Graeme Smith says England should consider recalling Kevin Pietersen, while former Australia captain Steve Waugh says they should forget him and move on.
Who’s right? We won’t know until England actually pick Pietersen and sees how he goes. If his form warrants it, that is.
Smith believes KP is too valuable a player to be sidelined.
Speaking to Sport360° at the 15th Shyam Bhatia Awards in Dubai, the former Proteas opener said that Pietersen still has a lot to offer English cricket, provided he is part of a set-up that appreciates his talent and personality.
‘I do think Kevin Pietersen has been their [England’s] most dynamic batsman for a very long time. I think the challenges in English cricket are bigger than Kevin.
‘If Kevin can perform [for Surrey] and if he’s doing well, then the England selectors have to reconsider him for the national team,’ Smith said.
‘I think the challenge that he will probably face is the mindset of the current coaches. If they have a modern outlook on the way they think and talk about in the game of cricket, I think someone like KP will be of real value to them.
‘But if they still have that old school, head boy approach, then it’s going to be very challenging for him.’
Smith says a game-changer like Pietersen is what the England team need right now, given they have lacked that spark in all formats of the game.
‘I just think that England look at the game very conservatively. He’s a dynamic batsman and is one of those batsmen that you [as an opposition] want in the changing room and not bat in the middle as he has ability to change the game single-handedly. If you take players like him out of the environment, I’m sure there will be a lot more bowlers who will be happier to bowl.’
Meanwhile, Waugh thinks England should move on because he doesn’t think Pietersen merits a place in the side anymore and brings with him too much baggage.
The 34-year-old Pietersen has repeatedly expressed a desire to return to the international set-up, though, and is turning out for Surrey this season in a bid to prove his commitment to England.
His first County Championship innings since June 2013 ended after making just 19 off 28 balls against Glamorgan on Sunday.
While Pietersen’s Test record of 8 181 runs at 47.28 with 23 centuries makes him one of England’s greatest-ever batsmen, Waugh does not think he deserves a place in the current XI.
‘England have got to make a clean break and look forward to the future,’ said Waugh in the Daily Mirror. ‘Sometimes you have to have short-term pain to get the long-term gain.
‘I don’t think he’s a great player right now. Setting aside all the other things, I don’t think his form warranted a spot in the England side. He may have been a great player but I wouldn’t class him as one now.’
Waugh also believes Pietersen’s past off-field dramas – including last year’s hugely outspoken autobiography – in the last couple of years must be taken into account.
Waugh added: ‘First, he has to be one of the best six batsmen in the country, which he’s not. Then is he right for the current set-up? Does he fit in how the team is moving forward? Can he work with the captain and other players? Obviously there have been some issues. That’s part of the reason why he’s not there now.
‘Unless he’s changed as a person and a personality – and that’s hard to do – I don’t know how you go back to what happened before.
‘The number one thing is you’ve got to respect each other. Once this stops you’re in real trouble. And I think that’s probably happened over the past couple of years.’