Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel Nine's cricket coverage

A touch of genius

As Kevin Pietersen prepares for his 100th Test, he is close to being regarded as a truly great cricketer, England's first since Ian Botham

Mark Nicholas

November 19, 2013

Comments: 60 | Text size: A | A

Kevin Pietersen plays a lavish square drive, England v Australia, 3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day, August 3, 2013
The Pietersen we see today is close to the finished article © PA Photos

It was not inconceivable but it did seem unlikely that Kevin Pietersen would play 100 Test matches for England. That he does so on Thursday says much about his fabulous ability and something more about a ruthlessness in him that is not always apparent.

He is close to being regarded as a truly great cricketer, England's first since Ian Botham, because of a unique talent that has been relentlessly pursued. For all the paradoxes that make the man, Pietersen's batting brooks little argument. He has brought immense joy and single-handedly changed the course of many a Test match. Few in the history of the game can claim such influence.

Yes, he has moved in mysterious ways, often betraying both insecurity and vulnerability. He has taken unpopular decisions - "It's not easy being me," he once said - the consequences of which have been carried by others as much as by Pietersen himself. He admits to mistakes and to moments he might revise but even the contrition cannot disguise the fact that most of his actions are carefully enough conceived.

Flippantly, one might say that there have been three ages of KP - the skunk, the sulk, and the salvation - and add that brilliance has sat within them all. The edition we see today is close to the finished article. He has mellowed and, though self-absorption lingers (how can it not if excellence is to be achieved?), his generous references to the current England team are from the heart and have a relevance he may not previously have appreciated.

He is 33 years of age, a productive time for batsmen. The eyes are still sharp, the brain is calm. The impatience seems settled and the longing for acceptance resolved. Not so long ago an outsider, he is reintegrated. Champions are born with their gifts but otherwise are self-made. It's a process that takes courage, a feature of his make-up that is often ignored. And it is a risky business, with an attitude and reputation permanently on the line.

Initially he went out on his own, listening only to himself while travelling the rocky ground of adoption from one country to another. Marriage and a son have helped him see the other side. As has his present captain, Alastair Cook. Pietersen needed a "kitchen cabinet" more than he knew and it is serving him well. His work ethic has never been an issue, much blood and sweat has been shed and it shows in the record books.

A casualty of Pietersen's one unforgiveable misjudgement was the popular former captain Andrew Strauss. The defamatory texts Pietersen fired off to the South African team a year and a bit ago were more than just daft, they were provocative and threatening. A weary Strauss could take no more and Pietersen was left out of the England side for the final match of the series, which was lost. Days later Strauss retired from the game.

Few cricketers have genius in them. A couple are noted here and others include Garry Sobers and Viv Richards. Pietersen may well be one of them

The new captain, Cook, resolved to unravel the Pietersen problem, seeing the magic in the batsman as an essential advantage and the individualism in the man as something to point in the right direction. First Cook convinced the dressing room that they were not angels themselves and then he went to work on the problem. The theme of his approach was: what do you want Kev, greatness or great wealth? Doubtless he added that both were at his fingertips.

Pietersen saw straight, admitted fault, toed the line and turned the corner. He holds Cook in high esteem, an opinion that is well deserved. The strong characters in this England team require the touch of a surgeon. Cook has it, even if Shane Warne hammers on about other arguable flaws. But this is not Cook's story of 100 Tests - a mark that is a couple of matches away.

This is the story of a Pietermaritzburg boy who raged against the machine in the land of his birth. He blamed the quota system for his lack of exposure in the KwaZulu-Natal team and he had a point. After a dull season in the Birmingham Leagues, where the accents and pitches were equally indistinguishable, Clive Rice invited him to Nottinghamshire. The positive reply came by return post. Trent Bridge provided a fine theatre and the showman began to attract interest from important people as much for the substance in the performances as the style with which they were played.

He is of an Afrikaans father, an English mother and a disciplined upbringing that he remembers fondly. After a four-year period of qualification, the English mother provided the opening he craved and a new life began. England chose him for 50-over cricket first and his batting soared. The South African crowds hated the apparent haughtiness as he flayed their bowlers but by the third hundred, in the 2004 one-day series, they gave in and began to cheer the wonder of it all.

His first Test was against the Australians and began the Ashes of 2005. There is a nice symmetry in that his 100th does the same on the other side of the world eight years later. A hundred Tests in a little more than eight years tells you something important about the modern game. There is too much of it and players cannot possibly excel every time they take guard. Having said that, Pietersen's game of risk has an average of more than 48 per Test innings.

It was immediately obvious that the world was changing in that first game at Lord's when he hit Glenn McGrath over mid-off and into the Pavilion, before swatting Warne over midwicket into the Grandstand. England's batsmen had not been so brave or brash since their names were Botham or Gower. It is to Botham that he has sometimes turned for guidance, and having moved from Nottinghamshire to Hampshire, he found things in common with Warne too. At the after-show parties, he stood close by Andrew Flintoff.

The England captaincy changed things. He showed statesmanlike qualities in India after the Mumbai bombings and fuelled by the promotion and its trappings, went after the coach, Peter Moores. This became a crusade and cost him the job not long after he had received it. Moores was of county stock, a decent man of method and discipline to bring something structured from the young.

Kevin Pietersen reached his first fifty of the series, India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 2nd day, November 24, 2012
Mumbai 2012: a masterpiece that swung a series © BCCI

Pietersen was more for freewheeling and expression. He went behind backs and left the suspicion that he had diminished the entitlement granted by his adopted country. Nonsense. He wanted the right man in the job but those in power who could have helped him achieve it ran for cover. The truth is that soon after appointing Pietersen, the ECB regretted it and hung him out to dry.

Not until the tour of Australia three years ago did he emerge from the shadow. Then he played with an old abandon, completing a memorable double-hundred in Adelaide, alongside other worthy contributions. Never, though, can he have constructed a more meaningful and outrageously skilful innings than the one at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai late last year. England were a game down, two wickets down and 259 behind when he came to the crease on an extravagantly spinning pitch. When he left it, 233 balls later, England were 55 in front and he had made 186 runs of such flamboyance and magnificence that even the Indians found warmth in their appreciation. From that day - and from the captain's batting too, one should add - came England's series win, a triumph so against the odds that bets were almost off. Even there.

Few cricketers have genius in them. A couple are noted here and others include Garry Sobers and Viv Richards. Pietersen may well be one of them. He performs deeds that others dream of, turns matches, annihilates opponents and thrills audiences. He is the fastest batsman, in terms of days, to 4000, 5000 and 7000 runs. Now, in all international cricket he has scored more runs than any other England player. His pride - amazement perhaps - in this achievement is evident. It has come from hard graft and forensic attention to detail. The flair is not by chance, it is by design, but an entertainer's arsenal is filled with contradiction. For the highs there have been lows; alongside the gasps of admiration there have been sighs of despair. The most remarkable thing about the weight of runs is the range of the ambition.

Happy in love and happy in life, Pietersen can walk to the middle at the Gabba and know that he has done himself justice. The crowd will fill their seats and the Australian cricketers will be aware of a great danger. His family will have flown from South Africa and England to salute the man they know and love. His game is working well; that ambition is undiluted. If he does not reward their faith in this match - and it will be a surprise if not - he will do so soon. The purpose is renewed, another chapter is to come.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

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Posted by Atifkhan3489 on (November 23, 2013, 5:47 GMT)

Sachin and kallis are two legends of modern day cricket so as sangakara.check his record then say about KP.he is good batsman not great.even amla is better than KP.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 23:35 GMT)

AC Cook is indeed a marvellous cricketer, and given his age will probably go on to achieve far greater numbers and feats for Eng (a lot like Sachin did). But who will you remember more " KP at the Oval 05, KP in India, KP in Headingly, KP in Mumbai, KP at Adelaide". Just like Viv Richards back in the day KP has the ability to make you remember what happened on a certain day. Cook's style of play, his patience, his nature will more often than not ensure runs. However the KP style of brash, over the top attacking cricket very rarely gives longevity or consistency in test cricket. His ability to play 100 tests, score 23 odd hundreds and average just under 50 given his style of play is definitely once in a generation thing.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 21:59 GMT)

I agree with Samroy - KP can do the damage against the very best, Cook struggles against class bowling, there isn't a lot of that about in this era. If A.C had opened in the Atherton/Stewart days he would average below 25.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 15:31 GMT)

Sorry Mark, Sachin is a truly great cricketer as was Viv Richards , Kallis will end up there in time , he has to , I reserve judgement on KP because as someone mentioned before me it's not just the volume of runs one acquires but also the way you get them and quite frankly albeit he only played 4 tests nobody made them easier that Barry Richards and I doubt ever will. He was a truly Great batsman and genius in one. I love watchinh KP bat but among his exhilarating knocks I have witnessed as have you a few innings like 18 in 62 balls , totally bogged down and frustrated , Barry Richards never ever allowed that in his time , Never , thats hpw great he was ..He alone dictated how well he would perform. really cannot say that about |KP , yet anyway..

Posted by Scuderi on (November 20, 2013, 12:38 GMT)

Half the comments here seem to suggest an article written on the eve of KPs 100th test should be about how he isn't any good, isn't english and should finish by listing bunch of players better than him. Good luck KP we love to hate you because you are so good.

Posted by maddy20 on (November 20, 2013, 11:16 GMT)

Yeah what a fantastic player. A true gem from South Africa....Errr England! Be nice Mark. Say thank you SA ;) Jokes apart this guy is a truly great and intimidating player. He was the key in the Mumbai test and boosted the morale of the team, and deflated that of India, from which we could never recover. That was a match winning and may be even a Series winning knock. Aus are gonna get it from him big-time!

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 10:56 GMT)

@ Vic Lewis: It is not only the runs you score, but also the way in which you score the runs. When KP gets a big score , almost always he dominates in such a way, the opponent feels defeated in their mind by the time. That is why the impact of KP is much more than Cook, although the England captain will go a longer way towards success than KP.

For analogy, a Sehwag century was always more demoralizing to the opponent than a Dravid ton. Although as a test batsman Dravid was miles ahead of Sehwag.

Posted by BillyCC on (November 20, 2013, 9:47 GMT)

@SamRoy, your analysis of Cook vs Pietersen only hangs by the fact that Pietersen averages 1.4 runs better than Cook. Cook is an opener, so adjusted for that, he would come out probably slightly better than Pietersen but as you mention, Pietersen has an x factor that arguably takes him past Cook. Having said that, if Cook averaged 52 rather than 47 and still failed against those bowling attacks that you mentioned, then your argument falls away. So back to your earlier comment, it is really all in the stats. Only when players have similar stats can you start comparing the various x factors that a player can offer.

Posted by SamRoy on (November 20, 2013, 9:02 GMT)

@Andrew_Ibbotson Cook failed against McGrath and Warne in Australia, Steyn-Philander-Morkel in England, was successful in SA before STeyn was fully fit and then failed, failed against Ajmal & co. in UAE. That's the only great bowling he has faced in his career. In 2010-11 in Ashes the Australian bowling and in the India-England seres in 2012 the bowling was quite ordinary.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 8:58 GMT)

Hahaha what?!?! SA must be proud.

Posted by GRVJPR on (November 20, 2013, 5:07 GMT)

Kevin Peitersen has played some flamboyant innings among many ordinary ones. He is not great. He is just a flash in the pan sort of cricketer. No consistency, can't play left arm spin, never know if he is in form or not. Might score a 100 but play like as if he has been scoring 10 pairs all this while in the next game. Completely unreliable and very bad attitude on the field of cricket.

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (November 20, 2013, 2:26 GMT)

Fancy headlining an article about Pietersen as a touch of genius; in the same week as Tendulkar retires. KP doesn't hold a candle to Kallis, isn't in the same competition as Sangakarra. He's an ordinary player who has had some extraordinary innings. There's way too much hysteria about this England side and it's constituent parts. He has a similar average to Gower, with absolutely none of the class. Then again that's the difference between a performer and a cricketer.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 0:47 GMT)

@samroy. Cook hasn't failed every series he's batted against truly great bowlers. He may not have enjoyed bumper series like his 2010/11 ashes, but he hasn't flopped. He's been consistent, if not electrifying, home and away against the greatest attack of the era - SAs Steyn, Morkel and Co.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (November 19, 2013, 23:15 GMT)

' Few cricketers have genius.......Pietersen may well be one of them.' Hedging your bets a bit, Mark? I suspect he may well be one too. Probably is.

Posted by The_other_side on (November 19, 2013, 22:30 GMT)

I have been watching cricket for 32 years. I have heard about great CH Lloyd, CG Greenidge, IVA Richards scoring big hundreds against India spin trio. But never saw it. KP Played the most dominating knock in Mumbai 2012 against spinners that I have seen. Mike Gatting in 1984 series and Hashim Amla in 2009 series in India ran close to the standards of his knock. Similarly Dale Steyn at his best was blocked only twice that I remember!! SR Tendulkar did that in Capetown scoring his 51st century. But KP went one higher and made him look pedestrian at Leeds in 2012. Only few players have this capability and I can think of KP, Gilchrist, Viv Richards and probably Mark Waugh. Real gems. Forget statistics these are real entertainers and characters that cricket needs

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 21:58 GMT)

Other than Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen is the best England cricketer I've seen and that is since the mid-80s. I just missed Botham in his prime and Swann is clearly the best bowler post-1985, and Pietersen is the best batsman.

Posted by BillyCC on (November 19, 2013, 21:19 GMT)

@Trickstar, of course he would walk into the all time England 11. There aren't many players to challenge for spots in that batting order. Most of the England batting greats played over 50 years ago.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 20:58 GMT)

A touch of arrogance, more like it

Posted by vatsap on (November 19, 2013, 16:45 GMT)

If I was an English selector, KP would be the first person I would have on the sheet irrespective of the conditions (Anderson based on the last 2 years form would run him close). Just can't understand the Flower/Strauss/Cook regime in discipling him. To everybody's benefit, things are good now and we get to see the talent of KP more. All the Best to a Champ and wish we get to see him in India (outside of IPL) more often.

Posted by AuntyChrist on (November 19, 2013, 16:43 GMT)

To attack Indian spinners in India and score big needs someone really really special. He has changed the way visiting cricketers look at the subcontinent.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 19, 2013, 16:31 GMT)

@ landl47 I often hear this underachievement line but I don't agree. How has he underachieved? Even the best players have poor runs of form but even in his poor runs of form, his career average has hardly dropped a point, he's maintained a 48-50 average all career. Compare that to someone like Cook that averaged in the low 40's till the last Ashes & still has problems. Even when he had that poor run of form after his Achilles operation in 09 to 10 he still averaged over 40. Look at his year on year average, the one thing that jumps out at you is constancy, real consistency. From 05 his yearly average has been 45, 54, 50, 51 48, 42, 73, 44, 36. It's just really this past year his average isn't to his usual standard but as you know he's had a stop start year with serious injury problems. As for subjective things like attitude and irresponsibility, the very same things were said of one IT Botham. If you don't think he's great fine but imo he'd walk into the all time England 11.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 19, 2013, 16:03 GMT)

@BillyCC LOL He currently averages 48.48, it was only a year ago he averaged 49.89. So basically with one good series in the Ashes his average could get to 50. Fact is it's been around the 50 mark all career, not like others that start low and build it up or others that fluctuate massively. Look at someone like Clarke, in the last Ashes he averaged 48 had a good couple of series and his average shot up to 52. KP is in his peak years so who knows where he'll finish up.

In my 30 years over of watching cricket, he is England's best batsman by some distance and at this moment he is the only real box office player left, you know the one you drop everything to watch him bat. Obviously fans from other countries will argue but like I've listed in another post there haven't been hardly any of his 24 test tons that haven't been crowd pleases. Some will talk him down due to average but that's just silly, stats don't tell you everything.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 19, 2013, 15:39 GMT)

@mriaz001 4 brilliant ones and many ordinary ones! Oh really! Just shows how little you know about his career, in fact it would be fairer to say there have been far less ordinary tons in his career than outstanding ones. For example his 100 off 137 balls against Pakistan in 06, or his 158 off 205 against SL against Murali and Vaas, or his 142 off 157 against against Murali and Vaas and a spinning track, where no other England batsmen scored more than 34.What about his 158 against Warne and McGrath in 06. Or his 226 off 262 against WI in 07. Or his 2nd inning 134 against India to save the match in 07. Or his 152 off 181 deliveries against SA in 08 , facing steyn Morkel and Ntini, In the same series he scored a 100 off 137 to win England the match. Or what about his 144 off 200 in India in 08 to draw the test. What about his 227 off 306 in the 2010 Ashes to win the game, or his 202 off 326 against India. Then we have his 3 innings masterpieces against SL,SA and Ind.

Posted by SamRoy on (November 19, 2013, 15:33 GMT)

Some of this comments up here really make me laugh. Greatness never was measured by average. Trumper and Grace were great batsman and they averaged in the 30s. Hanif Mohammed was a great batsman and he barely averaged 40. Martin Crowe was a great batsman and averaged 45. Greatness should always be measured in your ability when you face a difficult test whether you can rise above the challenge or not and secondly whether you can dominate the bowling or not. Two innings played in last year itself signify his greatness 140-odd vs SA when every other batsman was struggling and he smacked Steyn over his head for sixes and 180-odd vs India on that rank fast-turner in Mumbai (it is easier to bat on slow turners). Cook will never be a great in my book even if averages more than Tendulkar and break all of Tendulkar's records. Reason: He has failed in every series where he has faced truly great bowling. Also he never dominates bowling and can be becalmed if you pitch it up outside off-stump.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 14:38 GMT)

Pietersen is a fine player, but I don't consider him as a legend. He is outstanding on his day but there have been a lot of ordinary strings of form throughout his career. It is true, however, that some of the innings that he's played have been incredible: The 158 at the Oval, 186 in India, 149 against SA, etc. For me, he is an excellent batsman but not an all-time great.

Posted by mk49_van on (November 19, 2013, 14:30 GMT)

A touch of genius? Not doubt. Truly great? Almost certainty. But is he 'English'? Nah- that credit should go to SA. England got the fully formed package and labeled him as one of its own.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 12:45 GMT)

Pietersen was only ever truly great as a swash-buckler for a brief period from his debut ODI series in South Africa through the 2005 Ashes and for about a year or so afterwards. He then tried to turn himself into a Ricky Ponting, a role for which his technique was ill-suited. His ODI form fell off a cliff around that time. Over the past couple of years, he has picked up again - generally playing one brilliant innings a series in the middle of a number of scratchy innings. His average of 48 is about right - very good, occasionally brilliant, but just short of the best batsmen of the age.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 11:59 GMT)

Sorry I cannot agree with KP being a great

Posted by 1ofakind_testcricket on (November 19, 2013, 11:58 GMT)

The writing of Mark Nicholas is always a pleasure to read and enlightening in its content.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

'I could call on many more that support my view over your own' - of course there are. Opinions tend to always favour players with greater flair. i.e. tony greig has much better statistics than botham but it is him who is always considered England's best all rounder. Greg chappel averages higher than viv richards but viv is often considered a better batsman. similarly, sachin averages lower than kallis, but he is often considered a better bat, infact often considered a better cricketer. Also botham's celebrity status has often shifted polls in his favour. But u can either try to break down statistics of both players, or just favour the more popular like u did.

Posted by sulie786 on (November 19, 2013, 11:12 GMT)

England are fortunate to have such a quality batsman as Kevin and i say this as a proud SA cricket fan. he is a great batsman right up there with the likes of Hashim and AB, luckily for SA we have so many talented guys that we can afford to give England a few lol. Oh and thanks to Pakistan for giving us a proper spinner now we have the ultimate team.

i just wonder if KP sometimes regrets if sees his old countrymen dominate test cricket? Surely if he was in the Protea Test team they would be the strongest side in the history of the game and would decimate all attacks in any conditions

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 10:56 GMT)

All the talk, the excitement and the build-up to Kevin Pietersen's 100th test is something that suits the very persona of KP. I hope all this hooblah translates into a big KP innings in the 1st Ashes test. He is due one. Although i think in this Ashes series, based on form, Bell poses a much bigger threat to Aussies than KP right now.

Posted by Sir_Harry_Flashman on (November 19, 2013, 10:44 GMT)

@Naman Gupta - I'm not sure you can call on Imran's judgement as neutral in this matter, given their mutual dislike of each other. I guess you've got Sobers on your side, but I'm afraid I could call on many more that support my view over your own - I think Gary is on his own here! Nasser Husasain summarised it best as - "Flintoff had a great series, Botham was simply great".

Posted by riaz.m on (November 19, 2013, 10:20 GMT)

Thanks Foddy for confirming my point,4 brilliant hundreds out of many ordinary ones!!(if you can call a test match hundred ordinary!) But even Chanderpaul has a faster hundred (70 balls) against Australia at their peak than KP but it doesn't make him great either. How about no hundreds in each innings or big double hundreds which are the hall mark of great players. In 2010 the batting conditions were very difficult against swing bowlers of Pakistan,where was KP? It is in such situations that the truly great players stand up. Nevertheless like to congratulate KP on 100 tests and thank him for leaving SA so that we have the pleasure of watching Amla, Dumniy and Prince ,the Thorpe of SA cricket!

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 10:17 GMT)

@Sir_Harry_Flashman - "I think you'd struggle find anybody who saw cricket in both eras who would place Flintoff over Botham". I have already found one. Sir Gary Sobers: Another one is Imran Khan who rated flintoff higher simply because of his much superior performances against best team of his era. U are talking about his bowling performance against WI, I can name u flintoff's spell at lords, or his spells at edgbaston against South Africa, both were outside his peak. And those performances u mentioned are nothing compared to flintoff's in ashes 2005.

Posted by BillyCC on (November 19, 2013, 10:01 GMT)

Good Lord! If a test average of 48 is what is required to be a "truly great" cricketer, then the benchmark has fallen off in the past two decades. Genuis yes, great no. To be even considered great in the past decade for a batsman coming in at No.4 or No.5, you need to have at least an average of 50.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 9:35 GMT)

Flintoff should not come into the list.....test batting ave of 31.77 and test bowling ave of 32.78 is not comparable with any of the all rounders considered as great.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 9:32 GMT)

Excellent Article... KP is one of the most entertaining batsman, a game changer, England are fortunate to get a player of his calibre & I believe he still has a great role to play in the ODIs , which would certainly help England in 2015 WC...

Posted by Sir_Harry_Flashman on (November 19, 2013, 9:32 GMT)

@Naman Gupta. Check out his 138 vs Australia in 1986, his performance in the 1991 World Cup his 1984 bowling performance vs a peak west indies - all fantastic performances out of his so called peak. He had a peak as all cricketers do but in his prime he was arguably the best all rounder in the world in a period of great all rounders. Botham post World Series cricket in 1979 was a dominating force. I saw both and there is no comparison - I think you'd struggle find anybody who saw cricket in both eras who would place Flintoff over Botham.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

@sir_harry_flashmn - I have done my homework. Botham's best period was from 1977 to 1982. For most of that period, top 30 players were in playing world series cricket so he was mainly up against B teams from Australia and Pakistan. Also he played 14 tests against India, from 1979 to 1982 inflating his batting stats against an ageing spin attack in 1979 series, and an overall ordinary bowling attack bar kapil dev. Against Pakistan, he was ordinary after the return of the great Imran (amazing allrounder). He was ordinary against WI as well. Infact take away his 1200 cheap runs against India, and his batting average is worse than that of flintoff. With Bowling there is no comparision, flintoff at his peak was one of the best bowlers in the world. He was capable of swinging ball both ways at 145ks, and reversing ball with old ball. Botham, some of his spells are overrated like that 5 for 1, where tail enders were trying to brainlessly slog him and missing it.

Posted by Foddy on (November 19, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

mriaz001, you seem to be the one using, not rose-tinted spectacles, but dark glasses. Did you not see KP's 186 against India in Mumbai (widely thought one of the best ever innings played in India on a turning wicket) or his 151 against Sri Lanka in Colombo, also on a turning wicket? Or his 149 against South Africa at Headingley, against one of the best recent pace attacks (IPL medium pacers, I think not). And his 158 in the 2005 Oval Test was against an attack including McGrath and Warne - hardly weak.

And, by the way, where did Mark say that KP was better than David Gower? And as for your speculation of his final career average - it is purely that, mere speculation to support your case.

I prefer to follow the assessment of one of England's best ever captains, Michael Vaughan, to the effect that KP is the most attractive batsman ever to play for England, the one he would prefer to watch over all others. KP is truly a great batsman, capable of shots and innings others only dream of.

Posted by ArnoldVDH on (November 19, 2013, 9:08 GMT)

I disagree with "He blamed the quota system for his lack of exposure in the KwaZulu-Natal team and he had a point."

Tell me, if it is down to quotas, then how did Faf Du Plessis, De Villiers, Morkel and Steyn among others get selected.

KP should just realise that in those days he was below average. Him complaining about quotas just shifted the focus away from him to hide his limited abilities at the time.

Posted by jimbond on (November 19, 2013, 9:04 GMT)

Right now KP is the difference between the two teams. Clarke cancels out Cooke and Bell, and Trott has been found out; their bowling is quite evenly matched. If the Aussies can blunt KP in every innings, they have a chance of success.

Posted by 36yearsofexperience on (November 19, 2013, 8:13 GMT)

I agree with Naman, Flintoff should also come in to the list. He was talented, was a great athlete and played the game with right spirit. Statistics can not judge people of his category, and longevity is not the only criteria. If a person has different personal interest and serve the game for less time, does not necessarily mean he should be put behind people who played the game for longer time, due to more passion to the game or may be due to lack of natural ability in other discipline.

Posted by Warm_Coffee on (November 19, 2013, 8:10 GMT)

But he was born in South Africa :)

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 19, 2013, 7:50 GMT)

Only batsman in the world that is feared now. But current crop of international bowlers are crap to test him. he can will his team to win. He has the ability and strong mind. Its just that sometime he gets bored. So someone has to give him challenges and keep him happy. Then he will deliver.

Posted by riaz.m on (November 19, 2013, 7:35 GMT)

The usual wet dribble one has come to expect from this writer. Everything KP is seen through rose tinted contacts. KP is a very good batsman. But he is no Brian Lara or Tendulkar or Sobers. By his own account numbers never lie. In which case he is averaging less than 50 and I suspect he will finish with an average of around 45 which is about right for his ability. Remembers its not about odd brilliance on flat tracks against IPL medium pacers ,its consistent brilliance that sets Lara and Richards and Tendulkar apart from the rest. Is KP really better than Gower who had to battle for his runs against the mighty West indies and top class Pakistan and Aussie attacks but still finished with an average of 44. As a predominant front foot player KP would have had a mouthful from Marshall Garner et all.No wonder Holdings is always wishing he had a chance to bowl at KP,why? To knock his teeth out. Any one ever see KP play a cut shot? Already Kholi is way ahead of him in the one day game!

Posted by rocknrola on (November 19, 2013, 7:30 GMT)

I enjoyed his batting when he came to India last time. Every one thought Eng would loose that series. KP stopped them and changed the momentum and won the series. Our curators made turning pitches where even our batting lineup failed miserably but KP's 186 was awesome.

Posted by Sir_Harry_Flashman on (November 19, 2013, 7:25 GMT)

@Naman Gupta- Fintoff better than Botham?! You're embarrassing yourself with that comment. Botham was an incredible player. Capable of magic during all his career, simply the best at his peak. Flintoff was a fine player but Botham was a transcending cricketer. Do your homework my lad if you want to be taken seriously.

Posted by android_user on (November 19, 2013, 6:30 GMT)

A man is unconquerable.. with immense power. truly a legend..

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (November 19, 2013, 6:26 GMT)

KP has been inspirational to English cricket. He was afraid of nobody.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

SA missed out..Think of lineup Smith, Amla, DeVilliers , Kevin Pieterson and Kallis.. None to beat this..

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (November 19, 2013, 5:47 GMT)

No batsman is so consistently thrilling. The man is pure box office. Utterly inimitable, utterly irreplaceable, and a genius.

Posted by landl47 on (November 19, 2013, 5:22 GMT)

Pietersen is one of the most entertaining cricketers I have seen. However, there are far too many instances of irresponsibility, poor attitude and periods of underachievement in his career to call him a great cricketer. As the old nursery rhyme says, when he's good, he's very, very good, but when he's bad, he's horrid. He has tremendous natural talent, but having genius and not making the most of it is less worthy of being called great than being of lesser talent but getting the most out of the ability you have.

@Naman Gupta: Flintoff had one great series, in 2005. Apart from that, his career was ordinary. He made 5 test centuries and took 5 wickets in a test innings 3 times. Botham made 14 test centuries, took 5 wickets in an innings 27 times and 5 times made a century and took 5 wickets in an innings in the same game (no-one else has done it more than twice). If you think Flintoff was better than Botham, I am guessing you never saw Botham.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 5:00 GMT)

@jassim Ahmed - Fred had 5 years were he was great. Wasn't that the case with gotham from late 70's to about 1982. Except that period was when top 30 were playing world series cricket. So really he was dominating B teams. Freddie on other hand, at his peak, never had that luxury. At his peak he also hammered the greatest team of his era, something botham never managed. And it is not just me, gary sobers rates flintoff higher than botham.

Posted by Sathyasing on (November 19, 2013, 4:42 GMT)

Kp is kind of cricketer who makes the opposition to cry and creates fear among the bowlers.High quality innings with supreme confidence and body language are trademarks of kp.versatile player who can play all the 3 formats consistently ,belong to rare breed and he needs to be taken care of ( especially the knee).

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 4:13 GMT)

I almost choked on that comment @ Naman Gupta . Freddy Flintoff better than Botham ? Fred had 5 years were he was great, even that he had injuries and form issues. He doesn't even cut into the top 10 all rounders list of all time!Sobers, Botham, Kallis, Imran are a few astronomical units ahead of Fred

KP is a proper showman. If you see the list of top run scorers, I wouldnt pay top top money to watch them, probably only Lara. Aesthetically pleasing and aggressive batting , I would put him alongside Lara and Sir Viv in terms of "value for money"

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 3:31 GMT)

KP is an amazing player. But England's first since botham. No, that has to be flintoff who I consider as even better than botham. By the time Kp debuted flint off was already considered as one of best all rounders. At one point he was rated as one of the greatest fast bowlers in world. In 2005 ashes series against great Australian side, if u remove the first test, his average in remaining 4 tests touches 50. In those 4 tests he was one of the best batsmen in series, and one of best bowlers. He demolished warne and mcgrath in those 4 tests.

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Mark NicholasClose
Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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