Sunday, July 24, 2011

KP shines at home of cricket

The man whose swagger and attacking batsmanship made the best of bowlers feel like they should wear a helmet while bowling to him was in a spot of bother going into the Lord's test against India. Yes, he had scored a double hundred at Adelaide in the Ashes and played very well in the T/20 WC in 2010, but other than that England's most flamboyant batsman of his era had struggled for consistency. There were question marks raised over whether his unorthodox technique has been found out by opposition bowlers, but like a true champion, KP  made his critics eat humble pie by playing perhaps his most mature knock and for the umpteenth time in his test career took England to a strong position at Lord's.

As a microcosm of life, a sportsman's career will also have periods when they seem to be out of sorts, but true champions are the ones, who would be able to wade through all those swamps and marshes that come their way and attain the ultimate goal of having a successful career. During the last couple of years, KP had to  wade through lots of marshes and swamps including serious injuries like the Achilles injury he suffered in 09, or the hernia problem during the 2011 WC, but you can't keep a gifted player down for too long and as expected, he made a big hundred at Lord's.

Pietersen's double hundred at Lord's was different from most of his other knocks. In tough conditions, the genius, who could play jaw dropping shots like pulling a 90mph bowler on the front-foot, the flamingo shot against the spinner, or that incredulous switch hit was playing like a mere mortal, who was just looking to survive with two meals for the entire day. KP though, showed to his critics that he could buckle down, when the conditions were tough and once the sun came out, he took the opposition bowlers to the cleaners by playing his natural aggressive game.

On the first day, KP  respected the conditions by playing straight and waited for the Indian bowlers to bowl on his pads. Once he crossed 150 though, KP unleashed some breathtaking shots especially, the shot when  KP came down the wicket and flicked Sharma like a spinner for a boundary was breathtaking to watch. At Lord's, he also played a clever knock, as he moved way outside the off-stump and took the LBW out of the equation. In-fact, I just thought that Indian bowlers tried to attack his leg-stump too much, as they believed that by going way outside the off-stump, KP was leaving his leg-stump open and they can get him out bowled by targeting his leg-stump. The simple fact is, for batsmen like Azhar, Junior, VVS, Trott, KP and company, a flick shot through the on-side is like a cover-drive and even if they leave the leg-stump open to be targeted by the bowlers, they rarely ever get out. 

As expected, the critics are lapping up his double hundred at Lord's by saying that it has been a very mature knock and praising him to the skies. I am sure though, the same critics would be waiting for KP to fail in a few innings, so that they can again start cribbing about his lack of technique, whether he works hard on his game and him being a team-man or not.

Actually, it is laughable that people talk about him as being not a team-man. If he wasn't a team-man, why would he have got a hundred, when the score was 1 for 2 at Mohali, or again at Napier with England losing early wickets. The same can be said about his knocks at Oval in the Ashes 05, at Trent Bridge against the Kiwis in 08, against South Africa at Oval in 08, his hundreds against India at Lord's and Oval in 07, the battling hundred against a fiery Akthar in 05/06 at Faislabad, his breathtaking knock against Murali and co. on a sluggish wicket at Edgbaston in 06, the superlative knock at Brisbane against McGrath and Warne in the 06/07 Ashes and many more. All those knocks helped England to  get out of a crisis and get the team into a position of strength. I just don't care about what he does in his private life, but on a cricket field, he has played numerous good knocks when the team was in dire straits.

The next question mark of course is, whether he has a technique to play in test cricket. First and foremost, a player without a good technique, won't score over 6000 runs at an average of just around 50. Secondly, for someone who has admired his game for the last 8-9 years, there is no doubt in my mind that he has improved his game. When KP first came onto the scene, he tended to play lots of shots in the air, but nowadays, he looks to play a lot more ground-shots. He has also worked hard on playing shots with a straight bat. Last year, when he was trying to play straight, he was getting out caught and bowled, but this year, he has shown better control when it comes to playing shots straight down the ground and as a result, he isn't hitting it in the air and getting out. Yes, he still plays across the line a lot, but one can't curb the natural instincts of a player, who has been successful by playing across the line. 

I just don't care whether KP would become a great or not. For me when KP plays, he is a joy to watch and with his double hundred at Lord's, he has also shown that he isn't a one trick pony, who can just smash the bowlers. In-fact, long after he retires and reminisces about his test career by sitting on a armchair, he would likely look back at his knock at Lord's with great fondness as he had to work hard for it and strain his every sinew. I don't think there is anything better than tasting success after working very hard for it.

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