Cricket is indebted to Kevin Pietersen
Cricket has so many different characters down through the ages. Donald Bradman was known for that humungous appetite for runs, Garfield Sobers was known for his supreme all-round skills, for grit we had Gavaskar, for nonchalant power we had Richards, for elegance we had Azhar and Mark Waugh, for flashy brilliance we had Lara, for fighting instincts we had Steve Waugh, for technical purity we have Dravid and for never ending longevity we have Sachin.
But it is men like Shane Warne and the man in focus in this article that really give a good time to the viewers with their enigmatic genius and showmanship. The man in focus is none other than Kevin Pietersen of the – unorthodox straight bat, brutal power, extravagant celebrations, flashy tattoos, funky hairstyles and ‘living life king size’ fame.
He infuses that much needed glamor to the sport which has so many practitioners who are known for their single minded focus to results and practice. He might not appear serious before a big game like say a Dravid or Tendulkar. You might very well catch up with him in a bar having a good time with his buddies, before the final of a big series or on the eve of a deciding Ashes Test. This attitude of his, didn’t work out when he was entrusted with the captaincy of the side. England were more used to the serious captains like Vaughan, Atherton before him and Strauss after him. Pietersen was under even more pressure being the undoubted star player of the team as well as the captain. He rubbed the administration on the wrong side and was kicked out unceremoniously.
That he chose to reveal his axing from the team on twitter even before the official news made it to the media, made matters more controversial. Controversy follows him gladly.But once he was free of the captaincy burdens, he was the smashing star in the World T20 championships and he rose to the occasion like a true giant in the finals against the Aussies.
This said, consistency has never been among his strong points. He will score some brilliant hundreds in crucial situations and then get out to innocuous 20s and 30s on many occasions too. He is not a statisticians’ delight like say a Tendulkar, Kallis, Trott or Cook. He chooses the occasion when the team needs it the most and when he needs it the most and makes an impact like none other.
That’s the sign of a true impact player. He loves the big stage as he showed in his very first ODI series against a hostile South African home crowd. Pietersen had migrated to England for greener pastures after being vocal about his prospects in a pro-black South African cricket administration. His batting in that series was among the most brutal. His strike rate was amazing and the daring and bold stroke play catapulted him into the big league right away. Then the way he handled Shane Warne in the historic 2005 Ashes triumph is the stuff of folklore. He pulled and slog swept Warne with devastating effect and his Hampshire team mate was dumb struck at the way some one was handling him so well so early in his career.
All these showed his liking for the big stage and the flashlights. He got that in great measure following the 2005 Ashes triumph. But, his career on the whole has progressed in fits and starts. That he still averages close to 50 in Tests and around 40 in the ODIs shows his enigmatic brilliance.Players like KP don’t play for the numbers and the statistics. If they have decided to make the day their own, then no one can stop them. He is sort of a Vivian Richards in this aspect though Viv’s longevity and captaincy record are something KP can only dream about.
This attitude also translates into over confidence on many occasions and that explains the many troughs in his career graph. But asking KP to curb this arrogance and over confident demeanor will rob him off his cutting edge.We have the gentle and humble students of the game like Sachin, Cook, Dravid on one side but it is the players like KP that excite us with their swagger, extravagance and sparks of sheer genius.
The recent 202* against our Indian side had a mix of both the typical Test style and the typical KP style. Has KP realized that his career numbers don’t do true justice to his enormous natural talent? If this is indeed the case, England will be really happy as a consistent KP is just about the perfect batsman any team can have. But the true cricket fan will still long for the flamboyant KP who reached his 200 in such a dash and flourish and celebrated it as only he can.