November 26, 2008

Time for Pietersen to come to the party

The prospect of the final three one-day internationals between England and India has, like accountancy and competitive grouting, failed to capture the public imagination in Britain
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The prospect of the final three one-day internationals between England and India has, like accountancy and competitive grouting, failed to capture the public imagination in Britain. Over the last couple of days, The Confectionery Stall has not overheard a single conversation in which two old women on a bench have argued over whether Ian Bell should open the batting, slide down to the middle order, or drop out of the team to spend more time with his family and front-foot defensive technique. Nor have excited school children huddled furtively around their collective radio at the back of a physics class waiting for the latest expert predictions on whether England can defy the odds to win or nearly win at least one of the remaining matches (and thus, surely, emerge from the series as moral victors).

Even meaningful one-day cricket can have a tendency to feel meaningless, so these essentially irrelevant games are perhaps a less-than-tantalising curtain-raiser for what should be a more closely-fought and intriguing Test series – if it is indeed mathematically possible to have a series of two things. Only the ICC believes in the two-thing series. A senior ICC executive was recently overheard boasting to colleagues of having eaten “a series of sticky toffee puddings”. Further investigation revealed the feast to have consisted of one individual-sized dessert and a couple of sneaky bites of his wife’s whilst she went to fetch the cream.

England have been gradually chipping away at India’s superiority as the series has progressed, albeit with the gentle chiselling of an overcautious sculptor. It is hard to see what they could do to hack bigger and fatter chips off this metaphorical marble megaslab. Only a few weeks ago, the same players were demolishing South Africa, and just over a year ago, they were defeating India and Sri Lanka in quick succession. And county cricket is hardly replete with players hammering the selectors’ door down with unanswerable statistical battering rams.

However, the England leadership should now use the remaining games to try to unearth some of the beloved ‘positives’ that sports people love to mine from even the most demoralising defeats. The Confectionery Stall would like to see Kevin Pietersen attempt to solve his team’s perennial struggles to find a dominating opening batsman by leaping into that Trescothick-shaped void himself. The captain’s own relative decline as an attacking force in the limited-overs game may be rectified by such a move – he averaged 65 at a strike-rate of 98 runs per 100 balls in his first 30 ODIs, compared with 35 at a strike-rate of 78 in his last 30. He has talked of England’s need to score hundreds. He should give his team’s best batsman, himself, the best opportunity to lead the way. At least England might overcome their irrational fear of hitting boundaries during the first powerplay.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Minhaj on November 26, 2008, 18:26 GMT

    England should have won the 5th ODI against the Indians but lost the match eventually. India has become a solid team to beat and it will take a lot of guts and brains to defeat India. Pietersen did score a century in the 5th ODI but it really did not help his team win the match. Winning in India is a tough thing to do.

  • matt Piper on November 26, 2008, 15:30 GMT

    its funny how when england are winning we all love then and when they losing they all the worst things that could ever happen. That the problem with English sport....Napier has scored one big innings for essex(welldone) that doesnt make him a world player. SUPPORT the team-dont be fickle supporters!!!!!

  • Sathish on November 26, 2008, 11:31 GMT

    When will monty panesar be back? england need spinners like him at this moment.

  • hardik on November 26, 2008, 10:37 GMT

    i will buy that book though i dont buy books but i will :)

    i really like the way you write Andy, Keep it up, would like to see more and more of your posts. :)

  • dilen on November 26, 2008, 9:36 GMT

    Write a book mate...on cricket...I'd buy it!

  • Vikram on November 26, 2008, 9:08 GMT

    England should send Middlesex or Kent for one-dayers, we'll have interesting competitive games...

  • Akay on November 26, 2008, 9:07 GMT

    As usual ( Pre 1947 days) English man are asking indian to work more ( By taking more wickets and make more runs).They hardly bother for win or loss .They just enjoy their life and fool indians

  • Vikram on November 26, 2008, 9:07 GMT

    England should send Middlesex or Kent for one-dayers, we'll have interesting competitive games...

  • Kumar on November 26, 2008, 9:05 GMT

    Frankly speaking the english cricketeeers are fit for write ups in tabloids like'sun magazine' , what kinda panties thier 'wags' are in , and how 'freddie & kp' would perform in bed !!!! They are a bunch of over hyped cricketers who under any circumstance would behave like cry babies !!!

  • Chhimbo on November 26, 2008, 9:05 GMT

    I would suggest India's batsmen are far better than England's on flat tracks but England's are better when wickets are more testing.

  • Minhaj on November 26, 2008, 18:26 GMT

    England should have won the 5th ODI against the Indians but lost the match eventually. India has become a solid team to beat and it will take a lot of guts and brains to defeat India. Pietersen did score a century in the 5th ODI but it really did not help his team win the match. Winning in India is a tough thing to do.

  • matt Piper on November 26, 2008, 15:30 GMT

    its funny how when england are winning we all love then and when they losing they all the worst things that could ever happen. That the problem with English sport....Napier has scored one big innings for essex(welldone) that doesnt make him a world player. SUPPORT the team-dont be fickle supporters!!!!!

  • Sathish on November 26, 2008, 11:31 GMT

    When will monty panesar be back? england need spinners like him at this moment.

  • hardik on November 26, 2008, 10:37 GMT

    i will buy that book though i dont buy books but i will :)

    i really like the way you write Andy, Keep it up, would like to see more and more of your posts. :)

  • dilen on November 26, 2008, 9:36 GMT

    Write a book mate...on cricket...I'd buy it!

  • Vikram on November 26, 2008, 9:08 GMT

    England should send Middlesex or Kent for one-dayers, we'll have interesting competitive games...

  • Akay on November 26, 2008, 9:07 GMT

    As usual ( Pre 1947 days) English man are asking indian to work more ( By taking more wickets and make more runs).They hardly bother for win or loss .They just enjoy their life and fool indians

  • Vikram on November 26, 2008, 9:07 GMT

    England should send Middlesex or Kent for one-dayers, we'll have interesting competitive games...

  • Kumar on November 26, 2008, 9:05 GMT

    Frankly speaking the english cricketeeers are fit for write ups in tabloids like'sun magazine' , what kinda panties thier 'wags' are in , and how 'freddie & kp' would perform in bed !!!! They are a bunch of over hyped cricketers who under any circumstance would behave like cry babies !!!

  • Chhimbo on November 26, 2008, 9:05 GMT

    I would suggest India's batsmen are far better than England's on flat tracks but England's are better when wickets are more testing.

  • Ganapathy on November 26, 2008, 9:03 GMT

    Times have changed for Cricket in India. Presently there is no mandatory selection from regional quota base being applied and competitive cricket is being employed that with a good captaincy role doing this trick for India; which was started gradually by Kapil Dev; and excelled by Saurav; and triumphed by Dhoni. Hope, this trend should continue unless some politician do not spoil the going.

  • Matt on November 26, 2008, 9:02 GMT

    Andy, first time I've seen this blog and I will certainly visit again. Having played cricket and football with you at Univ a couple of times I can testify that you're not quite in the Ian Botham/David Beckham class. This is an easy observation to make as I recognise a kindred spirit. Seeing the openers in England ODIs has been like watching chickens scratch around in a farmyard for something to eat. It's no wonder KP has not done as well as he used to, as he feels the burden so keenly and he must sit in the rabbit hutch thinking that he's going to be called on at any moment, which can hardly be relaxing. The only thing that will stop England losing 7-0 is the Indians getting bored.

  • Jesh on November 26, 2008, 9:00 GMT

    well,i think England dont have aggressive openers like india thats the main draw back and a lack of quality spinner to stop the indian batsmen in the middle overs.should try something extra to stop india making it 7-0.

  • piyush anand on November 26, 2008, 8:58 GMT

    lolz....m laughing....mr. flintoff is blaming dat english players are not performing jst because they hv not played IPL matches....mr flintoff go nd get a thorough checkup frm a psychatrist... dude, play harder and stop giving excuses.....

  • jim on November 26, 2008, 8:57 GMT

    England will loose 7-0.

  • Venkat on November 26, 2008, 8:56 GMT

    Best way to play against INDIAN TEAM is to be MORE AGRESSIVE in first 15 overs

  • Pankaj on November 26, 2008, 8:52 GMT

    ouch! so much sarcasm! (hurts)

  • Abhishek on November 26, 2008, 8:51 GMT

    Wow - i thought no one could hit the nail in the head about england being extra cautious - i mean why lose just beacuse you fear losing - i am hoping for better fight from England just for the fact that they can now no longer win the series - but if they are still afraid that they might lose 7-0 then...God bless.

  • piyush anand on November 26, 2008, 8:50 GMT

    truly said buddy.. pieterson himself is not encouraging..... a captain must be a grat player den a captain...look at the opposition captain mr. pieterson....nd learn even 25% frm him.

  • chuBBs on November 26, 2008, 8:45 GMT

    I think England made a big mistake by dropping Bell. Bell has been trying to be positive at opening the batting and even put up a few good opening partnership with Bopara. I think they should have drop Paul Collingwood. He is a former captain and should show more maturity in his batting. He has done nothing to show that he will improve on this tour and even if he does don't you think that its a little bit too late for the ODI. Cook is a good replacement but not for Bell, Cook should open with Bopara and bell should bat down the order with Collingwood been rested. As for the bowling department I agree with the change. I think Anderson could do with some much needed rest.

  • Naveen on November 26, 2008, 8:41 GMT

    If I would be KP i would have played Monty(who is in India for test series) in coming onedayers, as he too could have got match practice.(may be strauss also). If they have any secret sheilding kind of stuff let me remind them that the INdian Test squad is almost different that the oneday team.

  • Arpit Garg on November 26, 2008, 8:39 GMT

    Well, I think it is a bit harsh on current England batsman, specially Pietersen. Indian team is playing superbly and on Indian pitches, England has always struggled. As for boundaries during Powerplays are concerned, even Sehwag would struggle against Zaheer Khan, the way he is bowling at present. It's just a bad time to have toured India.

  • Paul on November 26, 2008, 8:38 GMT

    Or England could decide to open with Cook, the English Sehwag and also not play the additional bowler. What is the point of batting so deep if there are not enough bowlers. Anderson has been struggling for 4 games & only now the series has gone he is dropped? Maybe someone had some money on a 7-0 result?

  • Amarjeet Nayak on November 26, 2008, 8:33 GMT

    The English team has only one world class batsman in Pieterson (albeit, a bit low in confidence right now) and he needs to lead from the front. For that, as Zaltzman says, he needs to give himself the most number of overs. So, he MUST open. If he fails five times out of seven, at least he would have built a strong foundation in the rest of the two matches. If the others (among whom honestly, there is not a single world-class batsman...Flintoff is an overhyped slogger who can be promoted during powerplays) can manage to string together some partnerships, then England can still remain competative in any one-day series. As for England not giving enough imprtance to onedayers, well...grpaes never tasted so sour. On a similar note, England being a much better test team, well...compared to their one day performances, it is well nigh impossible to fare worse. England has been a mediocre team in all forms of the game for about one and a half decades now. 5-0 Ashes white-wash a true reflection.

  • mukul on November 26, 2008, 8:31 GMT

    ouch! so much sarcasm! (hurts)

    let's not start sucking popsicles yet, time will tell if India can really keep the steam and win convincingly like their now-humbled girlfriends from down under. :)

  • Tash on November 26, 2008, 8:28 GMT

    Top notch...you're on my bookmark list!

  • sid on November 26, 2008, 8:26 GMT

    why arnt tyron henderson and graham napier in the tour party? Why isnt Luke wright getting a game?

  • hardik on November 26, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    as always really interesting and funny. but you r absolutely point on. "kp" must open to stand out england in the series. or else they can have longggg journey back to england.

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  • hardik on November 26, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    as always really interesting and funny. but you r absolutely point on. "kp" must open to stand out england in the series. or else they can have longggg journey back to england.

  • sid on November 26, 2008, 8:26 GMT

    why arnt tyron henderson and graham napier in the tour party? Why isnt Luke wright getting a game?

  • Tash on November 26, 2008, 8:28 GMT

    Top notch...you're on my bookmark list!

  • mukul on November 26, 2008, 8:31 GMT

    ouch! so much sarcasm! (hurts)

    let's not start sucking popsicles yet, time will tell if India can really keep the steam and win convincingly like their now-humbled girlfriends from down under. :)

  • Amarjeet Nayak on November 26, 2008, 8:33 GMT

    The English team has only one world class batsman in Pieterson (albeit, a bit low in confidence right now) and he needs to lead from the front. For that, as Zaltzman says, he needs to give himself the most number of overs. So, he MUST open. If he fails five times out of seven, at least he would have built a strong foundation in the rest of the two matches. If the others (among whom honestly, there is not a single world-class batsman...Flintoff is an overhyped slogger who can be promoted during powerplays) can manage to string together some partnerships, then England can still remain competative in any one-day series. As for England not giving enough imprtance to onedayers, well...grpaes never tasted so sour. On a similar note, England being a much better test team, well...compared to their one day performances, it is well nigh impossible to fare worse. England has been a mediocre team in all forms of the game for about one and a half decades now. 5-0 Ashes white-wash a true reflection.

  • Paul on November 26, 2008, 8:38 GMT

    Or England could decide to open with Cook, the English Sehwag and also not play the additional bowler. What is the point of batting so deep if there are not enough bowlers. Anderson has been struggling for 4 games & only now the series has gone he is dropped? Maybe someone had some money on a 7-0 result?

  • Arpit Garg on November 26, 2008, 8:39 GMT

    Well, I think it is a bit harsh on current England batsman, specially Pietersen. Indian team is playing superbly and on Indian pitches, England has always struggled. As for boundaries during Powerplays are concerned, even Sehwag would struggle against Zaheer Khan, the way he is bowling at present. It's just a bad time to have toured India.

  • Naveen on November 26, 2008, 8:41 GMT

    If I would be KP i would have played Monty(who is in India for test series) in coming onedayers, as he too could have got match practice.(may be strauss also). If they have any secret sheilding kind of stuff let me remind them that the INdian Test squad is almost different that the oneday team.

  • chuBBs on November 26, 2008, 8:45 GMT

    I think England made a big mistake by dropping Bell. Bell has been trying to be positive at opening the batting and even put up a few good opening partnership with Bopara. I think they should have drop Paul Collingwood. He is a former captain and should show more maturity in his batting. He has done nothing to show that he will improve on this tour and even if he does don't you think that its a little bit too late for the ODI. Cook is a good replacement but not for Bell, Cook should open with Bopara and bell should bat down the order with Collingwood been rested. As for the bowling department I agree with the change. I think Anderson could do with some much needed rest.

  • piyush anand on November 26, 2008, 8:50 GMT

    truly said buddy.. pieterson himself is not encouraging..... a captain must be a grat player den a captain...look at the opposition captain mr. pieterson....nd learn even 25% frm him.