Pietersen’s hundred is truly special when juxtaposed with the efforts of the others on the Wankhede track

The panache and authority was evident right from the first ball Kevin Pietersen faced, which he dismissed to the cover boundary for a four © PTI

Some players have an air of authority about them. Their swagger and panache can be intimidating and their power of their performances can turn a game on its head and demoralise the opposition.

Kevin Pietersen is one such player. On Sunday, he bludgeoned India into submission and put England in a commanding position in the second Test at Mumbai. Not many gave this England side to turn the tables on the hosts. Given their supposed weakness against spin, there was a lot of talk surrounding the surface and India’s ploy to back its strength. However, India’s weapon – the turning track at Wankhede-has backfired and it is mainly due to the splendid display by Pietersen.

The flamboyant English batsman had his own share of problems going into the second Test. After all the drama during the English summer, Pietersen had returned to the English setup with the intent to make an instant impact. At Ahmedabad, his problems against the left-arm spinner haunted him. With England at 68 for two in the first innings at Mumbai, Pietersen walked in with the stage set for him.

With a seat close to the English dressing room, I could see a purposeful Pietersen walk out when Jonathan Trott was trapped leg-before. I could see the fire in his eyes and intent in his body language. Even as some of the spectators booed him, he seemed to be in his zone as he ran down the stairs to make his way to the ground. The feeling was inescapable that he was going to come up with something special. And he did!

The panache and authority was evident right from the first ball he faced which he dismissed to the cover boundary for a four. The tentativeness he showed against Pragyan Ojha at Ahmedabad was a thing of the past as the real Pietersen took centrestage. It is often said that the best way to tackle a problem is to face it head on. And that is exactly what Pietersen did. Ordinary players would have taken singles, but Pietersen took matters in his own hands when confronted by his tormentor.

While the tons by Alastair Cook and Cheteshwar Pujara pushed one to believe that that one could only be successful on this wicket with a circumspect approach, Pietersen showed that attack is the best form of defence. He didn’t allow any of the Indian bowlers to settle into a rhythm and maintained a fantastic strike-rate throughout. It was his aggressive intent against Ojha that set the tone for his innings. The way he dealt with the left-arm spinner early on exorcised the demons inside his mind.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Ojha were made to pay for anything short or overpitched. As Pietersen’s innings progressed, the margin of error for the Indian spinners was minimal. He would rock back to cut or punch it through the off-side in a flash. If the ball was overpitched, the foot was to the pitch of the ball and the bat met it with a thump. Through all that, his sixes off Ojha stood out. The one over extra-cover seemed like any other shot until one noticed the distance he got on that one. The sweeps were dismissive – almost contemptuous.

It was appropriate that Pietersen got to his ton with a reverse sweep. It may not have featured his trademark switch-hit, but it had its own share of innovation. The other England batsmen (with the exception of Cook) never looked comfortable on the surface. And the less said about the Indian batsmen, the better. In the context , Pietersen’s knock was special.

Monty Panesar and Pietersen have changed the fortunes of the match on Sunday and raised visions of an England victory on Day Four.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)