Sunday, 24 July 2011

Form is T, Class is KP

The T20 format boasts big-hitting entertainment and big hand-outs. Its broadcasters have worked hard at throwing paint over the honest summary: that a game of just twenty overs a side, defined by sixes and low-full-toss bowlers, is usually just a game of chance; an optical illusion in its resemblance to cricket. Still, it can be good fun if there's enough beer on tap. Furthermore it  is far from superstitious nonsense to say that 20/20 has bolstered Test cricket as a dramatic spectacle. We are getting more results, far more value, as it were, for our time.

In many ways, Kevin Pietersen is made for 20/20. On his website he devotes a chapter to his sponsors, all six of them. And his body language is the give away. I've spoken to people who have noticed, as I have, that many a delivery in the field KP can be seen walking in close enough to the action so that he can look up and check himself out on the big screen, as though not yet bored of his own recurring photograph after almost a decade of fame. (However I am yet to meet a woman who finds him attractive.) As for the cricket, Pietersen's aggressive batting, with broad stance and enormous backlift to go, plus his drab off-spin, are ideal for the shortest form of the game. Anyway, the South African emigrant has a Test average of 48.16. He has scored eighteen Test centuries. He has represented England in three winning Ashes teams, having played only four Ashes series. These are the briefs that really matter.

His interviews may be ridiculous, his patriotism embarrassingly ornate, but he can bat (in fact, he can bat blindfolded) and he should by now have enough experience to make the most of his latest claim to a revival: an unbeaten 202 in the Lord's Test against India. It was a knock full of fight and patience, confirmed by a modest strike rate of 61.96.

At the Oval in 2005, a more dramatic Test century by Pietersen, and his first, culminated the greatest Ashes series in history. For this reason, it will remain his most popular among fans. The eventual dismissal by Glenn McGrath was as typical of Pietersen as the thunder-and-lightning innings itself, interrupting commentator Richie Benaud's dignified farwell to English cricket, before the camp bully took off his helmet, got out the yellow mohawk and waved his unorthodox cricket bat for the length of a Meat Loaf song. Fair enough.

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