Pietersen faces up to DRS challenge
Kevin Pietersen has admitted he is facing the toughest challenge of his career as he adapts his game to cope with the Decision Review System.
Pietersen, 31, scored just 67 runs in six innings in the Test series and averaged only 11.16 as Pakistan defeated England 3-0. He fell lbw on three occasions. Each time the decision was sent to the third umpire for review and on two of those occasions Pietersen was given out when the ball-tracking technology showed the delivery would just have clipped the stumps. He has also made just three half-centuries in his last 36 ODI innings and, since the start of 2009, averages only 24.88 in 50-over cricket.
Pietersen feels that the introduction of the DRS has made life far harder for batsmen but insists that, despite the statistics, his confidence remains high and he feels in good form.
"In my career so far, this is the toughest I've ever found it," Pietersen said. "Because of the new DRS, there are definitely technical issues you have to look at in order to save yourself. Batters are not getting the benefit of the doubt any more.
"Umpires are giving a lot more lbws. It just has to be clipping and you're out. Two, three, four years ago you were never, ever out. I have had to change my game, but it's not just me. Left-arm spinners now are gold dust.
"It's been tough. But I'm not bothered, because it's not a case of me walking out to the middle and thinking 'where's my next run coming from?'
"Only a cricketer would understand this, but I actually feel in fantastic form. I might turn down a training session because I feel I'm playing fine. It's just when you're playing spin, and spin is bowled to you all day every single day, you just need to make one little mistake. You just need a little bit of luck to go your way, a dropped catch or an lbw decision that is referred. The wheel turns; in life, the wheel turns. I've been through this before. I'm not bothered at all."
Pietersen's insistence that he is out of fortune rather than form might surprise some onlookers. He has seemed to lack balance at the crease and paid the price for a failure to play straight. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is an element of denial in his suggestion that he has been a victim of circumstance.
Pietersen also justified his relatively cautious batting in the current ODI series. Pietersen was promoted to the opener's position in the understanding that he would help the side get off to a brisk start but, in two innings, he has faced 82 balls for his 40 runs. That is a strike-rate of 48.78. Pietersen reasons that, in such conditions, it is imperative that England keep wickets in hand and adopt a more measured approach.
"Whenever I've played for England in ODIs, we've always got off to a start like ten for two, 15 for one, 30 for three," Pietersen said. "In the subcontinent, against India, we kept getting bowled out.
"We were always a wicket down in the first three overs and I was always batting in the first 10 overs in that series. When you're two down in the first ten overs, all that happens in the middle when the spinners come on you is that you lose two wickets there, then you're four down, five down. You can easily go to six down or seven down.
"But if you start off with a solid platform, as I've tried to do over the last week or so, if you lose those two wickets in the middle overs, you've still got high-class batters and skilful players - whereas they're not as skilful down the bottom of the order."
Pietersen said he was relishing the challenge of opening the batting and expressed the hope that it was a permanent move.
"It's brilliant," he said. I'd like it to be permanent; Andy Flower wants it to be permanent; Alastair Cook wants it to be permanent. It's something that we're definitely looking to.
"You look at it and just think 'why can't I do it?' I've batted four in England; I've played in swinging conditions all around the world; I've been successful in Test match cricket against swinging balls. Why can't I do it in the one-day format at the top of the order? It's something that I'm looking forward to. It's a lovely little challenge; a nice one."
Before the World Cup there were suggestions in some quarters that Pietersen was thinking of retiring from ODI cricket. He reiterated that was not the case and stated that the ECB was happy to allow him to appear in the IPL. He did specify, however, that his motivation for playing in the IPL was not gaining experience ahead of the World T20 to be contested in Sri Lanka in September.
"I'm here playing for England," Pietersen said. "I love playing for England. England gives me the opportunities to sign with Delhi. Why would I give anything up? I'm totally committed to England. I'm not looking at the IPL as preparation for the World T20."
A fierce sand storm blew in Dubai throughout Friday, causing the Physical Disability game between Pakistan and England to be abandoned. While there are some concerns that a continuation of such weather could cause problems in Saturday's ODI, the enclosed nature of the stadium in Dubai Sports City should minimise any disruption. England reported no injury concerns, with Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler and Tim Bresnan all now fit and available for selection.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo