Ashes July 9, 2009

Pietersen thinks too much, not too little

Here are some of the early reviews of the most-talked about single production on the Cardiff arts scene in the last 24-hours – ‘That Shot’, starring Kevin Pietersen:

Here are some of the early reviews of the most-talked about single production on the Cardiff arts scene in the last 24-hours – ‘That Shot’, starring Kevin Pietersen:

“Cocky... silly” – David Lloyd. “Outrageous” – Michael Holding. “Stupid shot” – Ian Chappell. “Irresponsible... put undue pressure on the players below him... sometimes you have to play time and respect the bowler” – Michael Kasprowicz. “One of the daftest shots a great player will play” – Geoffrey Boycott. “A frantic sweep shot” – The Independent. “Folly” − Sydney Morning Herald. “A moment of madness” – Press Association. “What on earth was Kevin Pietersen thinking about? Even by his own standards of unpredictability, his dismissal possessed no logic, especially at the start of an Ashes series” – David Hopps, The Guardian.

‘That Shot’ received a one-star panning across the board. However, the Confectionery Stall disagrees wholeheadedly with this analysis.

I would argue that Pietersen was not being cocky, silly, outrageous, irresponsible, record-breakingly daft, frantic, or mad enough. Rather, he was thinking too much, being too predictable, applying too much (possibly flawed) logic, and was perhaps overly constrained by the responsibilities of the first day of an Ashes series.

Pietersen was attempting a gentle paddle for a single, prepared to softly milk the udders of a bowler, when, in a different mood, he might have attempted to attach them to a high-powered industrial suction pump. It was hardly the height of folly.

If he had been in a more aggressive and instinctive frame of mind, he might have been better able to prevent Hauritz settling into a steady if unthreatening groove. As it was, KP had been regularly sweeping the off-spinner for singles, having logically concluded it was the safest way to keep the scoreboard chuntering contentedly to itself, and thus had become predictable enough that when he shaped to do so again, Hauritz was able to alter his line an induce the terminal, helmet-clonking error.

Admittedly, the assembled judges have a few more Test caps in their cricketing headgear cupboards than I do in mine (contents: a moth-eaten red sun hat I bought in a charity shop some years ago in a failed attempt to make myself bat more like Richie Richardson, and a Viking helmet purchased on eBay that is allegedly the one Wally Hammond wore on his Test debut to try to intimidate the young South African fast bowler Denys Morkel, who was known to be scared of Vikings).

To me, however, Pietersen is judged harshly due to his reputation, and because the shot looked hideous. His own denial that it was “over adventurous” was bang on the banana, and his widely-criticised claim that it was just the way he plays was also, I believe, close to the mark. The way he plays now is that of a calculating batsman who is far less of a risk-taker than in his early days in Test cricket. (Strap in for some numbers: in his last 35 Tests, his strike rate is 59, he has hit 16 sixes, one per 314 balls faced; in his first 18 Tests, he scored at 72 runs per 100 balls, and hit 32 sixes, one for 69 balls faced.)

Pietersen is a calculating player, who, from an unpromising start in cricket which casts doubt on those who claim he has supernatural innate cricketing gifts, has intelligently honed a technique for success. Arguably, he thinks too much, not too little, when batting. Personally, I hope that when the ball ricocheted off his carefully maintained head, it knocked some sense out of, not into, him.

There is another plausible explanation, however. Firstly, that Pietersen is a true sportsman, one who believes in fair play and sporting justice, and was merely balancing out the obvious injustice of being given not out to one of history’s more convincing lbw appeals. Perhaps Umpire Doctrove thought the ball was going under middle stump. Pietersen then attempted to give a catch to extra cover, and, having narrowly failed, then spooned one to short leg via his always-whirring bonce.

I would be interested to know what you think of my theory on this.

Overall, this has been a compelling start to the Ashes series. England, initially uncertain, then steadily conservative, took control of the game with an excellent mid-and-lower-order onslaught, displaying positivity that has sometimes been absent in recent years. Australia were bafflingly passive from a position of some strength at lunch on Day 1, facilitating England’s recovery. As I write, Phillip Hughes has been displaying his astonishing off-side timing and placement, as England patently fail to implement the plan they must have had for him. Flintoff has just come into the attack, and, after boding well with the bat, looks formidably ready with the ball.

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