July 9, 2009

Ashes

Pietersen thinks too much, not too little

Andy Zaltzman

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.

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

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Posted by Andy Micklewright on (July 24, 2009, 10:48 GMT)

Whats the infatuation with KP for everyone.

Fact, he aint English hes South African, he IS selfish and was when he was at his first club (Cannock) and to be honest I dont think he understands what being English and playing for England means.

If he did, after he picked up this injury in the WI he would not have gone off to India, he would have stayed home and got it sorted. A number of the Aussies gave up the money to get ready and he should have done, or the ECB (his employer) should have said no, get fit.

So good riddance as far as I am concerned, and hopefully England win without him so we dont have to pick him again so he can go play his 20 over games for money, not pride

Posted by Anil on (July 16, 2009, 10:14 GMT)

Methinks KP's shot was fixed. He was paid to keep on sweeping Haury by English journos. They (the journos) can now kick back, relax and suck that one KP shot dry for more than a month now. Easy pickings.

Posted by jogesh99 on (July 13, 2009, 4:05 GMT)

You prefer him shouldering arms to a straight one Andy?

Posted by James Aldous on (July 12, 2009, 21:02 GMT)

KP is undeniably a highly gifted batsman. He has power, he has stamina, he as a vast array of shots - some hitherto not seen on a cricket field until KP came along! - and has definitely got a lot of balls, but in the grey matter department he is clearly lacking.

Fine, the sweep shot he attempted was premeditated, which in principle is fine if you've got your eye in and are confident you can take on the bowling, but the ball was far too wide of offstump to attempt that shot. KP should have pulled out of the shot when he saw this rater then continuing on blindly.

And fine, KP may have scored the most runs in the innings, which is great, but that can't really be used as an excuse to exonerate the Big Egoed One. He played a shot that was ridiculously stupid and entirely thoughtless.

Posted by Damo on (July 12, 2009, 15:08 GMT)

He averages 50, and 52 v Oz. Englishmen! Is there a reason the world calls you whingers? You poach a player from another country who is the best batsman in your side, top scores in a test match and gets out, and you whine about his selfishness! He COULD have made 0!!

Adam Gilchrist got out as many times for us playing stupid shots and he's about the greatest batsman Australia have ever had. Get over yourselves and enjoy the spectacle. It's nice to be taken for a ride occasionally. The negativity of your press has unfortunately influenced the psyche of a nation, leading to your loss of enjoying the good things in life I'm afraid.

Egocentrics are fun, it's the reason Warney was in your press more than ours...

From... An Australian.

Posted by Paul on (July 12, 2009, 9:59 GMT)

Utter rubbish! Pietersen was compehensively beaten by a delivery that drifted away from him very late. Hauritz doesn't spin them far, but he is very good in the air. But, of course, noone rates Haurtiz, so noone will learn from this and it will happen again...soon. Pietersen, on the other hand, is (over)rated by everyone, so noone notices that he never gets to 50 without at least one chance or dodgy decision in his favour.

Posted by Brodie on (July 12, 2009, 8:03 GMT)

Who was the idiot who said he isnt a match SAVER? Does anyone remember the last testof the ashes 05? 150 against McGrath and warne to save a draw and win the series...... hmmmmmm

Posted by delta70 on (July 11, 2009, 11:36 GMT)

Benji

I looked at your comment which says "He is undeniably a talented player, but a great?". I couldn't understand under what criterias do you determine a batsman's greatness? And RR, I would like to remind you that he did score a marathon 158 in the last ashes test of 2005 to defy Australians a victory. Isn't this a great innings which saved the match and ensured that England win the ashes back after almost 2 decades. And coming to the overrating of KP and Dhoni, I can only say that both can demolish any attacks on their day but Dhoni comes no near if we look at the array of strokes they can play. And South African, I was very amazed that you are comparing KP with Yuvraj and Dilshan. I don't think Yuvraj and Dilshan would score as many test centuries as KP has scored till now even if they play for whole of their life. Comparing KP with them is like comparing Rolls royce with a very old Ambassador car. I do admit he is a bit egoistic but he does have the credentials 2 do that.

Posted by Mr Cat on (July 11, 2009, 9:45 GMT)

Having conveniently side-stepped the 2006/7 Ashes, England's bravado has now turned to a plea for rain to save them. Let's play cricket, but in case we start losing bring on the rain.

Posted by R Sivasubramaniam on (July 11, 2009, 1:08 GMT)

Andy I don't care who wins the Ashes - but I hope that you will do a daily round-up, which would be more fun reading that the action in the middle. They must seriously consider making you the Entertainer of the Series. Keep it up Andy - though my sides are splitting. Siva from Singapore

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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