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Kevin Pietersen and the curse of the left-arm spinners

Happy to get Kevin Pietersen s wicket: Pragyan Ojha

Kevin Pietersen is clean bowled by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha in the first innings of the first test in Ahmedabad © PTI

There is no love lost between Kevin Pietersen and the left-arm spinners. The iconic English batsman has lost his wicket to Pragyan Ojha in both the innings of the first Test at Ahmedabad. Pietersen’s propensity to fall to the said variety is well-documented and a number of teams have used left-arm spinners to get the better of him. Being a player who can turn the game on its head in a session or two, it is a prized wicket and teams from around the globe would specially field a left-arm spinner to get rid of him.

As the commentators pointed out during the lunch break, Pietersen may have developed a mental block against the left-arm spinners. It wasn’t a good delivery that got rid of him in the second innings as he moved across too far and left his stumps exposed. It was almost a full-toss and he tried to play an audacious sweep, but was bowled around the legs. In contrast, a well-flighted delivery dismissed him in the first innings – something the bowler can take credit for. For someone who is feared by bowlers, it is baffling that a particular type troubles him so much. He was clearly trying too much in the second innings at Ahmedabad.

A statistical analysis would reveal how susceptible Pietersen is to the left-arm spinners. Let us have a look at his dismissals record in Test cricket:

Type of bowler Number of dismissals
Right-arm fast 71
Right-arm spinners 32
Left-arm fast 13
Left-arm spinners 25

Here is his record in One-Day Internationals (ODIs):

Type of bowler Number of dimissals
Right-arm fast 45
Right-arm spinners 26
Left-arm fast 6
Left-arm spinners 18

When compared to the number of times he has been dismissed to the right-armers, the number 25 (in Tests) may look small. However, one must bring into perspective the fact that there aren’t many left-arm spinners when compared to the right-arm pacers and the right-arm spinners. Generally, one would find a number of right-armers in a line-up, but only one or two left-arm spinners in a side. That reflects the kind of struggle Pietersen has had against them.

Pietersen’s problem against the left-arm spinners has grown over the last two years. Here is his dismissal record since January 2010 across all formats in international cricket:

Type of bowler Number of dimissals
Right-arm fast 32
Right-arm spinners 27
Left-arm fast 9
Left-arm spinners 21

There isn’t a particular left-arm spinner who has troubled him in the last two years and the honours are shared by all. In fact, it is surprising that Saeed Ajmal, a right-arm off-spinner, has accounted for his wicket the most number of times in the last two years – nine times in 16 matches (across all formats).

The battle against his nemesis Yuvraj Singh – the “pie-chucker” – is one that is often hyped as he has dismissed Pietersen four times in ODIs and once in Tests. Pietersen’s tour to India kicked off with Yuvraj dismissing him in the tour-game. However, it looks like Ojha has taken over the responsibility from Yuvraj.

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