Kevin Pietersen’s poor form a major worry for England
Kevin Pietersen’s run of poor form is set to be the major talking point ahead of England’s opening Test in Bangladesh on Friday.
The Hampshire batsman is widely regarded as England’s most talented player but since being controversially sacked as captain of the team over 12 months ago, his efforts with the bat have been ordinary at best.
He played little part in regaining the Ashes in England last summer and on returning from a troublesome achilles injury in South Africa, he failed to make a significant impact against the country of his birth.
Pinpointing Pietersen’s problem appears an almost impossible task. World-class batsmen may have weaknesses, but the very best - and KP should be counted amongst that elite group - succeed because they are able to negate such difficulties.
Pietersen can be an ugly batsman at times and his bizarre struggles against left arm spin bowling in particular are well documented. But he has always had the same issues and the fact that he has managed to amass 16 Test centuries at an average of a little under 50 in his career so far suggests technique is not the problem.
No, the more serious questions should surround his mental state. Pietersen has cut a rather withdrawn, alienated figure at times over the past twelve months, distracted first by the humiliating curtailment of his captaincy reign and then by injury and subsequent rehabilitation.
And now, just as he has a perfect opportunity to regain his form against the world’s weakest country, he is close to going on paternity leave for the birth of his first child. I am not for one moment suggesting that Pietersen should forgo his right to be present at the birth, but as an England supporter it is frustrating to think that this current malaise may continue.
Conventional wisdom seems to be that Pietersen will regain his form, but it is far from inconceivable that his best days are behind him.
The relentless nature of the modern international game can weigh heavily on the shoulders of those involved and for someone such as Pietersen; within sight of his 30th birthday and about to become a father, sustaining the same level of ambition which defined his early career may be impossible.
And whilst it is unlikely that he would turn his back on England at any point in the near future, playing international cricket is no longer a financial necessity for players such as Pietersen.
He has never been adored by the majority of the English public, who demand more from him as the star player than anyone else in the team. His flamboyant, occasionally reckless batting has been a source of consternation for some critics, but it may also have tempered his prolific run getting.
If he were never to hit a ball in anger for England again, Pietersen would be best remembered for his thrilling, counter attacking century on the final day of the 2005 Ashes series. It was an innings of pure youthful exuberance; the kind only a bashful youth in his fifth Test match could have played. And maybe that is the problem.