The decision to rest Kevin Pietersen from England’s one-day international series against India has caused quite a bit of comment, especially from those people who may have bought tickets for one or more of the five matches and would quite like to see KP bat.
I know some find this hard to understand, but one-day internationals don’t really matter that much! Yes, the World Cup matters, every four years, and it matters that teams perform well and build their one-day reputations in between. And Andy Flower, having got England to No 1 in terms of Test cricket, will now certainly be turning more of his attention to improving England’s one-day status as well. That will be real target for him.
But, to get back to KP, it really doesn’t matter too much that he is not playing in any of these five games against India. He has batted extremely well in Tests this summer, and looked in fine form again during England’s win in the Twenty20 international against India at Old Trafford. He may or may not be back in the side when England go to India for a return one-day series in October but, in the meantime, it is a good decision, in my opinion, to give him some time off. He also has a wrist complaint, that he has carried this summer, so that is another factor.
But, in a general sense, Kevin is someone who needs down time. He is not one of those cricketers who likes the day-in and day-out approach. He actually needs to refresh himself mentally and, at 31 and with a young family these days, it is in his interests – and therefore in England’s – to manage him in this way.
England are, in fact, putting his absence from this series down to ‘succession planning’ and I don’t doubt that there is an element of this in the decision to leave him out. It will enable England to have a look at another younger batsman – probably Ben Stokes of Durham, who I am really looking forward to seeing in these games – and it also means that Ian Bell, who is in the form of his life and is a couple of years younger than KP, will almost certainly get to bat up the order at No 4.
Will KP be around when the next World Cup comes along in 2015? He may well be, and it might even be the case that England’s management have agreed with Pietersen to manage his workload between now and then to ensure that he is, but even if he is not then it is still in England’s interests to use a number of one-day series – like this one – to give opportunity to the younger players who are fast coming into contention for regular international cricket.
The bottom line, for me, is that if the trade-off to not seeing KP in this series is to see someone like Stokes being given all five games to showcase his talent – which is very exciting, by all accounts – then that is absolutely fine.
*Jonathan Agnew is the BBC cricket correspondent