Mike Holmans November 27, 2008

England's batting disorder

If Pietersen does come in at three, as happened at Cuttack, they then start weeping and wailing that Owais Shah should have come in at three because he is the man in form

My campaign to get Kevin Pietersen to open the batting has gained another welcome recruit in the person of the proprietor of the Confectionery Stall. His support is most welcome as recent events have demonstrated how essential it is.

For a start, we have to preserve what little is left of the sanity of the TV commentators. If the first wicket falls and Pietersen does not come out to bat, they immediately start weeping and wailing that Pietersen has to bat at three because you need your best batsman coming in early. If he does come in at three, as happened at Cuttack, they then start weeping and wailing that Owais Shah should have come in at three because he is the man in form. Round and round they spin, and nervous breakdowns beckon.

If KP continues to refuse to open, the only way of settling Botham’s tiny mind is for Pietersen and Shah to come out together at three.

As tactics go, this is not a promising one. I was at a Sunday game in the 1980s when a Middlesex wicket fell. As was usual, a barrel with the word “Gatting” on its back rolled down the pavilion steps and out to the wicket, but the innings which followed was most uncharacteristic. There was poking and prodding, but no short-arm jabs for four as was customary.

My friend Paul got out the binoculars and scrutinised things.

“That’s not Mike Gatting out there,” he said, after a long look. “That’s Aftab Habib and some other bloke from the second XI sharing Gatting’s shirt.”

All was now clear, of course. That lack of technique or talent was definitely Habibian – those who saw his later appearances for England may well remember the bat held in random positions vis-à-vis the ball during his mercifully brief appearances – but the results were less than gratifying as the two of them departed for 7.

I can’t help but think it would be unlikely to work in this case either. Pietersen and Shah are both inventive, to be sure, but what happens when KP wants to play a switch hit and Ace wants to flip the ball over short fine leg’s head? Either they start fighting or we discover how truly elastic those shiny new strips are.

The other reason for KP to open is to avoid further embarrassment to Alastair Cook. Cook is in the squad in his official capacity of Next England Captain, a post which is as ceremonial as that of Prince of Wales.

Prince Charles may declare the odd public building open when Mumsie can’t make it, but mostly his duties consist of moaning about modern architecture and entertaining trees with his Goon Show impressions. What he doesn’t do is the real stuff of monarchy, such as opening Parliament or getting the nation to gather round the TV after lunch on Christmas Day and watch the royal holiday videos.

Similarly, Cook should not be expected to play ODIs, as he is even less suited to opening in 50-over cricket than Ian Bell. Making up the numbers in the touch rugby and giving indiscreet press conferences in which he lets slip that Stanford really was all about the money are much more the thing for him until KP retires.

Unless Pietersen does the decent thing, and soon, Cook’s royal personage will continue to be insulted. With the captain enjoying immunity from prosecution, such treason may lead to the coach being imprisoned in the Tower of London on the team’s return to England.

Hmm. Now that’s an idea …..