In the new millenium, Cricket has become a heavily batsman centric game. The average scores in both the ODI and Test formats has been rising steadily and with the advent of T-20, that has surged even further. In such scenario, the value of a run gets totally devalued. One can therefore envision Batting as an art that has been held for ransom by Cricket Boards – that want to make as much money as possible, pitch curators who might be under pressure from above mentioned Boards and spectators who want runs and more runs to entertain them to the maximum [DLF maximum?]. The Cricket Galaxy wanted an action hero who could rescue the art of Batting from such evil forces [just trying to be consistent with the Bond Theme, no offence to anyone. In any case if you take offence, you most probably have earned it!]. Step forward Pietersen….. Kevin Pietersen.
The Ashes test that started yesterday marks the 100th test for this insanely talented cricketer who brings a lot of chutzpah and panache to this game that we all adore. He has captured the imagination of the Cricket Galaxy from the very 1st series he played in front of an International audience – for mostly very good reasons and a few not-so-good reasons. Since then Mr. Pietersen has continued to charm and woo the Cricket Galaxy much like Mr. Bond casting his spell on all those wonderful Bond Girls. He has cast this spell on the cricket fans by making runs by the proverbial buckets, often, at a scorching strike rate. He scored these runs at home and abroad. In swinging conditions as well as hard bouncy pitches, oh and also on low bouncing and spinning pitches. This still doesn’t explain the enigma that is Kevin Pietersen – who is easily the biggest weapon that the English Cricket Board possesses. To understand how Cricket Galaxy’s very own James Bond goes about wooing his fans, one has to see HOW he plays cricket.
How does this super talented Mr. Pietersen play cricket. He plays it hard and he plays it tough. He always plays it with the aggression of a caged tiger. His 149 against South Africa last year is a case in point. Pietersen absolutely tore into the South African attack comprising Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. An attack that has terrorized batting line-ups before that knock and an attack that has continued to manhandle batsmen even after that breath-taking knock from Pietersen. On that day however, Pietersen had the “Eye of The Tiger” something he always seems to have when he takes on the country he hails from. He took the bowlers to the cleaners. It was as violent as a tiger’s hunt of its prey and every bit as lethal. As he always is, KP was ruthless on the shortball. As all great batsmen are, he was merciless when the ball was pitched up. These are the good balls I am talking about. The best bowling line-up in the world doesn’t serve up many bad balls.
As this supremely gifted athlete and batsman reaches a milestone that is the abode of only the greatest of Batsmen, let us also talk about another masterclass from this genius. Mumbai, this time and India and its spinners led by Ravichandran Ashwin were the victims. This is an innings that has to rank with the very best innings that we have witnessed. Pietersen tuned the Indian bowling attack in their own den, to 186 delicious runs. To put it in perspective, the Indian batting unit that batted after KP’s epic knock mustered 142 runs. The line-up had Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Cheteshwar Pujara and MS Dhoni. Enough said.
Pietersen….. Kevin Pietersen has enthralled and entertained the audience in the Cricket Galaxy for 100 test matches. He has entertained them in stadiums all over the world, from England to South Africa and from West Indies to Australia. Through his charismatic attitude, he has also captured their attention, unnecessary some might say, off the cricket pitch, too. He is Cricket’s very own James Bond – who keeps rescuing the art of Batting from getting monotonous and redundant in this era of super-heavy run scoring. For that, we should all wish that this genius continues his career to reach the new benchmark in tests – 200 test matches. We will be cheering you all the way Pietersen…. Kevin Pietersen.