Category Archives: Kevin Pietersen

Explain Kevin Pietersen To Me

Specifically, this: why couldn’t Pietersen have waited to retire until after the T20 World Cup? Did he really think his 31-year-old body wouldn’t be able to handle the load between now and then?

I’m also not sure I understand the English selection criteria: you can retire from Tests only, or ODIs and T20s only, but not ODIs or T20s alone? But why? Surely there will be enough players for each format?

 

Is Any Cricketer Original?

The second Test ended with rain, which is a shame chiefly because it prevented me from watching more Darren Bravo. More than one cricket fan has pointed out his resemblance to Brian Lara (the pair share blood and a high left-handed back-lift). Part of that is nostalgia and aspiration — who wouldn’t want another Lara on the cricket scene? — but Bravo seems to have the talent to at least justify some comparison. The similarity raises a bigger question: how much of cricket is a derivative exercise? To what extent do cricketers carve their own creative path?

Recall the comment that K. Brathwaite made after his marathon innings in the first Test. He learned to bat and bat and bat, he said, from Shiv Chanderpaul, who prefers to accumulate his runs through attrition and patience rather than explicit intent. Recall Virender Sehwag when he first burst on the scene, and how difficult it was to tell him apart from his partner, Sachin Tendulkar. Recall Ishant Sharma, who blamed his wayward career on his dire need to be just like Zaheer Khan. Literary critic Harold Bloom once said that all poets suffer from the anxiety of influence; that is, they all get the urge to write poetry by reading great poetry and then feel trapped by what they have read (at least I think that’s what he said; it’s been an increasingly long time since college). Do you think cricketers suffer from this? I wonder if every left-arm fast bowler secretly wishes Wasim Akram never walked a run-up; no one will be like him, and even if they were, they would only earn a back-handed compliment: “You bowl just like Wasim Akram.”

So what separates the Akrams and Laras from the Zaheer Khans and Bravos? Why don’t we think anymore of Gary Kirsten or Mohammed Yousuf? I think the chief test for any cricketer isn’t necessarily most runs or most wickets, but leaving behind a style of play. Of all the tributes to Rahul Dravid, I was interested most by Sambit Bal’s, which argued that Dravid’s retirement meant that we were unlikely to see future Test batsmen value toughing it out like he did. The kind of batsman who likes to beat the passage of time as much as the next ball. As a cricketer, you want fans to like you not just for the runs or performance, but because of the way you play. We all know what a “Dravid-esque innings” means. Maybe this is the cricket circle of life: you start off emulating your models; you learn some lessons and either stumble or adapt and try to become your own person.

But I wonder: will we remember Ricky Ponting or J. Kallis when they retire? Will future players hope to be like them, or Kevin Pietersen?

The Mature Kevin Pietersen

Cricinfo has a fairly devastating take on Kevin Pietersen, who dropped out of the World Cup despite the apparent wishes of the team Godfather Andy Flower:

When he began his England career, he looked to be their most talented player in a generation, and six years on, it looks like he’ll end up being the most fascinating. Gifted an indecent wealth of talent, he was also one of the most fastidiously prepared cricketers in the world…Up until the last two years he never doubted his ability to reach those levels, but since the captaincy debacle… Pietersen has been unable to capture the insatiable drive for excellence that was once his hallmark.

The piece, by Sahil Dutta, indulges a bit too much pop psychology for my taste, highlighting Pietersen’s desire to belong (as a South African in England) as one of his driving forces. Those who remember Pietersen when he first burst on the scene — crazy skunk hair and all — would probably say the man didn’t care much where he was as long as he was the best in show (and he was).

One of the greatest things about cricket is that it affords many of its players extended careers that often span past a decade (Pietersen is already into his sixth year, though it seems much more than that). That means we get to watch players evolve as their team position changes and, more often, their bodies start to fail them (e.g., Yuvraj Singh). This can be fascinating — e.g., Shahid Afridi transforming himself from a pinch-hitter to an extraordinary bowler; M.S. Dhoni becoming a patient accumulator rather than out-and-out attacker, and so on.

When I first saw Pietersen, I was shocked — the brash confidence, that ridiculous step from leg to middle before a bowler’s delivery, the manic need to get off the mark (no matter what the occasion). Watching him now, I feel much like Dutta — this guy could sniff greatness if he wanted, but he seems lost and without direction. He’s no longer invincible, and it’s no longer clear to me he’s even England’s best (Ian Bell is easier on the eyes and Strauss more commanding). Maybe Dutta’s psychology is right in one sense: rather than maturing his game, Pietersen — like all 20-somethings — is maturing himself. And if he prefers fatherhood to chasing a white ball, then more power to him. It’s rare we see athletes make that choice, but somehow, I don’t think it’s all that odd for a cricketer.

 

Kevin Pietersen Plays Blindfold Cricket

Good stuff. Too bad it’s for an advertisement (and that too, some hair cream product). But the bravado is hard not to like (“Crank it up, buddy”):

South Africa’s Squabbles Make Me Happy

Because, for once, it’s not a South Asian country that can’t seem to get its cricket administration in order. (I know, I’m betraying some post-colonial inferiority here, but still.)

Actually, now that I think about it, which country hasn’t had a board squabble recently? England and Kevin Pietersen; West Indies and every West Indian; Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh…I hate to say this, because I think the BCCI is horribly greedy, incompetent and all-round awful (just saying), but it may just be a model of management. Incredible.

Stats That Prove Tendulkar’s The Best

I was never Sachin Tendulkar’s biggest fan growing up (no doubt because my grandmother, a pure Tendulkar hater, reminded me again and again of the customs duties he tried to waive on some Ferrari he bought). But Outside Edge has taken a lot of time and effort to put Tendulkar’s performance in some context. Check out the many tables and charts.

This one particularly struck me. Notice the extent of Tendulkar’s contributions in the 1990s, regularly topping above 20% of the team’s total runs. Neither Ponting nor Gilchrist, no tail-enders they, could manage the same proportion, just showing off their superior outfit. (But while we’re at it, look at Pietersen’s 2004 percentage! Incredible!)

Percentage of team runs

Tendulkar Ponting Pietersen Lara Gibbs Gilchrist Sehwag
1990 12% 6%
1991 17% 12%
1992 20% 22%
1993 12% 26%
1994 21% 14%
1995 20% 13% 31%
1996 25% 14% 30% 12% 4%
1997 14% 36% 23% 8% 17%
1998 30% 21% 22% 4% 15%
1999 19% 18% 13% 18% 15%
2000 17% 16% 17% 15% 14% 8%
2001 32% 22% 21% 17% 18% 13%
2002 23% 18% 20% 17% 15% 18%
2003 26% 20% 21% 19% 16% 15%
2004 17% 16% 46% 17% 10% 18% 11%
2005 11% 18% 29% 13% 23% 14% 13%
2006 20% 15% 19% 15% 15% 16% 12%
2007 19% 31% 19% 18% 20% 14% 14%
2008 17% 10% 21% 13% 14% 21%
2009 20% 13% 10% 17% 22%

Flintoff Subtly Disses Pietersen

Nothing more than an unnecessary attempt on my part to stir trouble, but this caught my eye. Via The Guardian:

“One comforting thing is, having seen yesterday and the past five Test matches, is that I’ll disappear and the England side will be in good hands,” he said. “The likes of [Jonathan] Trott [have] come in and everybody’s forgetting about KP. Our best player has not played the bulk of this Test series. So the future of the side is in good hands.”

KP who? My former captain? Can’t be.

Kevin Pietersen’s Durban Beach Run

Ah, the great question of our times: did Kevin Pietersen run, or didn’t he? Did he run, but not inhale? Does it all depend on how you define “run” (and can we prove he did run with a stained sock?) I don’t buy this proto-scandal as real, though I enjoy the press releases it’s creating. This, from The Guardian:

Neither the board nor Pietersen’s advisers denied that the player had gone on the run or even that his achilles may have been damaged during the exercise, but the ECB did deny that Pietersen had flouted instructions not to go running.

There are two problems here: first, we don’t know what exactly happened, because we’re caught in a confusing (but exciting!) bit of he said-he said. At the very least, this shows once again how mealy-mouthed the ECB can be when Pietersen is the subject (the poor man lost his captaincy the last time something like this happened).

But secondly, and more importantly: let’s say Pietersen did injure himself while he was playing in the IPL? So what? Players are regularly injured during games. Should Pietersen have sat out the the tournament? By that logic, though, he should have sat out every match before the Ashes (yes, including those million ones against the West Indies).

Don’t get me wrong. If the bloke flouted medical advice, he deserves to feel all the guilt and hurt he says he’s feeling. If he didn’t — and this Achilles thing just turns out to be a case of stupendously bad timing — then relax. The furor behind the scandal betrays just how much English fans believe their team depends on Pietersen. It’s almost a tribute to the man how much they hate him.

Does Kevin Pietersen Still Miss His Wife?

Via Amy S., a picture of two White Mischief cheerleaders lounging with Kevin Pietersen and Jacques Kallis: 

Amy takes Kallis to task (as always) for the ridiculous look on his face. That’s fair, but I’m more interested in Pietersen’s ridiculous V-neck-line. Silly Europeans!

Rebecca Lee, the cheerleader who posted this picture on her IPL blog, said Jesse Ryder and Pietersen have “quizzed” her extensively on cricket of late, and she passed with “flying colors.” Cricket-flirting, guys? Do you really think that’s going to make you miss Jessica Taylor less, Kevin?

Pietersen Misses Wife Jessica Taylor

So, here’s what happened: Kevin Pietersen made a few ill-advised comments to the papers about a) how he wanted to go home to England already after a long tour and b) how the current team is a “lonely place to be.” It now also appears Pietersen, like Matt Prior, asked to temporarily leave the tour to be with his wife, Jessica Taylor (pictured above), who was in a final of a celebrity dance show. He was denied and, for the record, she came in third (someone called Ray Quinn won).

A number of critics, including Nasser Hussain, have taken on Pietersen for the comments, but I’m not sure why, not least because Dancing on Ice sounds like a great show, no doubt more entertaining than the West Indies-England series.

But even when considering the matter seriously, it’s clear everyone has over-reacted: Continue reading