Throughout his career, Kevin Pietersen’s demeanour on the field has been directly proportional to his form © IAN
By R Vishal
While Delhi Daredevils’ futile quest to win games in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 continues, Kevin Pietersen’s wretched form has been costing games for his team. The top seven’s steady displays with the bat in recent games have been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy IPL 2014 campaign for Delhi so far.
With Delhi’s standings in IPL 2014 on a freefall towards the bottom of the pile, their captain has had endured a miserable run of scores which read 16, 26*, 14, 0 and 6 — a modest tally of 62 runs that has taken 63 balls. In an arena where two overs change the course of the contest, Pietersen has stuck out like a sore thumb. Around the England outcast, Quinton de Kock and Murali Vijay have given Delhi solid starts while Dinesh Karthik, the consistent JP Duminy and Kedar Jadhav have taken turns to make telling displays.
Rustiness is certainly played a major part. After being unceremoniously and rather inexplicably shown the door by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) following England’s 0-5 Ashes drubbing, Pietersen has hardly played any competitive cricket for close to four months. Undoubtedly one of the biggest match winners of his generation, the batting maverick has been chewing up deliveries at will when the momentum has been in his team’s favour.
In Pietersen’s first game after coming back from injury, Vijay and de Kock piled a cracking 99-run opening stand in 11 overs, Pietersen’s labored stay at the crease ended up costing the game for Delhi. The former England captain was ultra slow in getting off the blocks chasing a mammoth 185-run target set by Sunrisers Hyderabad. Hyderabad wrested back the initiative and ended up edging Delhi in the game. Pietersen’s tentative stay nearly cost his team an easy win, chasing a sure-shot victory against Mumbai Indians. He did well to get his team over the line in the end though.
That impressive knock against Mumbai was unable to give him the fillip to get a move on in the tournament. In fact, his form has gone south, coming in at one down. With Delhi’s bowling proving to be the weakest of the franchises, they have a lot riding on their charismatic skipper to come good the bat. Even at the peak of his powers, left-arm spin has had Pietersen in a tangle and it has been a classic case of déjà vu in IPL 7, as well. Constantly trying to hit is way out of trouble, the brakes on the scoring rate have hurt Delhi in the middle overs.
Delhi will almost certainly bring leg-spinner Imran Tahir to bolster their bowling attack which would mean the axe would unfairly fall on the classy de Kock. Dropping one of their better performers so far would mean that Pietersen should come up with a knock that is synonymous with his class against Hyderabad.
The moment of madness that Pietersen had in Delhi’s previous encounter, against Kolkata Knight Riders epitomised the state of mind he was in. The South African-born committed hara-kiri, running himself out when there was no single for the taking. Throughout his career, Pietersen’s demeanour on the field has been directly proportional to his form. Pietersen must lead from the front and provide that piece of inspiration with his bat. Perhaps it is the tonic that can lift Delhi’s flagging fortunes.
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(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)