World T20 2014 March 25, 2014

Kieswetter back with sense of purpose


Before England had a dashing young wicketkeeper-batsman from Somerset, they had a dashing young wicketkeeper-batsman via Somerset. Craig Kieswetter's three years in the England set-up were, in his own words, "tumultuous" and there almost seems an illusory quality to the memory of his Man of the Match performance in the final of the 2010 World T20.

Yet, more than 12 months since he was displaced by his former team-mate Jos Buttler in England's limited-overs sides, Kieswetter has rejoined the squad in Bangladesh with a clearer sense of purpose. A replacement for the injured Luke Wright, Kieswetter could again make a late bid to force his way into the World T20 XI on the back of a game that has moved on from the days of his early big hits.

It may not quite have been a case of too much too young but the beginning to Kieswetter's international career was still pretty special. Then came the period of artistic struggle, dropped from the one-day side before the 2011 World Cup, shuffled down the order after his return and finally usurped by Buttler for good in India at the start of 2013 - Ashley Giles' first tour in charge. His T20 career stalled at the previous tournament in Sri Lanka, when he was reduced to blocking or swinging wildly, his last innings a miserable 4 off 14 balls.

Michael Lumb, his mucker at the top of the order in the Caribbean (they both made their debuts in the same game), subsequently returned to the side and has since formed one of the most successful opening partnerships in the short history of the shortest format with Alex Hales.

It was in Bangladesh, when Kieswetter was just 22, that he made his England debut and Chittagong where he scored his only international century to date. "We had the Lions tour in Dubai and I did pretty well and then the Lions played England and Lumby and I did okay and I got selected," Kieswetter said. "In my third ODI I got a hundred and then we won the World Cup and I got man of the match in the final so my career started on such a high, an unexpected high for any player I think."

Then came the first low. "I remember we played five ODIs against Australia and three against Bangladesh back in the UK and I think I scored 121 runs in eight innings, so to go from one extreme to the complete opposite - mentally it is really tough. Your game does not change technically, you can still hit the ball as well, but mentally being able to deal with the positives and negatives - especially in the media and from the public - it leaves self-doubt rather than anything else and as a young player you have self-doubt anyway as a player and a person, so it was a real challenge. In hindsight I don't think I was quite ready for the mental challenge of being with the pros and cons really."

In order to better cope with the rigours of success and failure that all sportsmen must endure, Kieswetter has been working with Jon Pitts, a mental coach with a background in equestrianism and football. The focus was on achieving greater consistency but he has also attempted to improve areas of his technique, such as manipulating the field and rotating the strike.

Such upgrades to his cruder power game have apparently reawakened England's interest, if a little belatedly. Last year, Kieswetter finished as the leading run-scorer in the Friends Life t20, including 19 sixes (behind only Ben Stokes), and he performed creditably for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League over the winter. That success has come as an opener, though he said he would be "happy to bowl first change" if it meant an England return.

"It has been a pretty tumultuous England career for me so far, in and out and in and out and back," he said. "My personal feeling is that I believe I have always been good enough and had the talent to play on the technical side of it. But I think being thrust in so young and having the success that we did at a team level and individually. For me it was a real struggle to come to terms with that and to mentally deal with the processes of that success. The past 12 months have been a really interesting experience. I have had to go away completely and look at where I can develop myself and my game.

"I don't think it can ever be too much too soon but I was more adept at handling it technically than I was mentally. I think as a younger player your mental side of the game develops a touch later. For the past 12 months I've really gone away and backed off a little bit technically and physically from the game and worked on trying to become a bit more consistent emotionally and mentally with regards to my approach and my processes, dealing with highs and lows."

England, through James Whitaker, stayed in touch with Kieswetter last season and, after Ian Bell and Chris Woakes came into the World T20 squad for crocked regulars, a third opportunity arose. His view on arrival - one that England have been espousing with some zeal for a few weeks - was that the team "are actually looking in pretty good nick" but he may be able to bring something fresh to the group.

One reason for England's apparent struggles in T20 of late might have been due to the focus on Test cricket during the period they went to No. 1, a year after winning the World T20. Kieswetter carries no such baggage, though he retains aspirations in all three formats. Could an easier, breezier Kieswetter help England to some clarity of their own? "Things can change pretty quickly but I wouldn't necessarily count us out of the race yet."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 27, 2014, 13:03 GMT

    Kieswetter makes an excellent point- the reason young players struggle after initial success is that they are able to cope mentally. It doesn't happen with everyone, but a lot of young players go through this. Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson for England all had their problems and Swann was out for over 7 years before getting a second chance. Kies has shown he has the ability and it will be interesting to see whether he can now apply himself better than in the past.

    However, he's not a like-for-like replacement for Wright and it seems England's muddled thinking over what the squad should look like continues.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    why did england send for in form kieswetter and not pick him . typical england selector mistake.also at somerset we have one of the most consistent one day players in peter trego. yet he never gets a mention.

  • John on March 27, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    @LocoWap - Every time Eng win it's a lucky day out and every time Aus win it's a dominant performance?

    Both teams lost one game in the tournament - England vs WI with one ball remaining after 6 overs of a WI inns after Eng posted 190+ and Australia lost by 6 wkts with 4 overs remaining in the final. Maybe you could also get your selective memory checked re Aus thrashing all teams. In the semi final they were 17 runs adrift with 7 wickets down going into the final over. Credit to them/Hussey for turning it around but not even the most delusional one eyed fan could construde that as a thrashing - maybe you'll prove me wrong

  • vimal on March 27, 2014, 5:00 GMT

    Monty paneser should have been picked in the T20 squad England side.he will be trump card in Bangladesh spinning track...

  • Vinoth on March 27, 2014, 3:11 GMT

    Kies or Lumb should take the team on their hand. Poor starting always affect England that is not only in T20 but also in ODIs as well. Hope for the best in this game. SL is the strongest and the hardest team to win. Good luck Barmy Armies and the Lions.

  • sam on March 27, 2014, 0:41 GMT

    JG2704- re. his man of match in the wt20 final v Aus,think he-and Eng-had lucky day out.Even you'll admit Eng were no where close to dominant Aussies who were unbeaten till then having thrashed all teams to the final.Just that Aus had 1 bad day-in final.

  • Fawlty on March 26, 2014, 21:07 GMT

    I don't know why lot of people had written England off for this game already. Chittagong pitch is made for seamers by an English groundsman. My view is this game favors England more than Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan batsmen struggled against the opening quick from Netherlands. I expect a close match with England getting a win.

  • Jon on March 26, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    IMO the form of Kieswetter in domestic cricket is irrelevant. As far as I am concerned if you can't play spin you shouldn't be anywhere near a side in these conditions. 9 out of the 10 ten T20 bowlers are spinners and having watched Kieswetter in the past he really struggles against decent spinners. It would seem a brain fade to pick him in these conditions and watch him struggle. If we were in Aus/SA I would have no issues but please not here.

  • John on March 26, 2014, 17:22 GMT

    @Juiceoftheapple - You may have more insight but my opinion is that Kies was preferred at Somerset because of one or a combination of the below reasons

    1 - He always has been the 1st choice wicket keeper so they felt loyalty bound towards him and saw that he did nothing wrong for which to be displaced

    2 - Maybe Somerset's decision was also based on their hunch that Jos was England future (and not as distant as we may think) and felt Craig would be available more often - better to have a solid player available most of the time than a maybe better player available half the time?

    3 - Maybe Somerset saw something in Jos or even just had a hunch that if they bowed to his WK demands theat may just be the start of it. I know what happens when football agents become involved with players - could start to happen with cricketers?

    Personally/selfishly I hope Craig isn't called up. Our squad is weak enough as it is and by calling him up Eng will have stuffed us twice in a year

  • Bob on March 26, 2014, 17:07 GMT

    I really do wonder what the England selectors are thinking of sometimes.....Re Kieswetter what is the sense in dragging him half-way round the world if he's not likely to get selected... But there again.. they've dragged Bell three-quarters the way round the world and he doesn't look as he'll get a game either. I thought that if they were looking to strengthen the batting... then maybe Carberry ought have been in the frame.. But I guess once the chance of making the semis disappears (maybe after tomorrow ?) ... then it really won't matter who gets a game ..

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