Hi-tech hijinks a cricket low
ALL hail technology. If it were not for the modern marvel of instant communication, the allegedly disparaging SMSes Kevin Pietersen sent to members of the South African squad would have been sent by post. And by the time they arrived - if they arrived - who would have cared?
The timing, as is often the case in cricket, was crucial.
A test series is on the go, one with a lot at stake. If ever there was a moment to make a point, this was it. If there was a moment to make a selfish point, this was not it. But a selfish person would not know that.
Pietersen is unhappy playing for England. That much was known before South Africa even arrived in the UK.
Being a special talent, he wanted special treatment.
He was also unhappy playing at KwaZulu-Natal, when he was not a special talent but still wanted special treatment.
He was unhappy at Nottinghamshire and said as much when he resigned. He went on to be unhappy at Hampshire because he wanted to live in London, and do not be surprised if he is also unhappy at Surrey.
Unhappy people sometimes show their unhappiness in ways that only make them more unhappy.
Like sending an SMS impulsively. Unlike a letter, it only takes a few punches of the finger to compose. Hitting the send button is a lot less complicated than taking a trip to the post office to buy a stamp.
In a few seconds, dark thoughts that should have stayed thoughts are put out into the wide world.
The message, once sent, cannot be taken back.
Maybe the content of Pietersen's 140-character outbursts fit into that category.
Maybe they did not, and the messages were nothing but invites to a tjop en dop, or jokes between rivals.
All we know for certain is that SMSes were sent and that the England and Wales Cricket Board is so anxious to find out what the messages contained that they have dropped their premier batsman until he tells them.
The fact that Pietersen cannot deny that the messages were unflattering says something.
That the South African side will not reveal what was said, insisting it was only "friendly banter", says the same thing. Together, both those signs do not bode well for Pietersen's cricketing future.
It also embroils the South African squad in something they do not need to get themselves entangled in, because something far more important is on the horizon for them. South Africa are on the verge of being the world's top side, and it would be unfair of the Pietersen problem to overshadow that.
South Africa have spent years - six of them in which they have been undefeated in test series away from home - working towards this. Graeme Smith has spent nine years as captain working towards this. Jacques Kallis has spent 15 years as an international cricketer working towards this. The only SMS that should matter is the one that gets sent to confirm that South Africa have triumphed at Lord's.