Pietersen is an "I". Star batsmen usually are. Compton was an I, Boycott was an I, Botham was an I. Another way of putting it is they were arses, but it's the arses we want to watch. I'm very happy when Andrew Strauss scores centuries for England, but I don't particularly enjoy the spectacle. Strauss is a hard grafter who has to work for runs, Pietersen is a natural, a swasher, a musketeer- Amadeus to Strauss's Salieri. His century in the first innings of the Second Test was a thing of beauty. In the past- as my bro-in-law pointed out- we used to cut our musketeers some slack. If Botham turned up on the pitch with a bottle of brandy inside him we let it pass, if David Gower buzzed the ground in a light aircraft (when he should have been sitting in the pavilion biting his nails) we gave him a slap on the wrist, but we didn't drop him from the team. We knew that guys like that were the reason the Game existed. They were the point of the exercise. Test cricket is a slow, cerebral business which comes alive when the star batsman arrives at the crease and starts cutting and slicing and lofting the ball for six.
It's thanks to the "No 'I' in 'Team'" mentality that England has hoiked itself into the position of being top Test Nation. So, a qualified hooray for that! I still want our lot to beat South Africa, but I don't want it quite as much as I did when Pietersen was playing. On the one hand there's winning and on the other hand there's winning with flair and there's a big gap between.