Kevin Pietersen’s Moment of Madness

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kevin_pietersenWhat on Earth was he thinking? Yes, he’ll almost certainly end up as top scorer but here was an opportunity to score a hundred (bar a blatant LBW that wasn’t given), to dominate Australia and make a huge psychological blow early on. He could have batted on through the day and put England in a commanding position. Hauritz didn’t bowl too badly today but neither did he bowl terribly well.

One thing about Pietersen is that his self-belief is rock solid. He will know that Hauritz read him well, saw he was sweeping alot and tossed the ball a few inches wider goading Pietersen into either hitting the shot or pulling out. KP tried a paddle-sweep without moving his feet at all and, well, that was the end of that. His belief will not be rocked. He’ll walk out for his next innings as confident of scoring a ton as ever. In some ways, his over-confidence is his downfall. In other ways, his self-belief is a an almost Australian approach. Rather than mull over the shot, the footwork, the mindgames and so on, he just gets on with his next innings.

Look at his record:

· In his first ODI series, he returned to his home country (a country that had shunned him and, in his eyes, shunned him not because of his talent but because of his colour). In each stadium, the boos of the Saffers rang louder than the beery cheering and bugling of the Barmy Army. In that series he knocked three hundreds in five innings.
· There is a famous story that Jason Gallian, his county captain, threw his bag over the balcony at Notts after a massive fallout. Many cricketers would have walked out. A young Pietersen decided to stay and battle on.
· He is one of the few cricketers in world cricket to have a better average against Australia than his career average.
· When he decided to publicly show his switch-hit he did not wait to do it against a no-mark bowler. He did it against Murali…. and hit him for six.
· When he was made captain of England after Vaughan’s tearful resignation, he smashed 100 runs against the aforementioned Saffers.
· And, of course, 5 months into the job he started issuing ultimatums about how English cricket should be run.

Ed Smith has said before that Pietersen is not just a batting genius but a genius of self-belief. He backs himself and his abilities so totally and utterly he doesn’t even begin to question when things go wrong. Pietersen doesn’t think ‘what if I get out for a duck against the South Africans in my first test as captain?’. Why would such a thing cross his mind? He doesn’t think what if I mess up my switch-hit against Murali or my paddle-sweep against Hauritz because he doesn’t think it is even possible for him to mess up the shots. If only other English batsmen had both his ability and his faith in his ability.

So, with Pietersen, his unshakeable self-belief is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because he can do incredible things like those listed above. Things beyond the wit of many players. It is a curse because sometimes he does not evaluate the team position properly or will take a risk that is. He doesn’t worry about the consequences and it is this lack of worry that makes him so compelling to watch and what aids him on his way to the many feats he has already achieved. So, yes, today he was extremely frustrating.

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