This remains one of my favourite memories. This batsman, who was very much a newcomer to the cricket scene, but very soon, looked at the very top of his game around 2005-2006. And as usual, he was yet again in the middle of something he does best: dismantling each and every bowler of the team and making them look like club bowlers. And one bowler was Muttiah Muralitharan, and by no means was he a club bowler. There was a distinctive piece of commentary from Mark Nicholas from that England-Sri Lanka Test match after KP had just effortlessly danced down the track and launched Murali flat over covers. Till date, this makes the most sense to me even though it happened almost 10 years back – ‘I do hope people don’t ever take Kevin Pietersen for granted. And I just wonder how many people realize quite how special he is. Lara would be one from the recent era, Sir Vivian Richards would be another but there really aren’t many who played the game, take some outrageous risks and make such profit from it.’ Taken for granted he was by his adopted country, for which he sacrificed everything and left his homeland.
Kevin Pietersen, the first of his name from the land of South Africa because there has been a Peterson and a Petersen from there previously. His debut at Lord’s in ‘the’ 2005 Ashes first Test was a display of a brand of cricket that was unheralded for the fans who swear by Test cricket, post 2000. When the rest of batting line-up was being stripped down by Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, Kevin Pietersen was batting on a different planet altogether. His array of stroke-making, especially against one of the best bowling attacks of that time, was more than a scintillating sight. It was a mildly painted canvas of what a masterpiece was going to be showcased to us for many years to come.
He's not just any unorthodox cricketer. He's a Grade A genius. When he dazzles, he does it without even a hint of sweat trickling down his brow. He seems to be playing with a piece of wood, but it acts more like a magic wand than a cricket bat. The best part about his batting is that while it seems like a random attack on the bowler, but in reality, he’s one step ahead of the bowler and has already made his move in his head. Cricket experts would agree that along with discipline, skill, technique, it takes psychology to win a match, especially a long-drawn, five- day Test match. Australia have always had a heavy batting artillery in their ranks, but they owe a lot of success to Adam Gilchrist. Majority of the India’s overseas success during Ganguly’s reign was due to Virender Sehwag’s batting. These kind of players don’t just score runs at a brisk rate; they mentally break down the opposition, making them weak not only in that particular innings, but also for the rest of the Test match. Cricket experts would say there is only one effective way of playing spin: not reading from the pitch, but reading from the hand of the bowler. I'd say there is one more: reading from the mind, which KP has the rare ability of doing repeatedly, even when facing the best of the best.
At the end of a masterful KP innings, his wagon wheel is unlike anyone else's: it’s a thing of beautiful brutality. Those usual red lines start to look more like carefully aimed bloodied arrows piercing the opposition, puncturing the damned life out of them.
On what seemed like a lifeless Lord's pitch, England didn't lose to a team named Australia, didn’t lose to a player named Johnson, not even to the bolts of lightning spewed from his sling-cannon of a left hand, they lost to their demons called intimidation. Gary Ballance is the first number 3 in a Test side who seems more vulnerable than a number 7. His inability to come forward to swinging conditions against the new ball and keep digging back in the crease is similar to what England Cricket looks like, going backwards mentally. The number 3 position is the crux of the team. We've seen Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid walking out to that position, and even in the tightest of situations, they make sure that the opposing captain is worried. If Gary Ballance is England’s answer to a number 3 batsman, I’m sorry but what was the question again? The more I see Gary Ballance, the more he looks like the first ever walking wicket number 3 batsman to grace, or rather disgrace the game.
The expected change has happened after the Lord’s drubbing with Gary Balance making way for Jonny Bairstow. The woefully out-of-form Ian Bell will bat at number 3 with Root again at 4. Alex Hales for Adam Lyth could have been one more attacking change but heck, who am I kidding here? Just imagine if England had put their best 6 batsmen, it would have looked like this – Cook, Hales, Root, KP, Stokes, Buttler. Just the firepower in those names is enough to make the opposition start sweating nervously.
When the British stole the Kohinoor diamond, we (Indians) were robbed; by colonising India, we (Indians) were enslaved. Now by making Kevin Pietersen’s exile, we (Cricket fans) have been bereaved. Bereaved of a once-in-a-lifetime player who sensationalized cricket like no other during that era from 2005-2010. The following are according to me, the best batsman I’ve seen since the past 10 years. ABdVKP – AB de Villiers is a freak genius. Virat Kohli is an impeccable run-machine. Combining these two, Kevin Pietersen is the mercurial artist.
All good things come to an end, but not a single, vivid image of the gladiator-like Kevin Pietersen will leave my soul. And for that, a big ‘BOOM’ing thank you, KP!