“You have to let KP be what KP is, and that’s a showman.” – Steve Harmison on how England should deal with Kevin Pietersen so as to get the best out of him at Ashes 2013.
Kevin Pietersen will be playing his fifth Ashes this year and ever since he became a part of the English setup, their Ashes fortunes have turned miraculously.
It would be foolish to say that he won the 2005 Ashes for England as it was a thorough team-performance but one cannot ignore the massive contribution he made, a century on the last day of the series, as he finished the highest run-scorer for England in the series. He has piled the runs for England ever since and averages just below 50.00 in the 94 Test matches he has played for the team.
He has contributed to almost every important series win England has achieved in the last eight years. Just a few months before he was hampered by his injury, he made a successful tour of India with the English side where they trumped the hosts in an impressive 2-1 Test series victory.
Pietersen made a heavy contribution on that tour scoring a century in the second Test at Mumbai, in what is being called the finest innings the year.
The injury-hampered Pietersen’s reintegration into the English side after he was suspended by the English cricket board for sending inappropriate text messages to South African players about the then-captain Andres Strauss.
Call it a coincidence, or fate, but Pietersen will make his return to Test cricket after the injury lay-off at the same venue where the entire affair had played out. He played a game for Surrey against Yorkshire and laid all doubts regarding the extent of his rehabilitation to rest with a devastating century. The signs are ominous for Australia.
Kevin Pietersen will be up against the likes of James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris but that will hardly bother him as the immense self-belief that he has in his own ability means that he establishes the rules of play against the opposition.
For Australia, James Pattinson will hold the key against him as he can cause some trouble with his sharp out-swing at express pace given the conditions are suitable. Mitchell Starc will try to angle the ball across him and then try to catch him one that swings sharply towards the leg stump. It is hard to imagine Nathan Lyon causing him a lot of trouble especially given the flamboyance with which he dealt with Shane Warne.
His ability to counter-attack the opposition when the chips are down have made him a huge asset to the English side. He has the technical wherewithal to survive a fiery spell even in the most hostile of conditions.
The fact that he gets his runs so quickly, his innings of 186 against India for instance came in just 230-odd balls, means that he can bat the opposition out of the game in a very short span of time.
Jimmy Anderson talked about the great boost he will be to the side.
“We’re definitely a better team for Kevin’s inclusion,” Anderson said. “He’s just an extraordinary player. There’s not really any down side at the minute.”
The only possible downside that there might be his vulnerability to be light up controversies and while even his detractors are united in their opinion about his success, they do predict the possibility of yet another dressing room feud subverting the aims of the side.
England are pitching for their third consecutive Ashes triumph this season and they would not want anything to compromise that.
Former captain Andrew Strauss has been at the head of this debate. He commented about Pietersen in a recent article and said, “He could easily be called England’s greatest ever player as well as the most disruptive.”
While that might not be horribly off the mark, Strauss ignores the relationship that Pietersen shares with Alastair Cook. Pietersen has been rather vocal about his admiration for England’s captain and tipped him to break all batting records in the time to come.
He said in a recent interview, “For me, he’s the right man to lead England. He’s doing a great job for us and he will continue to get better and better and break every record anyone’s ever set, certainly in the English game.”
The fact that Australia have suffered so consistently at the hands of Kevin Pietersen does not augur well for them.
He will be all the more dangerous in this edition given that he will have a point to prove coming out of his injury, and his appetite for runs will be big.