‘We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.’ – Blaise Pascal
I’ve come to the conclusion that people’s views on KP are shaped only partially by the ‘facts’ to have come out, from both sides, in recent weeks. Those facts tend to be used to vindicate the views someone already holds. There have been few conversions to one side from the other.
[The more nuanced articles by some former players who either shared dressing rooms with him or shared other dressing rooms in a lengthy playing career are the exceptions, and their nuance has been welcome relief.]
KP is a divisive character – and a strong one. This is what made him a challenge to manage and this is what inspires strong reactions to him. I believe that people, by and large, automatically come to a conclusion about the KP situation that both reflects their own personalities and sends out a signal about who they are to the outside world. Some send this signal out more consciously than others.
To back KP is to say, ‘I’m independent of thought, I can cope with someone being a bit different – hey, it’s probably because I’m something of a maverick myself. Actually, I’m pretty anti-establishment and I don’t mind who knows it. If I’d been captain in that dressing room, I’d have shown the leadership skills that keep people like KP on board; if was a bit better at cricket, I’d have been the modern-day Mike Brearley.’
On the other side is the supporter whose beef with Pietersen is based on an existential jealousy. This might be the person who has lived a conventional life, conformed, been polite, unselfish and is ultimately unfulfilled and rather sad about it. For this person, KP was their alter-ego, the one who was bold where they were timid, who stood up for himself where they backed down, who lived the life they wish they had. So they are impossibly jealous of this non-conformer, a mirror to their lost self.
Beyond that are the people who simply can’t comprehend how anyone could possibly like this brash, cocky, selfish individual. For these people their disgust is straight, simple and unquenchable. No argument, that’s that. Now Colin Cowdrey, Denis Compton…that’s what cricketers should be like.
Then there’s Mr/Ms reasonable. The people who not only want laws obeyed but want life’s unwritten rules followed too – those tacit understandings that make society roll along smoothly. Those rules allow for mavericks – in fact outwardly they are welcomed (‘wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?’ they lie) but even the maverick behaviour must conform. So it came to pass that at the start these people believed in Kev, backed him, forgave his silly haircut, rejoiced in his bold and fearless batting in that fifth test in the glorious summer of 2005. These people pinned their colours to the mast: KP is great. But then came the captaincy furore, textgate, retiring from ODIs and T20 then unretiring himself. This was not the done thing. This didn’t follow the rules. And this all reflected very badly on Mr or Ms Reasonable. They were shown up in front of their friends. Kevin had let them down. You don’t forgive a betrayal like that.