Home » Articles, Featured Articles » England cricket

kevin pietersen, one-day internationals, england, cricket, ODI, captain

Pietersen deserves another chance

Pietersen the man for one-day plan

Oliver Brett @bbcsport_oliver

I’m trying to imagine being at school with Kevin Pietersen. Would we have been mates? Probably not. Would I have admired his sporting prowess? Definitely. Would I have wanted to be in the same cricket team as him? Hell, yes.

The rise and decline of England’s most talked about cricketer of recent years is a subject lovers of our summer game can get their teeth stuck into in this quiet period before the home series against Sri Lanka.

When his preparation is right, when his brain is uncluttered and there isn’t some minor niggle to trouble him, then Pietersen can be the best batsman on the planet.

But the jigsaw that maketh the man is a complex one. Transforming Pietersen the party-going family man – you see there’s a paradox straightaway – into Pietersen the England cricketer takes plenty of due care and attention.

In 2005 he burst on to the international cricket scene, demanding attention like an overweight bouncing baby: runs everywhere, dead skunk hairdo, immediate close friendship with “one of them”, Shane Warne.

When the summer was over and the Ashes had been won, Pietersen split up with minor media personality Natalie Pinkham and went big-time box office with Caprice. (You might have forgotten, but she was the one on his arm when he appeared in Melbourne to play for the ICC World XI against Australia.) Had he done too much, much too young?

At that stage, no. The rush continued. A godsend to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) at a time when Andrew Flintoff’s injury-ravaged body had turned the Lancashire all-rounder into a mere part-timer, Pietersen combined the crowd-pleasing élan of Viv Richards with the merciless consistency of Jacques Kallis.

Even when England were losing – in the 2006-07 Ashes, at the 2007 World Cup – Pietersen was scoring runs. When England were winning, he was scooping man-of-the-match awards before appearing an hour later – he liked to keep us waiting – freshly showered and groomed, to tell anyone who cared to listen how much it meant to him to feel the love of the England supporters.

The next stage was captaincy, clearly. It was the last frontier for a man who had been encouraged to cock a snook at South Africa’s absurd racial quota system and ply his trade in county cricket. Only that way could he pursue his childhood dreams of being an international sporting superstar.

And the captaincy thing happened, some 24 hours after Michael Vaughan’s tearful resignation, on 4 August 2008. I was at Lord’s that day when he appeared with perfect timing out of the lift that opens straight into the back of the media centre. There was little room for the latecomers – Angus Fraser and Derek Pringle had to stand behind the little bar from which the catering staff normally serve up Geoffrey Boycott’s morning cup of coffee.

Andrew Strauss had been ruled out of the running for the captaincy on the basis that he was not an automatic selection in one-day cricket, while a previous experiment with Flintoff had not gone according to plan.

So along came Pietersen, smiling directly at the cameras with impossibly white teeth, and suggesting what a gale of fresh air this would be for English cricket.

But the gale blew itself out in next to no time. Lovely man that he was, coach Peter Moores was not really up to his job, and he certainly did not have any chemistry with Pietersen. Instead of sacking Moores and seeing if Pietersen could work with the interim team director, Andy Flower, the ECB got rid of both men the following New Year.

Pietersen has never been the same since. He has been plagued by injuries. The barrage of runs has been checked. Fatherhood has undoubtedly changed his perspective to some degree. But above all, the loss of the captaincy still grates.

In an interview on Easter Day, he said: “I’m not drawn now into worrying about what I could have done or what I did do. I spent too long last year, and towards the end of the year before, thinking, ‘Oh, I should be captain’, or ‘What would I have done differently?’, or “I resent Straussie’.”

But you’re still talking about it Kevin, more than two years after you lost the captaincy.

Now here’s the thing. I appreciate this will be a contentious view, but it’s one I feel pretty strongly about: England should make Kevin Pietersen captain of the Twenty20 and one-day sides right now.

Pietersen’s first go at the England captaincy went pretty well. He won his first Test, against South Africa at The Oval, and whitewashed the same opponents in the one-day series that followed.

The five ODIs in India that followed were lost 5-0, but India in India are very tough to deal with, and the point is Pietersen was scoring big runs himself. His most recent ODI century anywhere came in the final match of that series.

Pietersen also took some well-deserved praise for showing authority and leadership when he led England back out to India weeks after the Mumbai terrorist attack, just before Christmas 2008, for two Test matches.

England were in a position to win the first Test in Chennai, but Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar inspired India to chase down an improbable victory target of 387. Pietersen, having made four and one in that match, played a captain’s innings of 144 in the drawn second Test at Mohali.

But the rug was pulled from under his feet by the ECB a fortnight later. The ECB took umbrage at mildly critical comments (about Moores) made from holiday on his mobile to a reporter – and that was all they needed to get shot of him.

There had been a clash of personalities. Moores was keen to have a more elevated role than Pietersen, rather than work alongside him, while Pietersen felt that his own ideas were being ignored by a coach he did not particularly respect.

To this day, I feel that whereas Moores, who simply never convinced anyone that he had the ability for such an important job, had to be sacked, Pietersen was showing signs of genuine promise in his new role and deserved longer at it.

Not only had England performed quite well under him, at least on home soil, but he had shown that he could score runs as captain. He made two centuries in three Tests as captain and averaged 52.40. Since losing the captaincy he has averaged 43.97, with just two centuries in 26 Tests.

In 12 ODIs as captain he averaged 52.28. Shockingly, in 27 matches since losing the stripes he hasn’t made a century and averages a woeful 23.78.

As things stand now, Strauss, having won Ashes series at home and away, rightly retains the Test captaincy for the foreseeable future. But the limited-overs situation is much more complicated.

Tactically, Strauss lost the plot at times during the World Cup. Even in one of the games England won, the six-run victory against South Africa in Chennai, Strauss insisted on bowling part-time spinners when the situation was crying out for the seam bowlers. He is considering retiring from ODIs.

Paul Collingwood led England to glory in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010 but has now fallen into his longest and most worrying slump of form.

So England really should forgo the caution and give KP the job in both limited-overs formats, freshen up the side with lots of young players and see what happens.

By all means retain the methodical, conservative approach to Test selection that has worked so well. But it’s time to do something different with the coloured-clothing stuff, and if Pietersen is made to feel important again there has to be a decent chance that he can help to deliver some good times for England fans.

2 Responses to “England cricket”

  1. Maconnais May 2, 2011

    Our approach to one day cricket is bizarre. But KP as skipper? It’s too big a risk. His form is so bad he should probably be dropped. I’m not sure the press or the public realise just how divisive a figure he is inside the dressing room. Morgan or Broad for skipper. Great website, great piece, keep it up.

  2. Conrad Boliver May 3, 2011

    KP- a risk? And Eoin ‘IPL’ Morgan and Stuart ‘Toys out the pram’ Broad aren’t?!?


Leave a Reply