It's time Pietersen regains his lost form in ODIs

Kevin Pietersen has averaged 22.74 in the last 33 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for England © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

England’s astounding batting collapse in the first One-Day International (ODI) against India would have left Alastair Cook and Andy Flower with a lot of thinking to do. A line-up that looked absolutely formidable recently against the same opposition at home crumbled against the spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Cook was England’s best batsman on display as he played the fast bowlers with ease and was getting into his stride against the spinners before holing out to the deep. Jonathan Trott supported the captain for sometime but was dismissed while attempting a sweep. The slow nature of the surface got to the other batsmen as they struggled to come to terms with it.

 

If England are to do well on this tour, the onus is not just on the likes of Cook and Trott. Kevin Pietersen needs to step up and contribute a lot more at the top as he is a talismanic player who can single-handedly change the face of the game.

 

Pietersen’s stay in the middle at Hyderabad was a pot pouri of the good and the bad. The variable bounce of the wicket got the better of him on a few occasions as some of the deliveries just kicked off a length and the others stayed low. When such things happened, Pietersen looked all at sea, but there were moments when he looked good. Two of the three boundaries he hit had his trademark stamp of authority over them. He also walked across on a couple of occasions which signaled his positive intent.

 

However, he seemed to be in a hurry and too eager to get to the non striker end. During his knock of 19, there were too many risky singles off the defensive dabs. He was happy to dab it and set-off for a run without even looking at the fielder approaching. When Ashwin finally hit the stumps for India, one felt that Pietersen’s run out was obvious as he brainlessly attempted those singles. What was more surprising was the fact that he didn’t attempt a dive on any of those occasions which meant that he was trying his luck. Eventually, Lady Luck gave up on him and he had to make his way to the pavilion.

 

England last toured India in 2008 under the captaincy of Pietersen. In the fifth ODI of that tour, Pietersen scored a well-paced hundred which highlighted his class. Since then a lot has changed for him. He lost his captaincy soon after the tour and his form in ODIs nosedived. Once a feared batsman, Pietersen has struggled to maintain consistency in ODIs since England’s last visit to India.

 

This isn’t an assumption but statistics clearly reflect his struggle. The following table contains his overall record, his numbers till the fifth ODI of the 2008 series and his record after that tour.

M

Runs

Avge

100s

Career

120

3752

39.91

7

Till 26 Nov 2008

87

3047

48.36

7

Nov 26, 2008 to present

33

705

22.74

0

 

(India vs England, 5th ODI took place on 26-08-2008)

 

These stats clearly show that he hasn’t been the dominant Pietersen in ODIs for almost three years. But, one must not forget that he has missed quite a few ODIs in the said period due to various reasons.

 

An average of 22.74 doesn’t reflect the quality of Pietersen. When on song, he can tear apart any bowling line-up but he hasn’t been able to spend a lot of time in the middle off late. He gets off to some quick starts, but throws it away against the run of play. Left-arm spinners have tormented him as he has fallen to bowlers of that trade more often than not.

 

If you look at a list of Pietersen’s knocks in ODIs over the last few months, you would notice that he gets to the 20s and the 30s quite often but has crossed the half century mark only twice. His failure to convert many of these starts has affected England as he is a match winner and a flamboyant player in a line-up comprising messrs Cook and Trott. These unfulfilled starts coupled with the failures have resulted in a drastic drop in his career average. Till November 26, 2008, he averaged a magnificent 48.36 but that has dropped down to 39.91.

 

In the ongoing series against India, its imperative Pietersen gets back into top form. The idiosyncratic dominant display from his bat is long overdue and England fans would be praying for it to come soon. He continues to perform brilliantly in Test cricket, which shows that he hasn’t lost his sheen. It may be a psychological phenomenon that prevents him from translating that in ODI cricket. He should avoid being the man in a hurry who was on display in Hyderabad and try to get his eye in. If he applies himself in the middle with full concentration, Pietersen would be back to top gear in one-day cricket sooner than expected. But, for that to happen he should be on guard against those un-wanted rash shots.

 

On this tour to India, Pietersen has his work cut out and he needs to repay the faith of the selectors. He must remember that he is a part of a very professional set-up that doesn’t go by reputation. An example would be his axing for the ODI series against Pakistan last year. Pietersen certainly wouldn’t want a repeat of that scenario!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)