Pietersen slams Chittagong pitch
Kevin Pietersen believes he is back to his best form after battling to overcome his technical deficiencies against left-arm spin, but he has nevertheless voiced his criticism of the Chittagong wicket that aided his recovery in the first Test against Bangladesh. Pietersen made 99 in England's first innings of the series and followed that up with a hard-hitting 32 from 24 balls, but feels that the surface on which the match was played was bad for spectators, and by extension, the five-day game as a whole.
The Bangladesh series clashes with the glitz and glamour of the Indian Premier League, to which Pietersen will flying as soon as the second Test is over to link up with the Bangalore Royal Challengers, and while he was full of praise for the spirit that Junaid Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim showed in extending the Chittagong Test into the final afternoon, he questioned the entertainment value on offer in a match that England, to all intents and purposes, dominated from ball one.
"I don't think the conditions are good for Test match cricket," said Pietersen. "Everyone is talking about where Test cricket will be in five years' time, and I don't think wickets like that are conducive to people watching. On day five of a Test match, you expect some spin and something in the wicket, because you need wickets that will produce victories or results. I don't think the wicket was great in terms of entertainment, but in terms of English toughness it was good for our young bowling attack."
"Bangladesh were good," he said. "They fought hard in patches, especially on the last day, but with the way Test match cricket is going and the way people are talking negatively about it now, as a Test match cricket lover [I am concerned]. If we had played India on that pitch, it would have been 700 plays 700 plays 100 for 1. It's not good for Test match cricket, because I want Test match cricket to survive for as long as possible. It tests every individual and toughens you up."
Pietersen's criticisms were echoed by one of his chief tormentors of the tour, the left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak, who felt that his team had been let down by the Chittagong wicket after packing their side with four spinners in a bid to exploit the turn that they had anticipated from the surface. "The Chittagong wicket was not very spin-friendly," said Razzak. "Nothing happened for the first two days. The ball just went straight when we bowled in the first innings, and though there was some bounce, it's useless without turn."
The net result, however, was a timely return to form for Pietersen, who has had to drag his game out of the doldrums after a desperate run of form which, he claimed, was triggered by a technical fault that crept into his game during the tour of South Africa in December and January. Following scores of 40 and 81 at Centurion - his first Test since undergoing Achilles surgery in the summer - Pietersen managed 56 runs in his next five innings of the series, and said that by the end of the tour "I didn't know where I was and what I was doing".
"It was strange," said Pietersen. "I felt in good nick after the Twenty20 in Centurion [his comeback match], but then something went wrong in the third and fourth Test matches. I looked at a lot of footage, and compared it to some footage from before, and I realised I had made some technical errors, and I wasn't playing the way I used to. But I've sorted that out now, and I feel a different player."
The root of Pietersen's problem had been in his trigger movement at the crease, which involves an exaggerated knee-bend at the point of delivery. "If you lose your technique, the more your head goes," he said. "I don't want to jinx [my recovery], but I honestly do feel really, really good about my game at the moment. It's a nice place to be compared to ten days ago when I needed something to click, and something to work on, which I love doing. Yeah, I feel good now."
"There was a little thing I needed to work on, technique-wise, against the left-arm spinners, but then spending two or three hours at the crease [at Chittagong] was important as well, because when you're going through a tough time you often think: 'wow, how do I get to 20, 30, 50 ...' So to get to 99 and 30-odd off 20, by when I was hitting a lot of my areas I used to hit - midwicket off the spinner, and hitting over the top - I'm pretty happy."
As a by-product of all the thought that Pietersen has had to put into his technique against spin, he has rediscovered an urge to work on his own offspin - the facet of his game that first earned him the chance to play first-class cricket for Natal. "I think I can get a lot more wickets bowling to left-handers," he said, "with some that turn, and some that don't turn.
"A lot of the decisions I have got in my career have been down to my bounce and pace, and the uncertainty of where it is going, so I think I can get quite a few wickets. I'm looking to bowl more, and I've actually spoken to Cookie about it and I keep saying to him: 'get me on here.'"
He might well be called upon to perform with the ball in Dhaka if the wicket is anything like as slow and low as the Chittagong surface, but whatever happens, Pietersen is adamant that England must finish the series with focus and determination - two traits that have often deserted them towards the back-end of lengthy tours.
"The key to this week is finishing the tour well and concentrating on the Test match," he said. "What matters is winning the series, because we often don't finish tours the way that we would like, we sort of veer off at the end of a series because we want to get home, because we travel so much. The key to the team this week is to really make sure we grind it out here and get a good victory for Cooky [Alastair Cook], because he's done a great job on the field and off the field. We want to serve up a good victory for the chef."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.