Kevin Pietersen future’s is in his own hands
England's tour of India is the perfect opportunity to rediscover his form, writes Matthew Wiggins
As England set off for their one-day tour of India on Monday, their biggest star was under the most scrutiny at the pre-flight news conference.
Kevin Pietersen, recalled to the squad having been rested for the home series against India, has not found his ODI menace in some time and has been in and out of the team for a number of reasons.
However, Alastair Cook still threw his weight behind Pietersen’s inclusion before flying out of Heathrow and branded his return as “fantastic.”
England’s skipper even went as far as to predict a big one-day international future for the Surrey batsmen and envisages Pietersen as a “huge part of this one-day side and for the 2015 World Cup”.
Predicting a batsman, who will be 34 by the time England touch down for their World Cup campaign, will still be playing ODI’s for England in four years time is risky.
But the public vote of confidence for a player who hasn’t scored a one-day ton since 2008 makes sense. Especially as England’s young squad will need Pietersen’s experience, not to mention impressive record, in India on types of pitches they are unlikely to have seen much of.
But by looking at a tournament so far down the line, Cook has put all of his eggs in one basket.
There is no doubting Pietersen’s ability, and his high levels of fitness mean that physically he could make the plane for Australia. But there are other factors that Cook seems to have overlooked.
The most glaring is Pietersen’s form. He has scored just two half centuries in 32 innings since his 2008 hundred and you can guarantee that if Owais Shah, Vikram Solanki or maybe even Ravi Bopara had returned those figures they would not be on the Indian tour right now.
However, Pietersen is a different proposition. He is the inventor of the switch-hit and was a dominant one-day batsman in his early England career, the likes of which England hadn’t seen before. It is Pietersen’s status and record that has earned him a tour spot, nothing else.
Players like Pietersen do not stay out of form for very long however, and he himself showed that with his domineering display in the Test arena this summer.
However, with England clearly looking to youth with the T20 World Cup in 2012 in mind and the 50 over competition also in the selectors thoughts – how long can Pietersen’s poor spell continue?
Senior players such as Cook, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan are all capable of guiding the Bairstow’s and Stokes’ of this squad in Pietersen’s absence, while Morgan is making his own case to be England’s premier one-day batter.
Consideration should also be given to the player’s own desire for the format. Pietersen is a dedicated cricketer and has a reputation as one of the hardest working players in the England camp.
But the lure of financial benefits from T20 and the technical and mental challenge of the five-day game may hold greater appeal to Pietersen’s nature.
Rumours were rife following his early departure from the last World Cup that Pietersen was set to walk away from England’s ODI side. Some suggest the rules of central contracts stopped him from doing so (a player must be available for all forms to be eligible), while the player himself strenuously denies falling out of love with ODIs.
This tour provides Pietersen with the perfect opportunity to rediscover his form, back up his captain’s bold statement and prove the media wrong. And as Cook himself said at Heathrow on Monday: “Kev loves proving people wrong”.