Kevin Pietersen’s retirement leaves some big shoes to fill
Kevin Pietersen's international retirement from one-day and Twenty20 cricket last week may have been a surprise to some, but not to me.
I don't know him personally, but I know people that do and I hear a lot of things about him – some good, some not so good.
With what he has in his life now, I've never seen him as the guy that was going to hang on and carry on playing all forms of the game and reach burnout.
He is a complex character and someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, but he's very much a traditionalist too. He still holds great value to Test cricket.
Yes, he's been to the Indian Premier League but to him Test cricket is still the greatest challenge of a player.
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He may still wish to play IPL next year as that's where the money is, and with the World Twenty20 coming up in October it is strange timing for him to quit England, but Pietersen is very much his own man. It has always been clear he was not going to let anybody rule his life and he will go on his terms.
And while I don't think he was overly popular in the dressing rooms at Nottinghamshire or Hampshire, he is a very good cricketer.
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I don't tend to use him as an example for any particular shot selection when I'm coaching, but that's because he is not that type of player. He's very much an individual.
He has now become a family man and anyone will tell you when you do have children you will sit back and look at life in a different way.
He probably wants a bit more quality time with them and maybe doesn't feel the financial need to have to play one-day cricket.
England will miss Pietersen's runs and he has always been a player that can go out there and destroy an attack and win you games. While at other times he can infuriate you and do things we all don't agree with.
You tend to talk about world class players in different ways. Pietersen has been responsible for the switch hit, and in some ways he was somewhat responsible for moving on one-day cricket to a slightly higher level.
He likes to put a statement on a game. He wants to give people something to talk about. It's not intentional, it's just the way he plays. He is the kind of person that empties bars – you get out and watch him bat because more often than not there is something to see.
Pietersen has had his bad periods, times where he's not scored runs regularly and his place in the side has been questioned.
But he averaged nearly 42 in one-day internationals – and that is up there with the very best. Top class, right at the very top. And he got successive centuries in his last two one-dayers – if he was going to retire, then maybe that was the time to do it. If he doesn't have that desire to play, he is better off giving someone else a chance. I watched James Taylor last week against Hampshire and he scored a brilliant hundred and smashed it everywhere, and they were proper one-day shots. He also got a hundred against the West Indies for the Lions recently so he's got to be close.
I'm not sure whether he is the answer and there will be a number of people out there that will now see an opportunity – but they have got big shoes to fill.
• DOWNHAM SHOWED THEY WILL BE UP THERE AGAIN
Well, Acle have now played all three top sides in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division this season – Norwich, Fakenham and Downham Town – and we've been very consistent in all three games; we've been hammered every time!
Our latest conquerors were Downham last weekend and they were very thorough in their demolition of a side completely lacking in confidence and belief.
Trust me, you don't win the Alliance four years running and not be competitive – and they showed they will be right in the mix come the end of the season.
I only saw a little bit thankfully of their overseas player, Harry Evans, but he did look the part.
So I anticipate these three teams will be battling it out for top spot for much of the season as their own rivalry will ensure the division remains very competitive throughout.
In fact, this division is now at its strongest since the EAPL was formed in 1999.
We've had the occasional good side in there for some of the time but we now have two ex-EAPL sides and another that would have sat comfortably in the league if they had taken up that option two or three years ago.
Another Australian, Paul Donovan, was a century maker for Old Buckenham at the weekend – and he scored 88 against us the previous week.
He looks an impressive player too. So, many of the sides in the division were reliant upon their imports last weekend with South African Luandre van Wyk being largely responsible for Stow's first victory of the season which leapfrogged them over us so that we now sit at the bottom of the table.
This week we visit Stow, a fixture I look forward to as I have never played at their ground before.
Let's just hope my journey home gives me a chance to reflect on a better Acle performance that we have witnessed so far!
• NORFOLK CAPTAIN GETS ONE OVER HIS COACH
I wrote in my column last week that I didn't want to put the kiss of death on Horsford ahead of their East Anglian Premier League battle royale with Swardeston – but I probably did.
They beat them twice last year and they beat them twice batting first as I remember. Skipper Chris Brown will nearly always bat first regardless, and this time they won the toss and batted first again – and you would have thought they were in the box seat.
But it wasn't to be, and in the end the Norfolk captain got one over the Norfolk coach.
George Walker's side hit 50 runs off the last eight overs, with Brownie being hit for 10 off his last. I'm sure that would have hurt him, and I'm sure the Swardeston dressing room was cock-a-hoop.
As soon as I mention Horsford and winning anything it all goes a bit pear-shaped, so best to keep my thoughts to myself from now on!
What happened elsewhere at the weekend really enforced what I wrote last week.
Vauxhall Mallards are not the team that other sides necessarily fear any more, while Great Witchingham once again got a stack of runs and had Sudbury nine down – but couldn't finish the job.
The inability to bowl sides out will cost teams dearly when there are so many points at stake, and if you don't get that last wicket it makes a big difference.