The drama surrounding Kevin Pietersen’s reintegration into the English side has finally come to a conclusion, and it can be said that a sane decision has been made in the end. Pietersen’s inclusion not only makes England a well-equipped side in subcontinent conditions, but it also gives them a realistic chance of trumping India in their own backyard after decades. Although the English can boast of some formidable names in their line-up, the fact remains that very few are as proficient as Pietersen in handling the spinners.
When England toured India back in 2008-09, Andrew Strauss and Owais Shah were England’s leading run-getters in Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) respectively during the series, whereas the second highest scorer on both counts was Pietersen. He averaged a healthy 49.66 in Tests and 56.25 in the overs-limit version and was the only English batsman to score a century during the ODIs. In the absence of Strauss and Shah this time around, the onus lies on Pietersen to continue his good run of form in India and keep the English boat afloat.
Historically too, India has been a happy hunting ground for Pietersen. In his five Tests, he has amassed 365 runs at an average of 40.55, with his best of 144 coming at Mohali during the second Test of the 2008-09 series. The figures get even better during the ODIs. With 744 runs in his 16 One-Day innings, Pietersen is currently the highest run-getter for England in India. To drop a player of such calibre would have only been disastrous for the English side. There is little doubt that Pietersen has bolstered the English middle-order with his return.
While Pietersen’s credentials as a player cannot be questioned, it remains to be seen whether his reintegration in the side will be a smooth one. “It’s difficult being me in the English dressing room,” said Pietersen when the tiff was just beginning to gain momentum. Coach Andy Flower too didn’t hold back any punches, and made it clear that it’d take a little while before the side could trust Pietersen again. Whether the team can successfully put the past behind them and begin on a fresh page will be the big question.
The tour of India is by all means going to be a gruelling one for England, and although they’ve taken a step in the positive direction by recalling their best player, it’d augur well if they can pull through this as a cohesive unit.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)