Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Talking about Kevin Pietersen

Discussing about Kevin Pietersen is one difficult task. Even a debate on a cricket forum can turn into something that resembles a fight taking place in a pub. People have been accused of being prejudicial hypocrites, even if someone makes a valid point, it is known as ridiculous, nonsense, stupid or, as one poster in a forum told me, I worship this villain no.1 er Pietersen as a deity!

On a cricket field, KP is a joy to watch. At Headingley last month, it was five hours and twenty minutes of pure magic. For a cricket fan, it felt like a heavyweight boxing contest as the fastest of bowlers, Morkel and Steyn were gunning for the head of mercurial KP. Pietersen though swatted them like flies. He whipped, pulled, drove and made batting against Mokrel and Steyn look like a walk in the park.

Trouble though was brewing underneath. In  a press conference after the match, he was rather stupid to talk about differences in the dressing room in the open, but that press conference was just a tip of the iceberg. Soon the news came out that he had back stabbed his captain Strauss by reportedly sending some texts to Saffer players in which he made derogatory remarks about his captain. Since then, wild rumours have floated around about the contents of the texts, experts saying how disruptive, narcissistic and egotistic KP is. Now, I am not interested in dwelling on all those wild rumours. For me, it is all about  do England need KP at this point of time? If yes, can he get back into a fractious dressing room in which some players resent him?

Team unity

For the last one month, I have heard this term more than I have done in my entire life. In-fact, I must have heard this term team unity about trillion times.

If I ask those who argue that KP should never comeback into the set-up,  they will be ready to even wake me up from my deep sleep and tell that no player is bigger than the team. The critics will even say, the dressing room should be a happy place and KP's antics just won't be acceptable.

From the little bit of experience I have as a cricketer albeit, at the lower levels, I would tell you cricket is a one on one game. As a batsman, my focus would always be on facing the next ball. If I start to think about whether someone back in the dressing room is hating me then, I can assure you, the bowler will knock over my middle-stump and force it to do break dance in mid air every-time. It is the same for a bowler too. If a bowler instead of concentrating on hitting the top of off-stump every ball, starts to worry why the fielder fielding at say third-man hates him and as a result, may drop the catch, will never be able to bowl in his life.

Of course, after KP sent those texts to Saffer players, the trust especially, between the then captain Strauss and KP would have broken down.  I for one though, feel team unity at least in cricket is one over-hyped term.In-fact, it has been used so many times in the last month that it has become a cliche now.

Here, we can think of two legends of Pakistan's cricket Younis and Akram. In the 90's, Akram and Younis weren't on talking terms. It got so worse that it seemed  like we were about to witness world war 3 in the Pakistan dressing room. Younis even said, if Akram remains the captain, he won't play. Last I heard, both took about million wickets.

Nowadays, cricket fans look back at Pakistan's tour of England in '92 for how wonderfully the W's combined as a bowling pair which in turn helped Pakistan to beat England. I haven't heard too many talk about the war between Akram and Younis in the dressing room during that series.

If players like Wasim and Waqar who both hated each other could co-exist in a dressing room, why can't KP and other senior players do the same? Even Freddie a few days back said, he played in a few fractious dressing rooms, but in the end, the players were able to co-exist. Is KP impossible to handle? Last I saw, he wasn't convicted for a murder in a court of law :)

Rebuilding Phase

I have heard from the experts that as cricket is never about one man, we should forget KP and look to rebuild.The problem is, rebuilding is never about picking 3, or 4 rookies  for a tough tour to India and hoping in the dark that a few will succeed. It is a gradual process and as Strauss has already retired, it doesn't make any sense to drop a player who has played 88 tests.

If ECB continues to ignore a player with the experience of 88 tests, it will  look more like someone lifting a big stone, smashing his own feet and  being on a hospital bed for 6 months with a compound fracture. With a tough tour to India coming up and back to Ashes looming on the horizon, England need experience in the batting unit.

To be honest, I am no more interested in whether ECB was at wrong with those leaks? Should Swann have been punished for his criticism of Samit? Why was KP fined for his comments over a commentator? Could have Flower done something about that parody twitter account before it became ugly? I though, want England to win games and for that to happen, the best team on park is necessary.

So, am I in some dreamland, or can it happen with the egotistic KP coming back into the set up? If all parties involving ECB, KP, the senior players who resent him being in the line-up, Strauss, the current captain Cook have a face to discussion and look to move forward, it can happen. Yes, the initiative should come from KP as he should come clean on the contents of the texts, apologize for his behaviour and commit to play for England.

Experts may say even if he apologizes, Swann, Anderson, Broad and co. won't agree to have him back. My argument is, it is about playing for a common goal which is to win cricket matches on a cricket field and not about whether Swann hates KP or, KP hates Broad in the dressing room. If all of them behave like adults it can happen otherwise, it will be a huge loss for English cricket. Players who can open up games like KP does and averages 50 with the bat aren't found on trees.

It also has to be remembered  that even KP needs test cricket. He may play 1,000 games in the IPL and the BBL, but after a few days, no one will remember those games. A player is measured by how he does in test cricket. KP has already made about 7,000 runs in tests, but still has some unfinished business as you expect a player of his calibre to get 10,000 runs.

Last couple of years have been annus mirabilis for English cricket, as for the first time, an ICC trophy was won, Ashes was defended and that too by beating Australia in their own backyard. Of course, England became the number one ranked team in tests too.

The problem is, instead of building on the success already achieved,  this year we have seen the cricket team go on a downhill path.One of the main reasons for that is England have played in alien conditions like in UAE and the Emerald Isles. It can also be said, the team has destroyed itself from within and that is bad news. So, after all that we can now talk about rebuilding for the Ashes with the team unity tag. Ah, I don't know what to say.

Yes, it isn't all doom and gloom, as there are promising youngsters coming through the ranks, but  I still feel it  is foolish to throw all those rookies into the deep end and hope that someone will succeed. England need the experience of KP er the villain as per some experts. Am I hopeful of KP coming back into the side? I very much doubt so and that is a tragedy for English cricket.

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