable of sharing a dressing room with 10 other people because the game he plays has only ever been about one man, which is why the highly paid slogging of the IPL suits him so well.”
One reason for English jealousy was that at last year’s IPL auction James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Ian Bell and Matt Prior all went unsold.
Veteran correspondent Scyld Berry argued in The Daily Telegraph: “If the IPL did not exist, Pietersen would not have been so full of himself after returning in April from his stint with the Delhi Daredevils.”
Geoffrey Boycott also focussed on the IPL: “How can Kevin say it’s not about the money when the IPL will pay him £1.3 million for six weeks’ work plus commercial advertising which in India will dwarf his England money. The IPL is all about money.”
“Outside of India nobody gives a toss who wins or loses in the IPL,” added Boycott witheringly. “Most people don’t care even if they know who wins. In India it is massive and the money is monumental but, hell, Twenty20 is fun. It’s hit and giggle. It’s just baseball with cricket rules.”
This is why it is crucial for India to hold peace talks with England players and reach a compromise solution about their availability in May — if you can’t beat them, buy them.
The anti-Pietersen bandwagon includes Michael Vaughan, Phil Tufnell and the BBC’s cricket correspondent Jonathan (“Aggers”) Agnew.
The latter’s guest on BBC Radio 4’s Test Match Special during the extended lunch break at Lord’s on the first day of the England-South Africa Test was Rahul Dravid. During the 40-minute interview, Rahul was at his diplomatic best, but the last question for him was emailed by “Rachel from Yorkshire”.
“I don’t think it’s Rachel Boycott,” quipped Aggers, referring to Geoffrey Boycott’s wife.
Her question, with an exclamation mark at the end, was: “How do you find KP as a teammate when you played together in the IPL!”
“I really enjoyed playing with KP,” enthused Rahul. “I spent a couple of years with him; found he is very friendly, always asking questions, incredibly hard working. Very few people work as hard in the nets as he did against spin bowling, against various kinds of bowling. Always found him pleasant and really enjoyed playing with KP. Has a great reach and very few weaknesses. I enjoyed playing with him — disappointing not to see him here today.”
Sorry, Rahul, that was not the answer that the anti-KP lobby was seeking. I fear we will not see Rahul at Lord’s again — especially as a guest on TMS.
Best of men
Had Lord Morris of Manchester, who died last week aged 84, been a Calcutta MP, he would have made a huge fuss about the lack of access for the disabled in Park Street and other Metro stations.
| Healing touch: A scene from The Best of Men
As Labour MP for a Manchester seat, it is reckoned Alf Morris did more than any other British politician to improve the quality of life for the disabled. In 1969, he introduced a 33-clause private members’ bill that introduced such concepts — radical then but commonplace now — as sheltered housing, home adaptations, concessions on public transport, special lavatory facilities and wheelchair access to all public buildings.
It is because of people like him that Britain strives to remain the most civilised society in the world.
With the Paralympics due to be held in London from August 29 to September 9, BBC television last week showed The Best Of Men, a moving dramatisation of the life of Dr Ludwig Guttman, the Jewish neurologist who fled Nazi Germany in 1939, came to Britain and founded the Paralympic Games. He promoted the healing properties of sport.
Referring to the just ended Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games have a tongue-in-cheek promotional ad: “Thanks for the warm up.”
As the A-level results came out on Thursday, I received a call from an Indian father whose son had got into Cambridge — but that was the problem.
| Grade gate: A-level students in Sheffield
His college had asked for three As in its conditional offer and he had done better by getting three A*s — an A* being the highest grade possible. This is creditable as this year the results have been deliberately marked down to prevent “grade inflation”.
However, as the father had come to Britain with an Indian organisation as an NRI, his son was being treated as an overseas student and liable to pay fees of £33,000 a year, including accommodation. That meant spending £1,00,000 for a three-year course to get a degree in computer sciences.
Local students pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. This is too high for many, which is why there has been a 7 per cent drop in domestic applications. Universities are trying to make up lost revenue by offering more places to foreign students.
The IPL is not the only reason why India is getting a bad press. Manmohan Singh’s announcement of an Indian mission to Mars produced the following angry page one headline in the Express: “We pay for India’s rocket to Mars.”
Two unconnected events were connected in the paper’s report: “Anger erupted last night after India unveiled plans to launch a mission to Mars while receiving £280 million a year in aid from Britain.”
| Fastest one: Bolt’s Virgin Media broadband ad
It has been a mixed week for Virgin group boss Sir Richard Branson.
His Virgin trains lost the lucrative west coast mainline franchise to the rival First Group, which means that he will pull out of running trains in the UK.
On the plus side, the three-week ban on ads by non-Olympic sponsors has ended, so Virgin Media has resumed its ads for Virgin broadband.
It features Virgin’s biggest investment — Usain Bolt.
While a puzzled Branson looks on, we hear Bolt claiming: “As you all know, I, Richard Branson, am famous for being fast.”