Monday, 13 April 2009

KP: Bittersweet symphonies

There's a scene in Jurassic Park that might put you in mind of Kevin Pietersen. It's the bit where one of the renegade scientists lost in the woods thinks he has escaped from a young raptor only to see the thing appear right beside him. Realising he's been booby-trapped and is just about to die, he looks at the beast almost admiringly and says, 'oh, clever boy...'.

Pietersen has all of the awesome solipsism of the predator, and his evolutionary path is similarly straight; he's not here to admire the view. He has done nothing but move forwards throughout his career. The one arena he has yet to dominate is Twenty20 cricket; he hasn't yet worked out how it relates to him. 

Like a lot of players he didn't grasp its appeal straight away, he though it was just a bit of hit and giggle under the lights. That was okay, he's a batsman not a trendspotter, but by the time he realised he needed to take it seriously it had gotten out ahead of him. Initially unconvinced, he's been unconvincing ever since.

He hasn't been helped by playing almost all of his T20 cricket for England, who are so far behind the evolutionary curve it's embarrassing, and it's not something that shows up in his figures. It's more evident in the rhythm of his batting.

Pietersen's best innings are like symphonies, they roll and swell, they are sometimes becalmed, and they move to his internal motion. He seems to realise instinctively what he has to do and when, and he likes the timing of the game to expand and contract with him. He plays his worst when he's uncertain of what's required. Batting at three [and usually in early] he hasn't really worked out how long twenty overs can be.

Maybe because his gut reaction to T20 is that it's a gimmick, he reaches early for the gimmicky shots, too. It's almost as though he feels beholden to them, rather than to his greatest strengths, which are his power down the ground and over midwicket. We've seen less and less of those two shots, mainly because he seems to mishit them more often and get caught. Perhaps he doesn't practice them as hard now.

The IPL should reshape him. It will make him think clearly, and it will offer him access to people who really understand the format. The conventional wisdom is that this will benefit England too, but KP's kneejerk response to mediocrity is to get pissed off and withdraw, bearing his cross and chewing the inside of his cheek.

He will be back from South Africa a better player. Flower and whoever the captain is going to be might want to start considering the implications of that. 

SWOT analysis required, chaps...

3 comments:

Mukundh said...

KP is not a slogger when in form. Yes, he does unfurl the odd switch-hit when he's going good, but when in form, his orthodox strokes dominate the unorthodox ones.

The problem with his lack of success in T20 cricket could be in his approach to the game, like you say. He plays too many across-the-line flick shots, try to pull balls which are not short and gives himself room to hit the ball more often even before settling in, thereby increasing his chances of getting out.

Brit said...

He hasn't been helped by playing almost all of his T20 cricket for England, who are so far behind the evolutionary curve it's embarrassingThat does seem to be an English curse: to invent something then watch everyone else use it to wallop us. Sport, business...um, Eurovision...

The Old Batsman said...

Did we invent Eurovision? Blimey...