So there went Kevin Pietersen, England’s most devastating batsman in a generation, not with a glorious ton, or a Test win, or a guard of honour from an opposition side, but with seven paragraphs in an ECB press release cutting him adrift.
That he lasted as long as he did was a miracle.
This was, after all, a man who was discovered to have texted members of an opposition Test side questioning the intelligence of his own captain.
Two years prior, in a tenure as England skipper as brief as an Elizabeth Taylor marriage, he couldn’t get along with coach Peter Moores, leading to him resigning the captaincy and Moores’ dismissal.
In the high pressure world of professional sport, raging egos are commonplace, but Pietersen’s was a different beast entirely. Whatever it was, he had a knack of rubbing people the wrong way.
But as a batsmen, he had few peers. He made his Test debut as a 25-year-old at Lord’s in the cauldron of an Ashes series, making a pair of 50s as his side crumbled around him and lost by 289 runs.
Fifty days later and Pietersen had his maiden Test ton under his belt – a majestic 158 off 187 balls, during which he cracked the Duke to every corner of The Oval – and was a national hero as England secured a draw that won them the urn for the first time since 1987.
Like a cricketing Axl Rose, Pietersen was ‘difficult to work with’.
He was a big personality, but burnt bridges. His falling outs with Moores and former skipper Andrew Strauss should have resulted in his sacking, but he rolled on, with the weight of runs enough to convince the ECB that an individual can indeed be bigger than the team.
They had a point because Pietersen, in his pomp, was a player that drew people through the turnstiles.
And at his best, he was nothing short of brilliant. Like his 186 in the second Test against India in Mumbai in 2012. With England’s backs to the wall after losing the first Test, his knock helped them to a first-innings lead that would propel them to a series-levelling victory and their first triumph on Indian soil since 1984-85.
Or his 227 against Australia at the Adelaide Oval three years ago, which powered a win and formed the springboard for England’s first Test series victory Down Under in almost a quarter of a century.
When he was on, he was on.
In fact, even when he was off he was still ok, as evidenced by his performance in the recent Ashes series where he was still England’s leading run scorer.
But it was the manner of his dismissals that shocked this summer. In Perth, he skied one to the long-on boundary despite knowing Ryan Harris had been placed there specifically for the shot. Or his misguided slog to Mitchell Johnson two days earlier. And true to form, he was unapologetic.
“I don’t think I’ve helped myself. But that’s the way I play … I’m there to dominate, I’m there to take risks,” he said.
Amid rampant speculation of a falling out with coach Andy Flower, both men slunk home to lick their wounds – and now both are gone.
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan, a Pietersen ally, said he was saddened by his former teammate’s sacking.
“When you have a maverick you have to keep talking to them, telling them that all the people here at the ground are here to watch them. You try to big them up,” Vaughan said on BBC radio.
“I’d love to think that management takes place, but I clearly think they haven’t because he’s just been distanced. You could see he was going doolally. He could have been managed in a better way.”
The trouble with Pietersen was that while you certainly had a maverick, you also had a goose.
I care about the England team and that’s why I want all the best players in the side.Its sad that we can’t manage someone like @KP24
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) February 4, 2014