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    April 17, 2006

    The wrong award choice - part II

    Late last year, I wrote about how Jacques Kallis' amazingly relevant batting display should have earned him the man of the series award against India in the one-day series.

    This time, I train my guns on Kevin Pietersen, one of Wisden's cricketers of the year and the ICC's one-day player award winner for 2005.

    In the recently concluded one-day series against India, Pietersen scored 291 runs from 5 games at an average of 58 and a strike rate of 93. Superb stats those, perhaps hinting that he was clearly the best batsman on view. The problem is that he didn't do what was expected of him - score centuries (or at least one!) as the side's world's best one-day batsman. His scores were 46(49), 71(87), 77(82), 33(40) and 64(56). Not a single knock which had the potential to impact the way the game/series turned out. Even England's lone win was primarily because of a good bowling performance and a blitz start from Strauss & Bell. In fact, barring the last game, everytime Pietersen got out, England either collapsed or suffered a real scare (at Jamshedpur).

    So effectively, he just didn't do what his job was, especially considering England were missing Marcus Trescothick. For that reason alone, I'd have given Kevin Pietersen the Man of the Series award. His inability to make the big score was a huge factor in India whipping England 5-1.

    But that isn't all to this post. After the first day of the Mohali test, he proudly proclaimed that mauling spinners was his idea of fun.

    Looking at the ball-by-ball commentary and the player-v-player stats for the one-day series, he scored 161 runs in 187 balls when spinners were bowling to him and 130 runs off 127 balls against the fast-medium/medium-fast bowlers. In addition, in the five innings he played (he didn't play at Goa and Guwahati was a non-starter), he got out to Yuvraj Singh thrice and Harbhajan Singh twice.

    After his slog-sweep triggered a shocking England collapse at the Kotla, Pietersen continued to proclaim that the slog-sweep was his favourite and most effective shot against spin.

    This series, he has got out thrice playing the slog-sweep. It is almost becoming laughably predictable now that he will get out that way. In fact I did a bit of digging up on his past record against spin. From the various ball-by-ball commentary, and some of the instances where I watched the dismissal live), the likes of Clarke, Boje, Warne and (gasp!) Matsikenyeri had already dismissed him to slog-sweeps before he came to India.

    During the NatWest triangular last summer in England, I wrote:
    I was checking on Kevin Pietersen's stats, given that he is fast approaching an iconic status as far as this blog is concerned. I found that in his brief one-day career so far, on the six occasions that he has been dismissed, four have been to spin. Add in the fact that Michael Clarke picked him up twice early on in the tour and there is obviously something for opposing captains to think about. From what I've seen, he does tend to go hard at the ball, preferably over the infield. So when you have someone bowling slow spinners, he could tend to either overbalance or lose control of his shot.
    Kevin, you can keep hitting your favourite slog sweep. But if you hit two sixes in an over and get out in the next, there's no prize for guessing who won the battle and who won the war, although I hate using military metaphors in a cricketing context!

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 2:58 PM |
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    11 sledge(s):

    In fairness to Pietersen (in the context of this series), his better record against the seamers is helped by the following:
    - India's spinners are better than their seamers.
    = Indian tracks, by and large, favour spin bowling.

    Besides, the batting shouldn't rest on one man. I'm not saying Pietersen hasn't played some irresponsible shots, but in a team with some decent batting support he would appear to be a much better player than he does at the moment.

    Incidentally, in flicking through the county previews for this season, I've noticed the alarming case of Heath Streak. His batting averages in all forms of the game (Test, ODI, first-class, list A, Twenty20) fall within a six-point range. His bowling figures in all forms of the game are separated by less than nine and a half points. If you exclude his Twenty20 bowling, his averages in batting and bowling, for all forms of the game, are between 22.35 and 29.82.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I find this absolutely incredible. He's also batted (before this warm-up against Cambridge UCCE) in the same number of innings in both first-class and list A matches, 225 in each. Perhaps an award for Exceptional Statistical Consistency is in order.

    By Anonymous Geoff (17-Apr-2006, 6:18:00 PM)  

    geoff: In addition, India's spinners are superior to most of the spinners [with the obvious exception of Warne] Pietersen has savaged thus far. My aim was to point out that despite his bravado, he gets out far too often to spinners. When I looked through [almost] his entire test & one-day scorecards & ball-by-ball comms [on Cricinfo] in some moments of extreme idleness, I found that he got out far too often to the slog sweep, which he seems to have a fetish for playing. Like I pointed out, even if the shot gets him two sixes in an over, if he gets out in the next, he isn't quite the winner. There was this Cape Town one-dayer when he smote Nicky Boje for 4, 6 and 6 - the two sixes being slog sweeps ... and got out the next ball at deep midwicket off a top edge (Commentary). You may reckon that the batting shouldn't rest on one man - when Trescothick is back, it will rest on two. But as the side's best batsman, he wasted the lovely situations he got himself into. Imagine if he'd actually carried on to make a century in one or two of the games, the final series scoreline may have been different and England's players, commentators and writers would not be writing about how one-day cricket isn't worth the trouble etc. etc.

    Nice stats on Streak those!

    By Blogger Jagadish (18-Apr-2006, 1:10:00 PM)  

    You're absolutely right that he could do better, and that he could have made more centuries. But ... among the higghest-averaging ODI batsmen (according to Cricinfo) he already has the highest ratio of centuries per innings, and the sixth-highest conversion rate of fundreds to fifties. All of wich makes me wonder why he isn't opening in Trescothick's absence.

    By Anonymous Geoff (18-Apr-2006, 1:35:00 PM)  

    jagadish: I agree with your criticism of KP...but lets still remember, he's one of the best ODI batsmen in the world today...against pace and spin alike. So his criticism, like that of Sachin in the past, would only be about what 'more' can he do...going by the talent he has...rather than an absolute criticism of his worth to the side. After all, he does make 60 odd runs per innings before getting out (to pace or spin) ;-)

    By Blogger worma (18-Apr-2006, 2:53:00 PM)  

    geoff: England really have their one-day batting order messed up. I don't think Strauss should open. There're not many teams currently who have a nudger/nurdler as an opener - Dravid is [to my mind, hopefully] just standing in while Tendulkar is unfit. It may not be a bad idea to make Pietersen open a few times in this season's one-dayers.

    worma: Part of my criticism is the fact that while he does have spinners for supper, he keeps getting out to them and has a pig-headed attitude towards playing the slog sweep, which gets him out much more often than any other shot. He got out at the wrong time (if ever there was a right time for getting out, unless of course we're talking Shastri in the 1992 WC v Australia!) in just about every game. My point is that as the side's best batsman, he should have got 100s, not 60s. If he'd converted even 1 or 2 of those 60s, the series result may have been remarkably different.

    By Blogger Jagadish (18-Apr-2006, 6:16:00 PM)  

    And I am saying that yes I agree with you...but still he's a damn good player..and the criticism is only because he can do more...not an independent critique of his abilities/results so far.

    By Blogger worma (18-Apr-2006, 7:24:00 PM)  

    worma: Two fold actually - a) He ought to have done more, b) He ought to shut his mouth, especially when it comes to his claims against playing spin. Having Warne as a mentor is doing all this to him :)

    By Blogger Jagadish (18-Apr-2006, 7:54:00 PM)  

    Ahh about that...well I don't let the speaking (dis)abilities of players come in the way of judging their class. Warne, as you said, is the best example. But then there's Smith too, Langer is not far behind..Glchrist has had his share of feet(in mouth), Fleming's afflictions are topics of dedicated posts ;-) and so on..

    By Blogger worma (19-Apr-2006, 2:07:00 PM)  

    worma: Warne talks the talk and walks the walk. Pietersen and spin don't belong to that category. Smith, Collingwood and Langer are clowns :)

    By Blogger Jagadish (19-Apr-2006, 4:46:00 PM)  

    He did score a 150 against Warne, though :-) But in general, I agree. His self-confessed 'love' for spin hasn't translated into enough vindicating results. A big century on the Pak or Indian tour would have gone some distance..

    By Blogger worma (20-Apr-2006, 4:44:00 PM)  

    worma: That isn't entirely true. Most of his wrath was reserved for Lee, not Warne, in that 158!

    By Blogger Jagadish (20-Apr-2006, 5:20:00 PM)  


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