Monday, 13 July 2009

KP: outside providence

As Bob Woolmer observed in The Art And Science of Cricket, 'to review the raw, split-second data of what actually happens when batters execute a shot is to wonder how any batsman survives more than one delivery'. The process is so physiologically complex, so open to error and chance, that it encourages a belief in providence: you need to be good, but you also need to be lucky. 

Anyone who's played the game grasps this. And it's an entirely human reaction to imbue the arrival of luck with some significance, even though it's counter-intuitive to do so. It's the transient nature of luck, the unreadable tides of form and fortune, that are at the root of the reaction to some of the shots that Kevin Pietersen plays; the one when he was on 94 in Birmingham, on 97 in Jamaica, on 69 in Cardiff. They don't only bugger up the team, they stick two fingers up at luck, they open the door to something else. 

After the latter two of those knocks he was out almost identically in his next innings, bowled spectacularly and early. Random coincidences, but ones that can be interpreted by some as having an element of fatal retribution.

They don't, of course. It's just the game, and how it goes. It's not governed by a watchful god, there's no element of karma to it. But it's Pietersen's lot to get the brickbats that come attached. The British press will indulge mediocrity for far longer than they will profligacy.

KP doesn't need the newspapers to tell him what he's done wrong. He's one of the most intuitive and adaptable batsmen out there. He may wrestle for control of his game and his nature for a few innings, but he'll be back. His defiant public defence of his sweep shot is purely to make himself feel less vulnerable. His repentance will come in private.

What will be key is how England deal with it. Clues are available from two of the shrewdest analysts of the game. 

Shane Warne: 'He reminds me of Mark Waugh. Junior often got out in ways that looked horrible. I think Pietersen too just gets bored. That's where hunger comes in... he prepares better than anybody for games, but he has to put the team first, not himself... there's no doubt he can be the best batsman in the world. He has so much talent, but the best players have that determination to make big scores and don't make silly mistakes. You have to be careful not to overcriticise. Cricket isn't played by robots'.

Clive Rice: 'I think he can go where no batsman has gone before if he can improve his concentration and hit a six followed by a single... With his ego, you have to boost it and boost it again'.

They're right. Pietersen is at his best when he feels the love. It nurtures him. So England must chide him gently, and feed his overwhelming talent. It's one of the few that Australia fear, and it should be handled with the care its rarity merits. 


GoodCricketWicket said...

Great post, I thoroughly agree with you. Pietersen will know that he made a bad error of judgement, but he will make amends.

To hear and read some of the rubbish about him, you'd think he was the worst batsman we've had for 15 years rather than the best.

Brian Carpenter said...

Yes, excellent post. I thought the Cardiff shot was terrible but it doesn't mean KP isn't a batsman of genius. Anyone brain can tell he's in a class of his own among contemporary England players.

While watching a county game yesterday I heard so much junk talked about KP by 'the blokes behind me' that I had to move. The prevailing view seemed to be that he was a useless 'show pony' who should be dropped from the England side immediately, following which he would hopefully go straight back to South Africa. He's also apparently going through a chronically 'bad trot' which has lasted for ages, so I don't know how he's ended up with a Test average of 50.

And these people can vote?