IT IS never nice to kick someone when they’re down but some English commentators and personalities have made an exception in the case of Kevin Pietersen. However, is he down? Pietersen’s second book, released this month and already a monumental success, is just like his first — just better written — filled with predictably tawdry revelations, and designed no doubt to trouser as much cash as possible. Whereas SA’s quota system was one of the central features of his first book, it is the alleged culture of bullying in the English cricket team that came in the crosshairs of his second.

It is not hard to find supporters of his views on sporting quotas. Pubs across western and eastern Australia and middle England overflow with cavalier opinions about so-called positive discrimination. Nor is it troublesome to profile the average purveyor of South African politics here — people who emigrated not necessarily for opportunity, but out of irrational fear.

It was Ali Bacher who rubbished Pietersen’s allegations immediately after they were made — this talented but troubled young man with the skunk haircut and a strange accent was intentionally exciting the reactive forces within the English tabloid culture, feeding them half-truths and playing himself as the victim without consideration to the damage of the reputation of a fledgling democracy grappling with issues of race. It should never be ignored that Pietersen was offered documented opportunities to play provincial cricket, in exactly the way other South African-born sportsman who went on to represent other countries were.

The second book, the subject of much pre-order hype, has been far more damaging to the near institutionalised integrity of the sport in its geographical context. By naming the alleged "bullies", Pietersen provoked a storm of denials and counter-allegations, the most serious coming from captain Alistair Cook, who claimed Pietersen had "tarnished the reputation of the English cricket team". Matt Prior is named as a participating "bully", which is interesting because Prior, an average wicketkeeper-batsman, suffers a strange accent on account of his formative years spent in SA. The other bullies were apparently Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, both of whom have experienced some or other brush with controversy.

The divisiveness appears to have extensions: recently, Ashwell Prince was allegedly abused by an English cricketer quoting the contentious Kolpak system, a ruling enabling outsiders to represent counties — what happens when a player from a country obsessed by political correctness meets one from a country obsessed with race.

Despite Pietersen’s obnoxious abilities, alarm bells sounded from the get-go. There was the provocation of the crowd at Newlands in 2005. There was the drinking aboard the ticker-tape parade bus after the 2005 Ashes victory, with Pietersen publicly necking what appeared to be a cocktail before placing the glass on his head. It would get worse but he was winning, and it was precisely this winning — the demonstration of skills few had previously imagined — coupled with his utterances, that saw his reputation in SA decline during this era.

Despite the schadenfreude, and former captain Graeme Smith admitting that known divisions within the English team were exploited with the purpose of disruption, the reality that two (in effect) South Africans have negatively affected a sport in the UK isn’t a particularly rewarding feeling. In fact it’s pretty awful, possibly the contemporary equivalent of Spitting Image’s 1986 "I’ve never met a nice South African".

The divisiveness appears to have extensions: recently, Ashwell Prince was allegedly abused by an English cricketer quoting the contentious Kolpak system, a ruling enabling outsiders to represent counties — what happens when a player from a country obsessed by political correctness meets one from a country obsessed with race.

One doesn’t need to overanalyse to encounter the similarities between the revelations made during the trial of Oscar Pistorius and Pietersen. Both Pistorius and Pietersen exist as recipients of racial half-truths and conspiracies, subsequently determining their lives around popular perceptions of political arcana to the point at which consequence becomes benign. Jonny Steinberg was castigated on these pages for claiming Pistorius had become a source of racial shame. But if one considers Pietersen in a similar context, he makes a valid point.

There is some consolation. By his own admission, Pietersen is no longer South African and hasn’t been for some time. So the English media could do white South Africans a favour and stop referring to him as South Africa-born whenever he urinates on a pitch or tries to impersonate a rapper-cum-footballer. Even more than former sports minister Ncgonde Balfour, Pietersen inflicted endless harm on the debate on sport and race and affirmed apparently inescapable stereotypes via the application of the crass, base logic activated by Pistorius’s defence team. Pietersen will disappear into cricket obscurity (commonly referred to as the IPL), unloved by his adoptive and native countries, and with him goes at least one of the many parts of political immaturity about SA alive today.

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