Time to stop ‘nonsense’ talk about England axing talismanic Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen
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WE need to talk about Kevin.

Specifically, whether Kevin Pietersen should be dropped by England.

That is what some people seem to believe.

They say England’s star batsman deserves to be axed.

On recent form, the critics have a case.

Pietersen’s scores in the Ashes have been mostly disappointing: 18 and 26 at Brisbane, 4 and 53 at Adelaide, 19 and 45 at Perth.

Those are not the numbers we have come to expect.

He is averaging just 27.50 in this series.

More disappointing, however, has been the manner of dismissals.

Pietersen has been caught on the leg-side five times in six innings.

He has made a present of his wicket with careless shots.

When Pietersen hit off-spinner Nathan Lyon to long-on in the second innings at Perth, the Ashes as good as went with him back to the pavilion.

It was one of those head-in-hands moments that leave you shouting at the television in frustration – or nodding in agreement with Geoffrey “I’ve seen more brains in a chocolate mousse” Boycott on the radio.

And it brought Pietersen’s place in the side back into focus.

So, has the time come to KO KP?

Should he be dropped for the fourth Test in Melbourne, or would that simply exacerbate England’s problems?

Personally, I find it incredible that anyone would advocate dropping Pietersen.

Granted, he plays shots that leave you tearing your hair out at times, shots that might leave even a chocolate mousse cringing with embarrassment.

But he also plays shots that lift the soul and set the heart racing, shots that precious few batsmen could play.

Frankly, I would rather have six Kevin Pietersens in my top-six than none, and despite his struggles Down Under, I would not mind betting that six Kevin Pietersens would still represent a nightmare vision for any Australian bowler – even Mitchell Johnson.

That is not to excuse those “chocolate mousse” shots that let the man down.

It is right to question why Pietersen is trying to hit a ball over a fielder stationed at long-on when England are trying to save a game, or why he is trying to loft over two mid-wickets placed specifically for the trap.

But the critics are strangely silent whenever the approach works, as it has done more than a few times during his career, and with people like Pietersen you have to take the rough with the smooth.

At 33, he is too long in the tooth to change his ways now.

But he is not too old to make an impact, and he remains – despite recent struggles – one of the few England players with the ability to win a match on his own.

Pietersen, of course, can be a bit of an idiot, and you suspect that informs a good many of the calls for him now to be jettisoned.

He has never been loved by the English public – and he never will.

They will never relate to the swagger and strut, and nor should they, but you cannot argue with his talent and track record.

Pietersen has made enemies on-and-off the field and could probably give Australia batsman David Warner a lesson in courting controversy.

Throughout his career, Pietersen has fallen foul of coaches and team-mates alike.

He has made a catalogue of mistakes – and he will no doubt make more.

But despite any reservations people may have about his personality, or the fact that his batting technique is not as classical as, say, Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting, he should be one of the first names on the England team-sheet – not wiped off it.

Why would a fair-to-middling Test side want to drop a player with 8,000 runs at just under 50, even one who sometimes screws up?

Pietersen, I would suggest, is an easy target, someone a little bit different to the norm.

But he deserves our respect, not ridicule, as one of the greatest players in England’s history, and no one has scored more runs for England in all forms of the game.

Just as we are quick to pull him up for holing out at Perth, so we are slow to remember that he won the 2005 Ashes at the Oval with one of the most pulsating innings you could possibly see – one in which he might have been dismissed on any number of occasions but one which sparked precious few calls that he was not a team player.

And how many could have hit South Africa’s Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel for 149 at Headingley last year, or made the 186 he fashioned against India in Mumbai last winter, which made a mockery of suggestions that he is over the hill.

So, yes, we do need to talk about Kevin. We need to stop all this nonsense about dropping him and enjoy what remains of his glittering career.

It is a career that would doubtless have been more prolific had he possessed Boycott’s patience and single-minded determination not to get out, or Tendulkar’s all-round skill and remarkable statesmanship.

But Pietersen is a one-off, a man with his own unique style, and as someone once said of Percy Holmes, the great Yorkshire batsman of the inter-war period, “if he’d had Herbert (Sutcliffe’s) patience, he wouldn’t have been the same Percy”.