November 26, 2008

Time for Pietersen to come to the party

Andy Zaltzman

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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!!!!!

Posted by Sathish on (November 26, 2008, 11:31 GMT)

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

Posted by 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. :)

Posted by dilen on (November 26, 2008, 9:36 GMT)

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

Posted by Vikram on (November 26, 2008, 9:08 GMT)

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

Posted by 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

Posted by Vikram on (November 26, 2008, 9:07 GMT)

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

Posted by 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 !!!

Posted by 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.

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Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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