Monday, 7 March 2011

KP And The Ambiguous Frontlash

73*, 53, 42*, 47. A little run of figures there that may be worth remembering, although with the short-termism that infects other sporting media showing itself more often in cricket now, they probably won't be.

They represent Kevin Pietersen's last four innings at the T20 World Cup all the way back in the dim and distant past that is last May. They sit quite nicely alongside his Man Of The Tournament trophy and England's only global limited-overs title. Within them is the utter destruction he wrought on the world's quickest bowlers, summed up when, in the final, he walked down the pitch to Shaun Tate and dumped him into the crowd over long-off. The last of the fight went out of Tate then.

Pietersen's first innings in the competition, by contrast, were 24 and 9. As he has done throughout his career, he became caught up in the escalating tension and euphoria of the game and delivered when it mattered. The list of those occasions is long, and stretches back to his ODI breakthrough in South Africa. His batting is studded with such moments. He is that rarest of beasts - the big-match man. The prime years of his playing life, the early 30s in which most batsmen are at their most productive, will answer one lingering question: is KP a great player, or simply a player of great innings?

Yet the ambiguity of the media towards him runs deep. Yesterday saw a series of pieces on the theme 'are England better off without KP?' - an idiotic question that was answered in one radio poll with a 95 per cent 'no'. The punters are ahead of the curve on this one. Andy Flower's fairly standard remarks on the matter have seen a variety of hacks desperate to imply a subtext that supports their theory that England are glad to be shot of him. Flower, the arch pragmatist, is merely playing the hand he's been dealt.

No team is better off without their most galvanising player. England can still do well, but the ultimate marker of a man's worth is the view of those who have to face him. Bowlers like Tate, Steyn, Lee, Zaheer and the others who've run in to him when the chips are down will look at the teamsheet and smile.

NB: Simon Hughes has a far better piece in the Telegraph on England's current state. No wonder the players are getting fractious....

1 comment:

John Halliwell said...

'Is KP a great player, or simply a player of great innings?' It is a tantalising question. The Oval innings of 2005 suggested that universal acclamation of greatness was but a couple of series away. But we still wait for the answer.

Is the hernia operation and recovery period a blessing in disguise? A fully rested and re-energised Pietersen will, perhaps, be at his best this coming summer, while his shredded colleagues struggle to shake off the mind-numbing weariness of the winter's programme. Perhaps by summer's end we'll be a lot closer to knowing the answer to the OBs question.