August 25, 2014

What if Pietersen had played for England this summer?

Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?
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Leading up to the 2014 season, Pietersen's numbers were average compared to his glory days © Getty Images

We were regularly invited, throughout the dark period when England lost seven Tests out of nine earlier this year, to imagine a better, happier world: an England team with Kevin Pietersen in it. Well, let's imagine it. Not flippantly or sarcastically but thoughtfully, as a historian would approach a legitimate "what if?" or "counter-factual". A real historian would calculate the cost - or benefit - of KP's absence methodically rather than emotionally; he would be guided by evidence rather than personality; and though he would necessarily have to make assumptions and projections, our historian would acknowledge where facts ended and where informed predictions began.

First, who would Pietersen have played instead of? In his final Test, in Sydney in January this year, Pietersen played as one of three middle-order batsmen: Ian Bell and Gary Ballance being the other two (Joe Root was left out). Changing the side's structure to create an extra middle-order batting spot was extremely unlikely: the selectors knew that in the absence of a genuine spin alternative, Moeen Ali had to bat at six as the spinning allrounder.

This left space for only five batsmen, two of them openers. So, coming into the two home series against Sri Lanka and India, England had four players vying for three middle-order spots: Pietersen, Bell, Ballance and Root. From a purely cricketing perspective, who should they pick?

As the most complete and technically accomplished player, comparatively unscathed by injury and with many miles left on the clock, Bell was a certainty to play. So in order to find room for Pietersen, England would have had to prefer him to either Root or Ballance - the two brightest young hopes of English cricket.

We will come to what actually happened in a moment. First, what was the information available at the time, before the start of the 2014 home Tests? Ballance had just made his debut, in the uniquely brutal circumstances of a 5-0 whitewash in Australia. Despite not making a big score, he looked at home - "There's something there," most people thought. It would have been a ruthless decision to discard him after just one match - perhaps one with damaging long-term consequences.

In the case of Root, it was more a question of making sure that a precious resource was nurtured in the best surroundings. In his short career, Root had already been up and down the batting order like a yo-yo, an experience so disorientating that even Root, a notably resilient character, ended up out of form and dropped. But no one seriously envisaged an England team without Root - not in the long, medium or short term. For Root the sine qua non was a spell in a settled position, preferably at No. 5, where he enjoyed such exceptional success in his early Tests.

In time, if Pietersen exercises restraint and exhibits more magnanimity, memories of his pomp will haze over the uncomfortable final chapter of his England career

What of Pietersen? No one admired Pietersen at his best more than this columnist (as I explored here). What was the likelihood, however, of Pietersen being at his best in 2014? His long-term knee injury had caused him visible anguish throughout the winter Ashes series. More ominously there were signs that his powers were in decline. True, they had once bordered on the miraculous. Nevertheless, downwards is downwards.

Let's be scrupulously fair and widen the period of evidence well beyond the anomaly of facing Mitchell Johnson's thunderbolts in 2013-14. In his last 16 Tests, Pietersen averaged 36. In his final 54 Tests, he averaged 43 with seven hundreds. That sounds healthy enough. But compare it to his first 50 Tests, with 16 hundreds at an average of over 50. Remarkably for a player of such audacious talent and unique style, Pietersen's career was actually very predictable: a high plateau followed by a gradual falling off. In broad terms, there were very few oscillations. Beneath all the headlines, when told in numbers, the story is actually very simple.

Now for the counter-factual: how would England's summer have fared with Pietersen instead of Root or Ballance? Root scored 777 runs at an average of 97. Ballance has accumulated 704 runs at 70. Both were absolutely central to England's turnaround. It is hard to see England beating India 3-1 without them. Their runs first steadied then galvanised English cricket when it was reeling and on the ropes.

Theoretically, of course, it is possible that Pietersen might have done even better. But what pointers can we follow from his actual performances over the same period of time? He has not played a single first-class match. Instead he has played only T20. Even specialising in one form hasn't helped. All taken together (the T20 Blast, the Caribbean Premier League and the IPL), Pietersen averages in the mid-20s in 2014, significantly below his career T20 record. Moreover, many of his performances this summer have happened under the tutelage of his personal mentor - Graham Ford, who happens to be Surrey's head coach. Playing county cricket in his home city of London, watched by his preferred choice of coach, conditions were tailor-made for a bumper summer of runs - and yet it hasn't happened.

The youth-led environment of the England team is unlikely to have suited Pietersen so well. After all, it was a clash with Peter Moores, now restored as head coach, that led to Pietersen's sacking as England captain in 2008. And Pietersen's relationship with Alastair Cook had disintegrated by the end of the 2013-14 Ashes. Instead of playing in the welcoming atmosphere of Ford's Surrey, Pietersen would have found himself in an environment prickly with personal baggage.

So while we cannot know for certain how many runs he would have scored, we can deduce with total confidence that if Pietersen had played instead of either Ballance and Root, all available evidence suggests it is likely that the England team would have been weaker rather than stronger.

Nonetheless, the "Bring back KP!" lobby (though temporarily silenced) has had a very noisy summer. Pietersen has been offered every kind of platform to make his case, including a newspaper column. After the series defeat against Sri Lanka, the front page of his paper's sport supplement proudly announced: "How to fix England - by Kevin Pietersen." All this has been magnified by various social-media storms and campaigns on Pietersen's behalf.

The target of all this, of course, has been Cook. Even shrewd judges perceived Cook's mid-season struggles as a direct consequence of the sacking of Pietersen. But while the target was Cook, the victim of the "Bring back KP!" campaign has been Pietersen himself.

The media had things upside-down. It was imagined that England's decision to take the high moral ground in its sacking of Pietersen (by citing the importance of "team ethics") had accidentally but cruelly burdened Cook with an extra pressure - as though an already decent man had to carry an unnecessary moral weight.

In fact, it was the other way around. The anti-Cook brigade, by citing Pietersen as the saviour in waiting, accidentally burdened their own man - even as he struggled for runs in T20 leagues around the world.

I hope the situation is remedied. Pietersen deserves to be remembered as a thrilling, world-beating batsman, arguably England's finest in living memory. He will not be the last maverick to end his international career in an imperfect way. In time, if he exercises restraint and exhibits more magnanimity, memories of his pomp will haze over the uncomfortable final chapter of his England career.

Last week it was good to hear Sir John Major commenting on the death of the former Irish premier Albert Reynolds, a political contemporary of Major's. No politician suffered worse treatment from his critics than Major. And none has enjoyed a greater bounce in popularity since leaving office. The secret: he has kept a benevolent and dignified distance from current events.

It is true that Major and Pietersen could hardly be more different as people. But Major, as a lifelong Surrey fan, is ideally placed to pass on some tips.

Ed Smith's latest book is Luck - A Fresh Look at Fortune. @edsmithwriter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SpaMaster on August 30, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    I don't know for sure if Pietersen would have scored more runs than Balance or Root. But what I know for sure is Pietersen was by far the best batsman in England. If you think somebody is the best, you have to think he has as good or a better chance to fare than others. That was the case with Tendulkar in India. Sure, in some series other batsmen fared better than him. But he was the best batsman in the world and more often than not he fared better than other batsmen. If we want to go by Smith's logic, then we could argue that Pietersen would have scored more runs than Bell. I don't think in Bell's case we can argue that Bell couldn't have been left out because of his qualification as batsman and Pietersen may not have found place because Balance and Root would go on to perform as opposed to Pietersen's qualification. Pietersen should be the first batsman who should be written down in the playing XI and others get picked around him.

  • zain29 on August 28, 2014, 6:49 GMT

    Players like Pietersen come around once in 20 years. I understand the tantrums & tensions caused by his presence, but that is where management steps in and restores order.

    A summer out in the cold would have been just the tonic for KP to realise he still belongs amongst the mortals.

    I think he fully understands the stakes at play - especially with 2015 World Cup just around the corner.The ECB should keep him in the picture

  • The_Full_Toss on August 27, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    "If he exercises restraint and exhibits more magnanimity...[John Major] kept a benevolent and dignified distance from current events".

    What exactly are you referring to? In his latest Telegraph piece, Pietersen says:

    "England did fantastically well to turn the Test series against India into a brilliant 3-1 victory and I am delighted for Alastair Cook. He deserves credit for the change in England's fortunes".

    Exactly how much more benevolent and magnanimous do you want?

    The Major comparison is bogus anyway, because Major was not knifed behind closed doors. He was defeated in a general election. He could have no cause for complaint. Yet you expect Pietersen, who was brutally sacked without explanation, to be jolly and kind about the ECB. As if they're magnanimous to him...

  • MasterBlaster100 on August 26, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Cmon cricinfo give me the right of reply here! Comment says my point is silly. But all I am saying is that England were number 1 in the world when they played 4 bowlers in their test side, and when they abandoned that formula they went 10 straight tests without a win. If you are lucky enough to have a top 6 batter worth his place in the side for his batting alone who can also bowl (e.g Kallis, Watson, Steve Smith) all well and good. If not then dont weaken your batting to accomodate an extra bowler.And especially dont weaken your batting and your bowling to accomodate Stuart Binney or Jadeja who are neither best 6 bats in India or best 4 bowlers. Constantly amazes me how England pick 5 bowlers in tests when 4 will do, but in ODIs when you HAVE to use 5 bowlers Rngland go eith a Root or Bopara and cross their fingers. So the real question is wther KP is among the 6 best bats in England. 23 tons says yes. We knew he was egocentric, naif, difficult etc way back in 2004 nothing has changed

  • drdickdixon on August 26, 2014, 14:04 GMT

    Nicely done, Mr Smith - especially the comparison with Major in his dignified dotage at the end.

    As a Surrey fan like Major, I look forward to the 2nd in the series, "What if Pietersen had played county cricket for Surrey this summer?"

  • Sexysteven on August 26, 2014, 4:38 GMT

    It's prob agood thing kp is gone yes I'm sure they could of got afew more years out of. It with some one that disruptive it's prob best that he's gone cos let's face it the young players coming in haven't let England down to be honest and that tells me England don't need kp anymore as good as he is everyone's replaceable especially with the talented batsmen coming through in England that has given the selectors the rope to get rid of atalented but disruptive person in kp that's prob relieved the selectors cos if the depth of talent was less they would of had no choice but to persist with kp but in this situation the younger players coming we're not much worst then kp so in that case they would have been more cooperative so that means they come in and you get rid of the trouble maker kp I'm with England authorities on this one

  • on August 26, 2014, 1:41 GMT

    On paper, KP was still the right option to have in the side - his omission was hardly to do with form, so why use that as a reason now? Surely he would have been playing first class cricket if he was still in the test frame, so the T20 stuff is pretty irrelevant. It's easy to use hindsight, so here's some hindsight thrown back at you: why couldn't Ballance have opened? He has the resolute look of an opener and he was effectively opening most innings vs Sri Lanka and India anyway, as either Robson or Cook departed early. Then you have Bell 3, KP 4, Root 5. Would a team with that batting combination have lost to SL, or been 1-0 down vs India? Probably not.

  • JJJake on August 26, 2014, 0:24 GMT

    cricket is such a mental game. the dressing room needs to be positive environment. England need to keep on building on this. they have some good young talent. as well as some experienced players. the balance looks right. i think KP would have upset the balance.

  • DannyBurke on August 25, 2014, 21:53 GMT

    One could argue he would have fared better than the other 4 in the top 6.

    In reality its disappointing he gave up on anything more than hit and giggle cricket.

  • jefftothejones on August 25, 2014, 21:45 GMT

    I'm not an England supporter so haven't been following this saga very closely. But my impression of Pietersen is that a "prickly" environment probably would've brought out his best. I'm not so sure it would've been helpful to the rest of the team though.

    I guess that's what it came down to.

  • SpaMaster on August 30, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    I don't know for sure if Pietersen would have scored more runs than Balance or Root. But what I know for sure is Pietersen was by far the best batsman in England. If you think somebody is the best, you have to think he has as good or a better chance to fare than others. That was the case with Tendulkar in India. Sure, in some series other batsmen fared better than him. But he was the best batsman in the world and more often than not he fared better than other batsmen. If we want to go by Smith's logic, then we could argue that Pietersen would have scored more runs than Bell. I don't think in Bell's case we can argue that Bell couldn't have been left out because of his qualification as batsman and Pietersen may not have found place because Balance and Root would go on to perform as opposed to Pietersen's qualification. Pietersen should be the first batsman who should be written down in the playing XI and others get picked around him.

  • zain29 on August 28, 2014, 6:49 GMT

    Players like Pietersen come around once in 20 years. I understand the tantrums & tensions caused by his presence, but that is where management steps in and restores order.

    A summer out in the cold would have been just the tonic for KP to realise he still belongs amongst the mortals.

    I think he fully understands the stakes at play - especially with 2015 World Cup just around the corner.The ECB should keep him in the picture

  • The_Full_Toss on August 27, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    "If he exercises restraint and exhibits more magnanimity...[John Major] kept a benevolent and dignified distance from current events".

    What exactly are you referring to? In his latest Telegraph piece, Pietersen says:

    "England did fantastically well to turn the Test series against India into a brilliant 3-1 victory and I am delighted for Alastair Cook. He deserves credit for the change in England's fortunes".

    Exactly how much more benevolent and magnanimous do you want?

    The Major comparison is bogus anyway, because Major was not knifed behind closed doors. He was defeated in a general election. He could have no cause for complaint. Yet you expect Pietersen, who was brutally sacked without explanation, to be jolly and kind about the ECB. As if they're magnanimous to him...

  • MasterBlaster100 on August 26, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Cmon cricinfo give me the right of reply here! Comment says my point is silly. But all I am saying is that England were number 1 in the world when they played 4 bowlers in their test side, and when they abandoned that formula they went 10 straight tests without a win. If you are lucky enough to have a top 6 batter worth his place in the side for his batting alone who can also bowl (e.g Kallis, Watson, Steve Smith) all well and good. If not then dont weaken your batting to accomodate an extra bowler.And especially dont weaken your batting and your bowling to accomodate Stuart Binney or Jadeja who are neither best 6 bats in India or best 4 bowlers. Constantly amazes me how England pick 5 bowlers in tests when 4 will do, but in ODIs when you HAVE to use 5 bowlers Rngland go eith a Root or Bopara and cross their fingers. So the real question is wther KP is among the 6 best bats in England. 23 tons says yes. We knew he was egocentric, naif, difficult etc way back in 2004 nothing has changed

  • drdickdixon on August 26, 2014, 14:04 GMT

    Nicely done, Mr Smith - especially the comparison with Major in his dignified dotage at the end.

    As a Surrey fan like Major, I look forward to the 2nd in the series, "What if Pietersen had played county cricket for Surrey this summer?"

  • Sexysteven on August 26, 2014, 4:38 GMT

    It's prob agood thing kp is gone yes I'm sure they could of got afew more years out of. It with some one that disruptive it's prob best that he's gone cos let's face it the young players coming in haven't let England down to be honest and that tells me England don't need kp anymore as good as he is everyone's replaceable especially with the talented batsmen coming through in England that has given the selectors the rope to get rid of atalented but disruptive person in kp that's prob relieved the selectors cos if the depth of talent was less they would of had no choice but to persist with kp but in this situation the younger players coming we're not much worst then kp so in that case they would have been more cooperative so that means they come in and you get rid of the trouble maker kp I'm with England authorities on this one

  • on August 26, 2014, 1:41 GMT

    On paper, KP was still the right option to have in the side - his omission was hardly to do with form, so why use that as a reason now? Surely he would have been playing first class cricket if he was still in the test frame, so the T20 stuff is pretty irrelevant. It's easy to use hindsight, so here's some hindsight thrown back at you: why couldn't Ballance have opened? He has the resolute look of an opener and he was effectively opening most innings vs Sri Lanka and India anyway, as either Robson or Cook departed early. Then you have Bell 3, KP 4, Root 5. Would a team with that batting combination have lost to SL, or been 1-0 down vs India? Probably not.

  • JJJake on August 26, 2014, 0:24 GMT

    cricket is such a mental game. the dressing room needs to be positive environment. England need to keep on building on this. they have some good young talent. as well as some experienced players. the balance looks right. i think KP would have upset the balance.

  • DannyBurke on August 25, 2014, 21:53 GMT

    One could argue he would have fared better than the other 4 in the top 6.

    In reality its disappointing he gave up on anything more than hit and giggle cricket.

  • jefftothejones on August 25, 2014, 21:45 GMT

    I'm not an England supporter so haven't been following this saga very closely. But my impression of Pietersen is that a "prickly" environment probably would've brought out his best. I'm not so sure it would've been helpful to the rest of the team though.

    I guess that's what it came down to.

  • on August 25, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    Idle navel-gazing. The gaping flaw in the piece is that the new name in the England batting line-up this summer - and therefore effectively Pietersen's replacement - was Robson. Yet ES doesn't even mention him. Robson scored 336 runs in 7 Tests at a very modest avge of 30 and KP would surely have bettered that.

  • Chris_P on August 25, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    All very interesting to speculate but taking it a step further, let's say after Lords, he was brought in. Bell, after 4 home tests on top of the Ashes may have been the man in the crosshairs? Or perhaps bringing in a spinner, & leaving Moeen out for Pieterson? I think England did the right thing with their youth development, the long term & current team atmosphere.

  • zoot on August 25, 2014, 19:02 GMT

    No but he might have done better than Robson and Bell.

  • on August 25, 2014, 19:01 GMT

    I agree to major chunk of what you have said Ed! But the thing is that a big player is the one who often rises up to the challenge on a big stage. KP played the most thrilling knock of recent times in Mumbai on dusty and spinning track on which even the Indian players struggled and was the reason England was able to win the game and eventually beat India in India after ages. He did prove his class there and i am sure that he still can do the same in test cricket.. No denying that Gary and Joe have are future stars but to say that KP would not have done what they did or his presence would have made the Team Weak is not a fair assement.. I think KP( though a Maverick) still has enough cricket in him to represent England in tests and win you games specially in the Sub continent and moreover he is a player with X factor , the one who can intimidate the opposition..

  • shillingsworth on August 25, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    @IPSY - He's not comparing them, just asking the question whether Pietersen would have done better than Root or Ballance this summer, to which the answer is no.

  • on August 25, 2014, 17:54 GMT

    One thing I noted when KP was dropped was that he hadn't been performing brilliantly in any format for some time, in reality he had to a large extent been dropped form the one-day sides well before the final axe. Interestingly, his drop off in Test form coincides very neatly with his sacking as captain. Could it be that there were issues due to this that never got resolved? Regarding his performances this summer, I have seen it suggested, possibly by the man himself, that he's struggling for form because he's not playing enough. For Surrey he played once a week in the T20, and often didn't need to get many due to the amazing performances of Roy.

  • on August 25, 2014, 16:01 GMT

    Why are we still talking about Pietersen ? He's yesterdays man...

  • brusselslion on August 25, 2014, 14:29 GMT

    To all the KP supporters: Notwithstanding the fact that the onus was KP to score runs and make the case for his inclusion overwhelming - something that he failed to do for various reasons - who exactly would you leave you leave out to accommodate him?

    Ballance and/or Root must be shoo-ins on current form: Ali took 19 wickets in the last series, so while his batting might not secure his place, his bowling currently does. Bell may have had an indifferent summer, but it's not been a disaster so, again where do you find a place for KP?

    @ Nick Sharland: Root is averaging 75+ this summer as #5, so why would you want to move him?

  • IPSY on August 25, 2014, 14:19 GMT

    Mr Smith, Without reading too much into what you are trying to say, I am asseting withou apology that comparing Kevin Pietersen with either Joe Root or Gary Ballance is an arrant out of place act! All these batsmen were just coming from an abysmal tour where all the batsmen were called upon to show their mettle and failed - Pietersen was still the best, even though he did not produce his usual magic on this one-off tour. I know what would be said about Balance, if not Root or both, when they fail in the next series. I again proclaim that your comparing of Pietersen with them is out of place; and has no sound place in cricket history!

  • on August 25, 2014, 13:15 GMT

    It's interesting that you don't consider the possibility of having a line-up of: Cook, Root, Ballance, KP, Bell, Ali etc etc. with Root opening instead of Robson. I don't think this would have helped KP, who looks in terminal decline as a cricketer, but it's an interesting possibility that hasn't yet been considered.

    The other interesting consideration is how different would England's World T20 fortunes have been if Kevin Pietersen had been in the team - might Ashley Giles have succeeded Andy Flower if a few good knocks from KP had seen England into a respectable quarter- or semi-final exit? And how would that have changed the dynamic? Also, would KP have played first-class cricket for Surrey at the start of the season if he hadn't been sacked? And how might that have been different from the one-day-a-week cricketer he's become? The conclusion is probably right, but I think you assume a lot of things on the way to it.

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 13:07 GMT

    It's quite silly using the great WI and Australia teams of the past as evidence that other teams don;t need five bowlers. WI had a production line of great fast bowlers and Australia also had several greats and even more very good bowlers. Even when Strauss' England team went to #1, their bowling attack still didn't compare to those. Where are WI now with their four bowlers and beating the world? Did Shane Watson's bowling not make Australia a better team on many occasions recently?

  • Raki99 on August 25, 2014, 13:04 GMT

    The last time ENG. toured sri lanka and India. it was KP who rescued them both the times. In sri lanka there were one down and he scored a brilliant century to win the game for them in the second test. In India he scored another brilliant century in Bombay and scored valuable runs in Kolkata. and won them the series 2-1. This young English batsman may be good at home but let them travel to foreign condition and see how they fare. Kohli and Pujara were great in India, south Africa and NZ but failed in ENG. I Am Not sure when they Eng. travel to Subcontinent. we will see what happens to this team them.

  • SOLNAN on August 25, 2014, 12:25 GMT

    Just wait. They have played only India and that too in England..Let them play against top playing countries and then they will know the value of KP. Players like Cook and at least five others are nothing compared to KP. If you want to win against odds then there is no better player. Ask other country's Players and they will tell you his value. No player can entertain better in this current Boring England setup..

  • LeeHallam on August 25, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    I am afraid that it does not matter how many facts can be quoted: How many times KP fails in lower level cricket: or how much success others have in his place. His fanatical supporters will maintain a that despite all the evidence, that he is still the player he was in his pomp. That he is a victim of plots and jealousy. That somehow he can still come back. But he can't, he is done as far as being an England player. He needs to move on, so that he can be remembered as a great batsman rather than a controversy. He needs to, they never will.

  • MasterBlaster100 on August 25, 2014, 11:52 GMT

    Small but important point Mr Smith. England played 6 batters and 4 bowlers consistently from Jan 2009-Aug 2013. Coincided with their best run of test results and rankings for decades. Then 5th Test Oval v Aus they abandoned that formula, played Woakes as the 5th bowler. And then went 10 tests playing 5 bowlers without a win. 5 bowlers is an English obsession (like 442 in football). But it never troubled Windies or Aus who between them spent 30 years top of the world without a bits and pieces 'all rounder'. What would have happened with KP? Best guess Ali, Woakes and Stokes might have played less cricket last summer. Given the way two of them batted and one of them bowled that may have been no bad thing.

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 11:40 GMT

    @Vinod_Fab on (August 25, 2014, 9:12 GMT), "You can give cook,bell so many chances even after consistent failing then why not KP". How can you seriously ask that question? Have you not being paying attention? KP has been a pain in the proverbial for years. That's why. Had it not been so then he probably would have been given more time. He's getting older, he's carrying injuries, his returns are decreasing and he's considered a disruptive influence on the team. Cook and Bell are both younger and don't have the injury concerns, plus they're both consummate team mean. It worries me that you need that spelled out.

  • Prodger on August 25, 2014, 11:28 GMT

    There is no greater admirer of Ballance, in particular, and Root than myself, but if you were to choose an attack to bed yourself in against for the summer India would be your first choice. They are both realistic level headed young men and will realise much sterner tasks lie ahead, Aussies next summer followed by the tour to SA will be the true test. As for KP in the right frame of mind with good preparation he would have taken the Sri Lankan and Indian bowlers apart, both he was, as they say, unselectable

  • philipg33 on August 25, 2014, 11:23 GMT

    KPs figures in that downward period are still better than Cook and Bell ANd he scored tough series winning runs Root scores but only (like the young Bell) after a batsman like Balance does the work Just like Pietersen did the work for the rest. Pietersen carried English Batting after Trescothick and Vaughan till the arrival of Trott and Cook finally finding consistency. Pietersen has never been given any slack (i'm talking form) Pietersen's worst ever series was the last Ashes in which he was still Englands top scorer. It is crazy that he's not playing and this will be shown when we play Australia and SA and PAkistan away. The West Indies with the return of Taylor and Roach plus a possible Fidel Edwards will probably be too hot to handle for most of the English batsman. Root we know cannot handle Pace nor can Cook. Pietersen can, Balance can I can't wait to see the returning Mohammed Amir torment Cook

  • Marcus_A on August 25, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    @southstokes49 As said in the article Ian Bell is the most technically accomplished player in the england team. It's been well documented how he's helped Moeen Ali develop, as said he won the ashes for England last summer, while also helping to save the series versus NZ. In 2011 he averaged 118. In Jan 2010 he scored 140 to set up an innings win over SA, and batted for 5 hours for 78 to get a draw in the next match. There are of course many instances of failure as well and I think Bell suffers from the time he took to bed into test cricket. He does attract that good ball and he does go through dips like all other batsmen. But his early career average was low 40's and now sits at 45, suggesting he continues to improve. He has over 7000 test runs and is likely with cook to be in the top two all time english run getters. Why would you drop someone who has experience, runs, exhibits the team ethic and has miles left on the clock?

  • brusselslion on August 25, 2014, 10:32 GMT

    Surely there can be no debate over whether the inclusion of Balance and Root was justified? The results speak for themselves. Ali still needs to prove himself with the bat, but his performance with the ball probably justifies his retention. Robson should be discarded - for the time being at least - but I hope that no one in the KP camp is seriously suggesting he opens?

    Sadly, no other young English middle order batsmen has made a strong case for inclusion, which means that the other batting spot could be viewed Bell vs. KP. Bell hasn't been totally convincing, but 3 50s and a big 100 is fair enough, especially when you consider that the alternative is a bloke who hasn't played a 1st class innings all summer, and whose performance in T20s has been 'average' at best.

  • on August 25, 2014, 10:26 GMT

    Last twelwe months scores in all formats including first class cricket is not a good predictator of test innnings performance.

  • Jonathan_E on August 25, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    "Love him when he's piling up the runs, rubbish him when he's not"

    Piling up the runs is his job. He hasn't been doing it.

  • andrew-schulz on August 25, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    The premise of the first paragraph is very wrong. Pieterson's personality has to be part of the equation, and cannot be ignored by the historian, because his personality has had, and would have had this summer, a major impact on England's performance.

  • Vinod_Fab on August 25, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    @jmcilhinney on (August 25, 2014, 8:38 GMT).. You want facts..? I accept,I don't have it as he is just playing T20's and will be soon playing for surrey to help them getting promoted. But what my point here is give him a test series against any nation on the basis of what he gave for ENG,then there will be facts in front of u for sure..!!.. You can give cook,bell so many chances even after consistent failing then why not KP..??. And you remember ENG haven't yet played against the likes of SA,AUS,NZ,PAK who have battery of excellent fast bowlers. If you consider on basis of facts,then please tell me what root did in AUS..??..May be uprooting the flowers..?? Or bowlers uprooting the stumps..!!. Believe me Balance is very mediocre and root just 10 percent above mediocrity..!!.Above all they haven't visited subcontinents..!!.I am sorry sir,we should not end the career of once in a generation player like this..!!.. And you very well know that KP,one day is utter brilliant and other day poor

  • southstoke49 on August 25, 2014, 9:03 GMT

    Very good and balanced article. I agree in the argument to retain Root and Ballance but I cannot see why Bell is an automatic shoe in, whether at the expense of KP or another upcoming batsman. He has only ever had one convincing series, last years' home ashes, and has usually made his scores when other people have already made big scorers before him. A game changer he is not and because of this frailty makes him a bad choice as a senior batsman, which seems to be why they would not consider him for captain. Also, he did far worse than KP in Australia. While I can see that dropping KP is logical for the long term, retaining Bell for short/medium term is baffling. I would have preferred to give KP a go for this summer and then moved on with another youngster as soon as his performance waned at the expense of Bell and keep him for the 1 day stuff as long as he performs. The sour note for me was Downton's role in the whole thing. Until he goes I will not go and support England.

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    @SICHO on (August 25, 2014, 5:21 GMT), it's not a case of rubbishing KP. The author said quite a number of complimentary things about him. It's simply the case that his numbers don't warrant the blind faith that so many seem to place in him. I'm quite confident that, had there not been disciplinary issues, KP would have been retained by England. His numbers were good enough for that but the simple fact is that there were disciplinary issues. KP fans can say what they like but the truth is that they don't know the details of what happened so they really can't say that he didn't deserve what he got. Changes obviously needed to be made and KP gave the management a reason to drop him. As it turns out, England seem to have lost nothing by doing so. Many England fans are sorry to see KP go but accept that it was reasonable under the circumstances. Diminishing returns and a headache as well is good enough for me.

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    @Starvybz on (August 25, 2014, 4:56 GMT), we'll be disappointed that they did so but we'll chalk it up to inexperience and look forward to better in the future. England cracked under pressure in Australia and that wasn't due to inexperience so what's your point? The only experienced regular that they let go was KP anyway and that for a very well-publicised reason. Trott, Swann and Prior have all gone but that was out of the ECB's control. Just like all young teams, there will be bad days but each one just brings the better days closer. There's tons of potential in the current batting lineup in particular so we'll just have to exercise some patience on occasions.

  • on August 25, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    One wonders how relevant this article would be if India played to their true potential. Whilst KP may be 34 he still has a lot to offer English cricket. Is it a coincidence that Eng finally won an Ashes after KPs debut?

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    @Vinod_Fab on (August 25, 2014, 6:47 GMT), firstly, how do you know that England wouldn't have lost against SL if KP was playing? Like most of the "Bring back KP!" lobby, you're making assumptions that are not backed up by facts. England were one wicket from victory in the first Test, with Root scoring 200 n.o. in the first innings and Ballance 104 n.o. in the second. England had a full day to bowl SL out and just fell short, partly due to the fact that so many edges did the same, including one in the last over of the day. In the second Test, Ballance scored 74 in the first innings and Root batted 108 deliveries (more than anyone but Moeen Ali) in the second. Based on his recent form, can you really say with certainty that KP would have done better? The answer to that is "no". As for T20 averages, no they don't relate directly to Test cricket but if KP's performance has continued to deteriorate in T20 then what makes you think it would have been the opposite in Tests?

  • Vinod_Fab on August 25, 2014, 6:47 GMT

    @landl47.. First and foremost, ENG wouldn't have lost series against SL in their home turf if KP is playing..!!. That itself is a disgrace as i don't remember ENG losing the series in ENG after 05(exception of one or 2 against SA).. It's so sad to see the article writers comparing this maveric with Root,Balance,Butler.. ENG was quite lucky in the sense that broad and jimmy was bowling so impeccable line that kohli,rahane,pujara don't had the answers..!!. ENG was quite lucky that they were playing against IND, if they have faced AUS,SA,NZ,PAK, the result wud have been different.. Anyways T20 avg. doesn't have anything to do with Test cricket and we all know how KP is--U cannot predict his scoring abilities..!!

  • bobmartin on August 25, 2014, 6:36 GMT

    Irrespective of Pietersen's past deeds, there is no doubt that his prowess is on the wane, whilst those who have replaced him are on the rise. Whether or not they will ever hit the same heights as Pietersen did is debatable and at this stage in their careers would be nothing more than conjecture. At this time it is also immaterial, since they did the job against India and the series was won. It would also be conjecture to suppose that Pietersen could have done any better and indeed to think that he will ever again achieve the heights he once did, or even those of where his repacements are at now. With his increasing age and vulnerablity to injury that would seem unlikely in the long term. Whilst he is in decline, the youngsters are on the rise. It is right to give Pietersen credit for what he achieved, but by the same token it is also right to castigate him for his misdeeds. As land47 put so astutely "This debate is, like Pietersen's international career, over."

  • on August 25, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    Ed Smith will get a lot of hate for writing this article. Why? Because he presents facts just as they are, and the KP-Brigade isn't going to like it one bit. For them England is led by an all-encompassing villain & a non-existant middle-order since there is no KP there now. Yes, my reference is to the comment by SICHO. Starvybz, it is always advisable to have a mixture of youth and inexperience, and England have the right combination in that regard.England are fortunate to have Ballance and Root in their middle order, both are good, solid batsmen. They will be tested in due course, but they are young and will learn. Ed Smith makes a very valid point that had Pietersen been there this England batting line-up would have actually been weaker, not stronger.

  • SICHO on August 25, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    This is very interesting, in this article Ed Smith sounds more like 'classic' English fan towards KP. Love him when he's piling up the runs, rubbish him when he's not. The fact is none of the England middle order (batting order) looked like scoring a run before this summer, even the youngsters didn't look promising in (or against) Australia. Root and Ballance's figures are helped by the mediocrity of the bowling they've faced this summer, I mean who doesn't score runs against India at home? I've never been a fan of what ifs (unless its Physics of course!), but you can't conclude that KP wasn't going to score runs based on the trend before the summer, if that was the case then Cook was suppose to average 20, Bell 30 and one of the Indian batsmen was suppose hit Anderson for a record number of runs in an over, after all they didn't have good figures too......... Now I see why no England batsmen has 10K runs, once you reach 30, fans like landl47 want you to retire because they want YOUTH.

  • Starvybz on August 25, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    i would like to know what will happen when this young england squad cracks under pressure due to inexperience.

  • landl47 on August 25, 2014, 3:25 GMT

    Ballance, 24, and Root, 23, are the future of test cricket in England. Pietersen, at 34, represents the past- a very good past, but past nonetheless. I'm sorry that KP's international career ended in acrimony rather than the world-wide praise given to Mahela or Kallis, but the establishment of Ballance and Root as key players in the England side has meant that from a purely cricketing point of view KP's exclusion has benefitted England.

    This debate is, like Pietersen's international career, over.

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  • landl47 on August 25, 2014, 3:25 GMT

    Ballance, 24, and Root, 23, are the future of test cricket in England. Pietersen, at 34, represents the past- a very good past, but past nonetheless. I'm sorry that KP's international career ended in acrimony rather than the world-wide praise given to Mahela or Kallis, but the establishment of Ballance and Root as key players in the England side has meant that from a purely cricketing point of view KP's exclusion has benefitted England.

    This debate is, like Pietersen's international career, over.

  • Starvybz on August 25, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    i would like to know what will happen when this young england squad cracks under pressure due to inexperience.

  • SICHO on August 25, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    This is very interesting, in this article Ed Smith sounds more like 'classic' English fan towards KP. Love him when he's piling up the runs, rubbish him when he's not. The fact is none of the England middle order (batting order) looked like scoring a run before this summer, even the youngsters didn't look promising in (or against) Australia. Root and Ballance's figures are helped by the mediocrity of the bowling they've faced this summer, I mean who doesn't score runs against India at home? I've never been a fan of what ifs (unless its Physics of course!), but you can't conclude that KP wasn't going to score runs based on the trend before the summer, if that was the case then Cook was suppose to average 20, Bell 30 and one of the Indian batsmen was suppose hit Anderson for a record number of runs in an over, after all they didn't have good figures too......... Now I see why no England batsmen has 10K runs, once you reach 30, fans like landl47 want you to retire because they want YOUTH.

  • on August 25, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    Ed Smith will get a lot of hate for writing this article. Why? Because he presents facts just as they are, and the KP-Brigade isn't going to like it one bit. For them England is led by an all-encompassing villain & a non-existant middle-order since there is no KP there now. Yes, my reference is to the comment by SICHO. Starvybz, it is always advisable to have a mixture of youth and inexperience, and England have the right combination in that regard.England are fortunate to have Ballance and Root in their middle order, both are good, solid batsmen. They will be tested in due course, but they are young and will learn. Ed Smith makes a very valid point that had Pietersen been there this England batting line-up would have actually been weaker, not stronger.

  • bobmartin on August 25, 2014, 6:36 GMT

    Irrespective of Pietersen's past deeds, there is no doubt that his prowess is on the wane, whilst those who have replaced him are on the rise. Whether or not they will ever hit the same heights as Pietersen did is debatable and at this stage in their careers would be nothing more than conjecture. At this time it is also immaterial, since they did the job against India and the series was won. It would also be conjecture to suppose that Pietersen could have done any better and indeed to think that he will ever again achieve the heights he once did, or even those of where his repacements are at now. With his increasing age and vulnerablity to injury that would seem unlikely in the long term. Whilst he is in decline, the youngsters are on the rise. It is right to give Pietersen credit for what he achieved, but by the same token it is also right to castigate him for his misdeeds. As land47 put so astutely "This debate is, like Pietersen's international career, over."

  • Vinod_Fab on August 25, 2014, 6:47 GMT

    @landl47.. First and foremost, ENG wouldn't have lost series against SL in their home turf if KP is playing..!!. That itself is a disgrace as i don't remember ENG losing the series in ENG after 05(exception of one or 2 against SA).. It's so sad to see the article writers comparing this maveric with Root,Balance,Butler.. ENG was quite lucky in the sense that broad and jimmy was bowling so impeccable line that kohli,rahane,pujara don't had the answers..!!. ENG was quite lucky that they were playing against IND, if they have faced AUS,SA,NZ,PAK, the result wud have been different.. Anyways T20 avg. doesn't have anything to do with Test cricket and we all know how KP is--U cannot predict his scoring abilities..!!

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 8:38 GMT

    @Vinod_Fab on (August 25, 2014, 6:47 GMT), firstly, how do you know that England wouldn't have lost against SL if KP was playing? Like most of the "Bring back KP!" lobby, you're making assumptions that are not backed up by facts. England were one wicket from victory in the first Test, with Root scoring 200 n.o. in the first innings and Ballance 104 n.o. in the second. England had a full day to bowl SL out and just fell short, partly due to the fact that so many edges did the same, including one in the last over of the day. In the second Test, Ballance scored 74 in the first innings and Root batted 108 deliveries (more than anyone but Moeen Ali) in the second. Based on his recent form, can you really say with certainty that KP would have done better? The answer to that is "no". As for T20 averages, no they don't relate directly to Test cricket but if KP's performance has continued to deteriorate in T20 then what makes you think it would have been the opposite in Tests?

  • on August 25, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    One wonders how relevant this article would be if India played to their true potential. Whilst KP may be 34 he still has a lot to offer English cricket. Is it a coincidence that Eng finally won an Ashes after KPs debut?

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    @Starvybz on (August 25, 2014, 4:56 GMT), we'll be disappointed that they did so but we'll chalk it up to inexperience and look forward to better in the future. England cracked under pressure in Australia and that wasn't due to inexperience so what's your point? The only experienced regular that they let go was KP anyway and that for a very well-publicised reason. Trott, Swann and Prior have all gone but that was out of the ECB's control. Just like all young teams, there will be bad days but each one just brings the better days closer. There's tons of potential in the current batting lineup in particular so we'll just have to exercise some patience on occasions.

  • jmcilhinney on August 25, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    @SICHO on (August 25, 2014, 5:21 GMT), it's not a case of rubbishing KP. The author said quite a number of complimentary things about him. It's simply the case that his numbers don't warrant the blind faith that so many seem to place in him. I'm quite confident that, had there not been disciplinary issues, KP would have been retained by England. His numbers were good enough for that but the simple fact is that there were disciplinary issues. KP fans can say what they like but the truth is that they don't know the details of what happened so they really can't say that he didn't deserve what he got. Changes obviously needed to be made and KP gave the management a reason to drop him. As it turns out, England seem to have lost nothing by doing so. Many England fans are sorry to see KP go but accept that it was reasonable under the circumstances. Diminishing returns and a headache as well is good enough for me.