ICC Combined XI v England XI, Dubai, 3rd day January 9, 2012

Pietersen's jinx revived?

George Dobell
It was just Pietersen's luck that George Dockrell wasn't even meant to be bowling having only replaced the injured Hamid Hassan

England may have bigger concerns at present, but it will not have gone unnoticed that Kevin Pietersen has succumbed to a left-arm spinner once again. As Oscar Wilde so nearly said: to be dismissed once by left-arm spinners might be considered unfortunate, to be dismissed habitually by them suggests a more fundamental problem.

Or does it? Pietersen has actually been dismissed by left-arm bowlers 32 times in his 133 Test innings. Twenty of those dismissals have come against left-arm spinners. That means that he's been dismissed by right-arm bowlers on 90 occasions. Yet few suggest he has a problem against right-arm bowlers. So are Pietersen's perceived problems against left-arm spin more of a media-peddled myth than a genuine problem?

It would be easy to deride his latest dismissal. After all, the bowler was a 19-year-old who has played just a handful of games. And it was just Pietersen's luck that George Dockrell wasn't even meant to be bowling having only replaced the injured Hamid Hassan.

But while it would be easy, it wouldn't be entirely honest. Dockrell, the Ireland left-arm spinner, might be young, but he is already a fine bowler who will surely go on to enjoy a good career in the game. It would be wrong to deny him credit for the wicket.

There can be little doubt that Pietersen plays spin in general very well. He has a fine record against Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne, the best spinners of the era, and for all the talk of his supposed weakness, Pietersen made a double-century in Adelaide against an Australia side containing Xavier Doherty. He's also made Test centuries against attacks including Daniel Vettori, Paul Harris and a 99 against a Bangladesh side that included Shakib-al-Hasan. As if to muddy the waters, another left-arm spinner, Abdur Razzak denied Pietersen his century.

Pietersen would claim, with some justification, that he is a player for the big occasion. But while the Tests in the UAE are undeniably those such occasions they may well lack the atmosphere in which Pietersen seems to thrive. It is anticipated that attendances will be modest. Eoin Morgan, who has scored just three County Championship centuries but two Test hundreds, could make a similar claim.

Perhaps the answer is that this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more the media highlight the issue, the more Pietersen is determined to prove them wrong. And, as a consequence, the less relaxed he is when facing left-arm spin.

Either way, Pietersen will have another opportunity to prove himself shortly. The PCB XI, England's opposition for the final warm-up game before the Test series, contains a decent young left-arm spinner in Raza Hasan. Abdur Rehman awaits in the Test series.

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