Tag: Kevin Pietersen (page 1 of 8)

Let’s see if we can sum up Kevin Pietersen’s entire career by looking at one innings – but no, not by using that one

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Terry’s been with the firm for 30 years, but he’s not retiring; he’s going part-time. A couple of years down the line Terry reduces his hours further and then a bit later still he says that he’s going to be available for jobs he’s already done a bit of work on but that he doesn’t want to start anything new. One day you suddenly realise that you haven’t seen Terry in a very long time.

So it is with cricketers these days. They just fade away. Other than grainy Twitter clips of him striking boundaries for the [insert city name] Sunbadgerers, we honestly can’t remember the last time we saw Kevin Pietersen play cricket. But he’s definitely retired now.

As we see it, there are two main ways you can go about covering a player’s retirement. (1) You trawl through the archives, pick out his finest innings and try and do a comprehensive career retrospective. (2) You sit down with a coffee and see what first comes into your head as being the peak moment.

The issue with taking the first approach for Kevin Pietersen is that as well as all the great innings, the task also entails wading through a whole heap of stuff about him falling out with people. We once described his feud with the ECB as being exactly like a soap opera because it never ends.

Our view of that thing is increasingly that it was a situation where fairly small stuff grew to seem like big stuff for a bunch of coaches and cricketers who had to spend morning, noon and night together. For context, in one of the more accidentally enlightening passages in his autobiography, KP said: “We are on the road for 250 days a year, we wear our England kit on most of these days … It never, ever ended.”

You don’t have to like the guy to read that sentence and sympathise a bit.

The other problem with the ‘some of his best innings’ approach is that, even cut short, Pietersen’s was a long career. It took in 104 Tests, a slightly greater number of one-day internationals and a World T20 win. You can’t really do a functional summary of something that sprawling, which leaves us with option two: you go with the moment you were most excited about and just sort of hope to hell that it speaks of some greater emotional truth that somehow crystallises his entire career.

Having made a coffee and consulted our head, the thing that we thought of as being the peak Kevin Pietersen moment was his first Test innings.

2005 KP (via YouTube)

We’d guess that somewhere around 99-100 per cent of you will disagree with that. Even those of you who picked something from the same year will probably go with his “series-winning” hundred at the Oval.

History, by The Verve, is a more powerful song than Bittersweet Symphony. However, you will almost never hear History played on the radio. This is an example of a phenomenon where a band earns attention for one song only for the following one to be wrongly identified as the more significant one in the long-term simply on the basis that it sold more. Eventually the big single becomes so all-pervasive that no-one really remembers the first one because that memory is never refreshed.

You can probably think of more and better examples. All we’re saying is that the 2005 Oval Test is an example of this in sport. Plenty of people think that Pietersen’s hundred defined the series and while it was of course hugely important, the series had to a great extent already been defined by then – there had already been four-and-a-half Test matches, after all. Pietersen’s was probably the key moment that was seen by most people, but that is not the same as being the best moment.

We’ve written before about how we found that whole fifth Test a slightly maudlin experience. Pietersen’s was an autumnal knock, both literally but also in the sense that if there was still much to look forward to in terms of his own career, it was already pretty clear even at the time that the zenith in terms of memorable summers was already drawing to a close.

The first Test had a different vibe. There’d been a hell of a preamble in terms of a crazy volume of adrenal one-day cricket, but Lord’s was where the posturing ended and the important stuff began.

But let’s go even further back, because we need to provide Kevin Pietersen’s back story.

Just before his Test debut, KP had a slight reputation for being awkward, but it wasn’t really thought of as being an insurmountable problem. Andrew Strauss would not at this point have called him a cunt. His personality was really just a background thing; something almost wholly overshadowed by his batting.

Back when there were no Lions in England in 2003-04, Pietersen toured India with England A and scored four centuries. Matt Prior did reasonably well on the same tour and pretty much no-one else emerged in credit. In terms of working out who England should pick to bat in the middle order in coming years, it was a pretty successful tour.

In 2004, the full England side played one-day series in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Kevin Pietersen was from South Africa and South Africa didn’t much like him.

Five innings into his one-day international career, Pietersen had been dismissed once, for a golden duck, and was averaging 234, scoring at near-enough a run a ball. In the fifth match against South Africa, Pietersen made his second hundred – an even 100 not out off 69 balls in an England defeat. In the seventh match (different times), he made 116 out of 240 and England lost again.

Presumably they were feeling magnanimous in victory, but the South African fans who had been giving him relentless shit throughout the series were also giving him a bit of applause by this point.

Forget everything that happened afterwards for a moment: this is the character who came to the crease at Lord’s in 2005 and he did so when England had been losing the Ashes for as long as anyone could remember. They had also been losing wickets to Glenn McGrath for as long as anyone could remember.

England’s score shortly after Pietersen emerged was 21-5 and Glenn McGrath had 5-7. All notions that maybe things were different this time around had been inserted into the bin.

England lost that match, but with his first (and second) innings in Test cricket, Pietersen reached into the bin, extracted those hopes, wrapped them up in clingfilm and said: “Let’s not be hasty. I think we can make something out of these yet.”

He made just 57 runs, but those 57 runs contained a lot of information and KP did three important things.

  • The first important thing that KP did was pretty much fuck-all. After 41 balls he’d scored nine runs. He faced McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee and pretty much just ignored them. He made it look like it was possible to not subside to 21-5.
  • The next important thing that KP did was he smashed Glenn McGrath for 14 runs in three balls. This was simply not a thing that happened to Glenn McGrath in any circumstances, let alone (a) against England and (b) when England had pretty much already collapsed.
  • The final important thing that KP did was he hit Shane Warne for six. Warne had barely bowled by this point and also dismissed KP with his very next delivery, but given KP’s one-day record at this point, hitting Warne for six definitely implanted the idea that Warne being hit for six might happen again and if Warne being hit for six by an England player could happen again, what the hell else could happen?

Pietersen’s second innings in that match was really just him elaborating on these three points. He hit Brett Lee for six, he hit Warne for six again. He made 64 not out as England were bowled out for 180. He said to his team-mates: “It is possible to hammer these bowlers and if it’s possible to hammer them then it’s definitely possible to just sort of hang around working the ball about making steady runs.”

He also said the exact same thing to the fans, which was even more important because the people in the stands were the batteries that powered that England side. That England side redefined what England fans thought their team could do and also how people thought they would go about it.

Kevin Pietersen sent out that message early and as a bonus he also gave the impression that he might play one or two innings that would be worth watching in the future.

Kevin Pietersen says team spirit is everything

Photo by Sarah Ansell

He’s got to be doing this on purpose, hasn’t he? Surely?

In truth, much of what Kevin Pietersen says in his interview with Cricinfo makes perfect sense.

The gist is that there’s much to be gained from players going out together, but they also need to take responsibility for their own actions and any impact on their performance as cricketers.

Sensible stuff really, but come on, Kev – show a bit of self-awareness.

We wrote about the art of being a team player Pietersen-style back when he was sacked. It’s not as mocking as you’re probably thinking. We saw an independently-minded man with good intentions who went about things in a godawful way.

There’s a parallel here with Ben Stokes. For all his flaws, it’s impossible to imagine KP laying into a couple of blokes in the street as Allegedly Stokes did in that white-trainered footage, but both men seem to share similar faulty logic. They apparently believe that if you begin an argument in the right then everything that follows is undertaken in the name of righteousness and therefore perfectly acceptable.

There’s a story about the Stokes altercation that he started off defending someone – maybe a couple of gay men who were being subjected to homophobic abuse. Now you can certainly accept that a person might find a way to intervene in such a situation, but in the video of Allegedly Stokes, the scuffle goes on long after that. By the end, he can be seen advancing on a fella who’s backing away with his hands up in fearful surrender.

Not okay. Today’s lesson is that a person can still do wrong things even when many will accept that they started off in the right.

Although we’re not talking about physical conflict, it’s clear that Pietersen has a similarly simplistic view of disagreements – even when he’s sober. He says that team spirit was an issue on the 2013-14 Ashes tour (on that at least, he and Andy Flower will agree). However, much of what followed was just him taking issue with the team environment to such an extent that it knackered up that team environment even more.

You probably had a point at the outset, Kev, but you lost perspective. It wasn’t The Guys in the Right Corner against The Guys in the Wrong Corner with every subsequent action of yours entirely justified.

England would have a far better cricket team if their best players understood that righteousness can only ever be borrowed not owned.

Do the Rising Pune Supergiants have the finest name in the history of sport?


The answer is yes.

“Supergiants” beats “Super Kings” on account of it being one word. A ‘super giant’ would simply be a giant who was very, very good, whereas a ‘Supergiant’ is a massive dude with extraordinary strength and x-ray vision who can also fly. The fact that they are rising is merely an added bonus.

Kevin Pietersen is one Supergiant who will be rising in the Maharashtrian city of Pune this IPL season. In a massively unfortunate turn of phrase, his new captain MS Dhoni said of the grey-flecked controversialist: “He, like other seniors, has an added responsibility to groom the youngsters.”

Pietersen has got away with a fair amount over the years, but not sure ‘Dhoni told me I had to’ would serve as much of a defence in a court of law.

The week in politics

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Like a tired bear in winter, let’s try and put this to bed for a few days. Maybe it’ll have to get up again at some point next week to go for a wee, but we’re kind of hoping that we can concentrate on the New Zealand series from now on.

As far as we can tell, this is how it’s gone…

Colin Graves told Kevin Pietersen that if he came back and played county cricket and maybe made a triple hundred, he couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team. He said this because he genuinely couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team.

Then, while Graves was in the Caribbean, he discovered that England’s captain, Alastair Cook, was adopting a ‘him or me’ position on the issue. Not mad keen on having Joe Root as Test captain just yet, the ECB opted for ‘me’ in favour of ‘him’ and tried to ham-fistedly make the best of that.

Kevin Pietersen came back, played county cricket, made a triple hundred and requested his place in the side. Andrew Strauss broke the news to him.

This is perhaps why, at the press conference the following day, Strauss said that Pietersen wouldn’t play for England ‘this summer’, while adding that he couldn’t offer guarantees beyond that. He was basically just acknowledging that there are two possible scenarios.

  1. England win the Ashes, Cook stays, Pietersen remains excluded
  2. They lose, Cook goes and Joe Root – who has just been named vice captain – takes over

Cook presumably feels the presence of uppity Pietersen with his inability to keep his trap shut makes captaining the side impossible. If the public comes to accept the version of events outlined above, he may come to reclassify that particular ‘impossible’ as merely ‘very, very difficult’ in comparison to what he is likely to experience should England start losing this summer.

Strauss said of Peter Moores that every game had become a referendum on whether he should continue to do the job or not. It would be like that, only a hundred times as vitriolic and a thousand times less dignified.

Here’s the real nub of the problem

The main problem, as we see it, is that some people seem to think that being England captain is a big deal; like it somehow elevates you above all other England cricketers. If Alastair Cook didn’t see captaincy as something to aspire to, he could have acknowledged that it wasn’t especially his thing at the very outset and instead busied himself with the greatly more important job of scoring Test runs. Pretty much everyone would have liked him more for it.

You’d never get this kind of thing with Pakistan. Pakistan would have had about nine different captains by now and everything would have been much less chaotic as a consequence.

The ECB takes aim at its prosthetic foot

Strauss is also rumoured to have used the word 'rapscallion'

What may eventually prove to be Kevin Pietersen’s final six scoring strokes in first-class cricket were, in order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. At that point, there was nowhere left to go.

A friend of ours was referred to a heart specialist once. As he sat in the waiting room alongside lots of sad looking folk, Unbreak My Heart started playing on the radio. Point is, plenty of things that you’d roll your eyes at if they happened in a sitcom actually do happen in real life.

Witness the ECB’s public relations efforts. A script editor would rip such a story apart for being too contrived, too convenient, too obvious to pass as comedy. Kevin Pietersen is allowed to believe that if he returns to England and makes runs in the county championship, he may be considered for selection. He makes 326 not out and that night – that very same night – he is told that actually, no, he will not be considered for selection.

The news is leaked, obviously. It always is. It is leaked at the exact same moment that the ECB Twitter feed publishes a link to highlights of Pietersen’s innings. The next day, the ECB officially unveil their new director of England cricket, the man who has made the decision to continue to omit Pietersen. It is Andrew Strauss, a man who once called him a cunt on TV; a man who, for all his qualities, is considered the embodiment of the establishment by those feeling disenfranchised and alienated by that very establishment.

Strauss says that Pietersen is not going to be selected any time soon because of trust issues. He later adds that he offered him a consultancy job with the one-day side, which Pietersen declined. Apparently trust is not required for that sort of a role.

If you can, temporarily suppress your feelings about Kevin Pietersen. Find a way of pretending that you’re a dispassionate observer tasked with repairing the ECB’s tattered image. They are, after all, considered a toxic brand even by themselves.

If the notion that the ECB is a cosy old gentleman’s club, a sort of pseudo-masonic quasi-incestuous backslapping coven, then that notion had to some degree been confined to certain individuals. Whether they were truly the guilty parties or not, people like Paul Downton and Peter Moores had been infected with this cancer, but they had recently been excised. Giles Clarke is about to depart as chairman and while he will retain influence, the arrival of Colin Graves had at least felt progressive.

Now, somehow, against the odds, the cancer of negative public perception has been allowed to spread. And not just subtly and by stealth, but like something from an unusually gory B-movie. People are being eaten alive. A three-time Ashes-winning captain has become public enemy number one among a large swathe of England fans. The new coach is tainted by the new-old regime even before being sounded out about whether he might maybe like to think about possibly perhaps applying.

Rights or wrongs of the selection or non-selection of one player aside, how in the hell does an organisation find a way to shoot itself in the foot like this; a prosthetic foot it only received following an identical shooting incident just last year?

Kevin Pietersen and the lonely ends of the spectra

'I'll come out of first and just ease it into fifth...'

The Kevin Pietersen saga is often described as a soap opera. This is quite accurate because the defining feature of a soap opera is that IT NEVER ENDS. Okay, Crossroads and Eldorado did, but you get what we’re saying. For the most part they just rumble on, day after day, setting up contrived storylines and having them play out.

Kevin Pietersen’s triple hundred today was neither proof nor irrelevant. It was an impassioned and noteworthy innings against the worst first-class county. He can’t help who he plays. All he can do is score a few runs. Today he did that in about as convincing a manner as possible. The second-highest score in the innings was Kumar Sangakkara’s 36.

More is needed, but on this evidence more is highly likely to arrive. What strikes us most is that Pietersen was at his most exciting early on in his career when he had it all to prove. Back then, there was real steel underpinning the carnage. If his sense of being wronged has brought that back and precipitated some sort of driven final fling, then excellent.

Very few batsmen possess the qualities required to make you think you might be about to see something you’ve never seen before. Very few batsmen play the kinds of innings you feel compelled to send text messages about. It’s not about playing outlandish shots or scoring heavily, it’s a combination of brutality and endurance, a way of manhandling a match and pointing it in a new direction.

Brian Lara explored new territory, so when he got going you couldn’t really feel confident about where things were going to end. There is something of that in Pietersen. Today a hundred wasn’t enough; and a double hundred wasn’t enough; and his highest first-class score wasn’t enough. Plenty of players have hunger, plenty of players have ability. Very few sit at the farthest extremes of the spectrum on both counts.

Mop-up of the day – not really as related to cricket as you might think

Much as we enjoy writing about administrative staff, what they think and what they may or may not have meant when they said something in an interview, we rather feel that the World Cup is a time for writing about actual cricket.

Colin Graves has said some things, the ECB have said some different things in faceless, Borg-like fashion and Kevin Pietersen has expressed enthusiasm, as he is wont to do. While all of this may amount to something one day, it isn’t all that meaningful right now. A whole bunch of things would have to happen in the correct sequence before there could be any impact on a cricket match and lest anyone forget, cricket is about cricket matches.

Cricket-wise, South Africa’s huge score against Ireland changes nothing in our eyes. They have a couple of exceptional batsmen, some middling ones and a long tail. We still think they’re vulnerable.

Pakistan play the UAE tonight and could, quite honestly, lose. We say this only because they appear to be even worse than England and England certainly seem in the market for a mugging; ambling about the dangerous part of town with a bulging wallet tucked precariously in a back pocket.

In the other match, Australia play Afghanistan. There shouldn’t be an upset there, but it could provide some exceptionally entertaining moments.

KP: The Autobiography – book review

A guest review of KP: The Autobiography by Dandy Dan.

Having met KP and most of team, I feel I’m very qualified to review this book – especially as he came across to me as actually being all right. I didn’t buy it. I got it out from the library. I didn’t even pay the 50p charge (or however much it is these days) as I know the librarian. It’s not what you know…

It’s a bit boring really. The problem isn’t really all the sections released in the media when it came out. It’s that he’s never really been shy in saying how he feels throughout his career so we all know the stories anyway. The only thing that came to a real surprise to me was his dislike for Flower. Flower gets a pasting throughout the book, even during the successful times. Now I had come to the conclusion at the end of the last Ashes series that Flower must be to blame for the whole debacle, so taking this one sided view of things I feel smugly content in being right.

Essentially, each chapter follows the same path with a different tour/story thrown in.

In bullet point format:

  • Yes, I’ve made mistakes, I realise that now (But he doesn’t realise he’s still making them).
  • The IPL is great, not enough people in England realise this.
  • The ECB is made up of incompetent buffoons (This was a particularly startling revelation).
  • I had an injury and wasn’t playing well.
  • I played well.

The most interesting part of it to me (well one which wasn’t covered by the media that I could tell) was his apparent dislike of authoritarian coaches, yet the fondness he holds for his strict childhood experiences. Flower (and to a lesser extent Moores) get a slagging for being too controlling, yet he reminisces about his time at school where the juniors had to say please at the end of every sentence they spoke to a senior. Apparently this taught him that respect has to be earnt. I’m not sure I understood the idea of earning someone’s respect just because they were older than you. He obviously has a lot of respect for his father who he says showed him little emotion, but then criticises Flower for not putting an arm around him. If there’s a source to the idea that KP just wants to be loved there it is. Pop psychology over.

The whole Matt Prior/Big Cheese stuff starts off quite funny, gets a bit tiresome, then goes back to being funny again. It’s particularly amusing when he takes the piss out of him for thinking he’s in Team Sky. Swann doesn’t get laid into as much as I thought he would for leaving the tour early.

He does make a good case for the IPL and reading his book has changed my mind about it a bit regarding its importance and the engagement the ECB should have with it. I’m still not interested in actually watching it though.

Following this revelation that the newspapers didn’t actually republish every last word of KP’s book, you might like to buy it. If so, you can get it from Amazon here.

KP v ECB on Twitter – a medieval battle with an invisible audience

Our latest Twitter round-up’s just appeared on Cricinfo. It was an unusually tough assignment. We’d sign into Twitter, get distracted by the latest developments arising from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography and then find that we’d lost an hour or more. We’d then force ourself to close down Twitter so that we could get some work done before remembering that Twitter was our work. Repeat.

Twitter isn’t fundamentally bad

Despite what many believe. It’s just people, after all. People are good and bad. If your experience of Twitter is always negative, you’re following the wrong people. Follow good people and it’s an always-accessible sounding board for thoughts and ideas; a friendly online pub full of witty, erudite people who like to discuss things and trade one-liners.

However, of late logging in has been to waltz onto a medieval battlefield sans armour. A 24-hour argument is being maintained and even if you don’t get involved, it can be a bruising experience. If you ever feel emotions for other people, you won’t go long without sympathy or anger welling up in you. Absorbed in the debate, you don’t notice it happening either – at least until you go to bed and realise that it will take literally hours before the tension subsides.

Pick a side

The annoying thing for us is that the Pietersen story raises lots of interesting questions about the way the sport is run in England. We’d like to discuss these things, but we can’t. We always consider this website to be quite a friendly place, but even here it’s impossible to criticise the ECB without people assuming you must therefore be on KP’s side. Conversely, criticise KP and you are ascribed all sorts of other opinions as a consequence.

It’s like English cricket has devised two new stereotypes and is getting busy with its label maker, tagging everyone. On Twitter, this polarisation is even more pronounced.

Fight your corner

The word ‘tweet’ sounds so fey and inconsequential, but reading them at the moment is exhausting. Even when we broadly agree with someone, we’re often put off by the vehemence with which they put their point across. People we otherwise enjoy speaking to – often contemporaries; the pseudo-colleagues of the freelancer – seem incredibly militant all of a sudden.

Perhaps the chaos is addictive. Perhaps people enjoy the feeling of being at the centre of something major that is unfolding, surrounded by well-known names, not knowing where things are going.

A lot of KP/ECB-related Twitter output is a kind of directionless rage broadcast to the ether – almost an invitation to combat. At other times, a target is identified – and if there is no target, it doesn’t take much to create one. Disagree forcefully enough with something someone says and they will respond in kind. A quick to and fro and two people who thought they occupied middle ground suddenly find themselves entrenched at opposite extremes. Suddenly you find you have a stance – and then everyone else piles in.

And oh how they pile in

Maybe it’s the number of people who can get involved in a Twitter debate that causes all of this. Crowd behaviour is greatly influenced by a reduction in each individual’s sense of personal responsibility. That’s how mobs form. But a reduced sense of personal responsibility is something that can surely only be exacerbated by the pseudonyms and physical distance that come with Twitter.

You can say what you like and you can get carried along with the crowd. That’s dangerous enough, but compounding this is the fact that the more people who are discussing something, the more quickly the debate moves. This is exciting, your adrenaline fires. Yet if you’re involved, you may feel you have to become more and more extreme in what you say so as to be heard above the noise.

In short, things escalate.

What’s your point?

No point. Modern world, self-control, polarised debate.

And even for conscientious objectors, it’s hard to ignore a medieval battle. It takes willpower to look straight ahead when you pass an accident on the motorway. When this sort of melée is just a click away, what chance have you got – particularly when you can sit on the sidelines, invisible to all the combatants?

Can we please dissolve the ECB?

We support the England cricket team. We will always support the England cricket team. It’s just that it would be so, so, so much easier to support the England cricket team if it weren’t being run by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The Pakistan Cricket Board is mental, the West Indies Cricket Board is incompetent, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is some kind of Machiavellian old boys’ club. No-one within it really has much of a clue about international sport. They don’t know what makes it good, they don’t know what it takes to be successful and worst of all they think the sport of cricket and the England team that plays it are theirs to do with as they please.

It appears to be an organisation almost tailor-made to antagonise us. It hates individuals, tries to exercise almost complete control over its workers, loathes anyone who disagrees with its methods and has some weird, very specific notion of the kind of person it wants in key positions. We sometimes feel like English cricket is being annexed by this weird group of buffoons and we don’t know where they came from, who gave them power or how they’re still around.

Watching them trip over each other, set fire to things and fling pies in each other’s faces while trying to deal with this Pietersen book, all we can think is that someone should put them out of their misery. We don’t mean stringing them up by their ECB ties. We just mean drawing a line under the floundering and manipulation. Why don’t we just change the code to get into the office and then hire some grown-ups to replace them?

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