What a piece of work is Kevin

How long could YOU spend in an armchair watching the IPL when switching to Channel 401 brings you into contact with an innings by Kevin Pietersen.

Had Hamlet seen KP bat might it not have changed the Prince’s world view?

What a piece of work is a man, How noble in
Reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals. and to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights me; and Woman too…

We require some awareness of failure to appreciate skill and form. 

In this mini-series between Sri Lanka and England the skill and form has been provided by Jayawardene; at home on the Silk Route, as it passes Galle and Columbo.

But Kevin Pietersen provides something other than failure and susccess – neither man, angel nor god, nearer superman in the Shavian sense.

Can we find precedence? Do we need precedence?  Does exception require contrast or relationship?

His physique sets him apart and into (for now) a small minority (but as sons continue to out grow fathers other will join those ranks). He has the eye of the very good batsman.  Strength may substitute for fine balance.  Because of his other talents it is difficult to isolate and judge these qualities which are so necessary to others.  He may have them, but he does not need them.

His reason is acute.  He has somewhere along the line torn up the coaching manuals and rethought batting from first principles.  Regarding his career is like looking at a scientist test hypotheses, abandoning some leads and pursuing others to their logical conclusion.  His mind is restless, inquisitive, arch, and commercial.

Then, there is his conviction – his extraordinarily developed sense of self-belief – however frail, it has an almost inexhaustible facility to renew itself.

Each of these qualities has allowed him to transform the way cricket can be played – or batting carried out.

Few, so far, have followed him, but they will.  He has done the hard and courageous work, exploring the territory that his physicality has made accessible and which he alone has reached.

 

What is being described is an impact on the game similar to that of William Gilbert Grace.  That impact is not yet fully apparent.  It is as if we are watching cricket in 1878.  A path has been trodden by one man, but a Golden Age is yet to come.

Above, the alignment of shoulders is captured by the camera and, right, that perceptive cricketer and artist Albert Chevallier Tayler confirms how revolutionary  was Grace’s side-on technique.

Here is Grace in the colours of his own London County Cricket Club.  Watch out for Pietersen starting his T20 franchise.  It won’t be long.)

Until then …

If this goodly frame the Earth, seemes to you a sterrill
Promontory; this most excellent Canopy the Ayre,
look you, this braue ore-hanging firmament, this Maiesticall Roofe,
fretted with golden fire: why, it appeares no other thing
to you, then a foule and pestilent congregation of vapours …

… try a little Pietersen.

Context of the innings:

KP arrived at the wicket with the score 213 for 2 and departed 212 minutes later for 151 off 165 balls ( 16 fours, 6 sixes) at 411 for 6.  His strike rate was double that of the next quickest scorer in the match. He scored 50 off 59 balls, 100 off 109 and 150 off 162 deliveries.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “What a piece of work is Kevin

  1. the obvious thought is that he equivalates to EM Grace swiping to leg, against convention. However, in this innings, it was clear that his big hits were aimed over mid-off – thus not across the line. This was a Jessopian innings., such as Botham at Old Trafford. KP seems to have regained the mental geometry that made him a great prospect. The Gubster would not like that! The really interesting thing is that he is the only batter on either side (apart from the great Jaya), to work out how to play shots. Bell and Prior were all at sea.And the bowlers are finding it difficult to get it right as well. Length and pace are the keys to this match. it is rivetting.

    • Diogenes, you point out that the Graces probably did their thinking and their tearing up of conventions as a family unit, not forgetting the role of Alfred Pocock. The highest form of the Grace approach eventually coming from W.G., though did he not himself have higher hopes for Fred?
      If KP has done something similar he has done this with far less help, which my also explain the fragility of his confidence as compared with that of W.G..
      The two, separated by 132 years, combined exceptional physicality (for their times) with a radical reassessment of conventional technique. It was as if they were playing a different game to their peers.
      T.M.

  2. Good stuff, TM, although time will tell if KP’s influence on the game is as telling as that of Grace. My instinct is that it may be but that it will remain largely unacknowledged.

    I wasn’t lucky enough to see more than the highlights of the Colombo innings, but I’ve long been convinced of the exceptional quality of his batting (even if I’ve occasionally fallen into the trap of reacting in the obvious way to some of his extended bouts of poor form). I feel, though, that there remains resistance to the idea of Pietersen as genius (which I agree he is), especially among the older, more conservative members of the cricket watching fraternity in England (the sort you come across at county grounds rather than Tests, in general). The problem is that his showiness, his tattoos, his nationality, his unorthodoxy and his bravado are seen as being so fundamentally un-British and un-cricket.

    People would love and respect him more of he was English, but English cricket, and pitches, and temperamental instinct, rarely (Compton?, Botham?), if ever, produces such players.

    Following on from that, I’ve long felt that there’s a story to be told around the reasons why he never came through in South Africa when he’s the most talented South African batsman of his generation by miles. The fundamentally conservative nature of the society (and anyone who has travelled and mixed in privileged white South Africa will know what I mean) again has much to do with it, I suspect.

    • Brian,
      Somewhere and somewhen Pietersen went into the ‘lab’ and developed his ‘Way’.
      As Diogenes reminds us, the Graces did this as a family and within a far less universal system. There was time and a ‘lab’ created by Dad Grace clearing a patch of ground beside their home and other ground creating projects). There EM gained the freedom and confidence and practice to defy the convention on leg side scoring, and WG invented what would later be called classical batting.
      Peitersen’s personality provided a similar isolation and determination. His personality with as its essence a mix of self-belief and insecurity made him liable to rejection wherever he went (SA and Notts) but that alienation gave him the time, the motivation and the determination to challenge every convention of the status quo/Establishment.
      Moderate bowler (duckling) becomes extraordinary and revolutionary batsman (swan).
      There will be a part of that personality that continues to create rejection (viz suicide over captaincy ultimatum) and in his aloneness the urge to experiment further.
      It could be that his difficulties (over playing left-arm slows) are just an experiment (very leg side and bat well in front of pad/head) that went wrong. Such a personality would make it difficult to accept error.
      Rejection of a new idea would seem to him a retreat. “Sod them!”
      He wouldn’t need a Boycott to say ‘that’s wrong, go back to conventional way of playing those deliveries’, he would need someone to say ‘wrong, stay radical/look how you played Warne’.
      TM

  3. I agree, Third man, he needs Warne as a coach, not a stick-in-the-mud like Boycott. And it is important to remember that our image of WG is of the photos and film of a 50 year old paunchy man with a long grey beard, when he was, in his youth, a hurdling champion and an astounding athlete.

    GF, I suspect, belongs in the same realms as Archie Jackson and Kenneth Hutchings.

  4. I forgot to say that I suspect that WG had a physical aura – a well-developed physique that overwhelmed the opposition – any similarities with KP?

    • From 19 yards KP has the look of a giant and a stride to match. A ‘good’ length to someone with that reach is much reduced in size. Like WG the very potential of the physique creates pressure in the bowler.

  5. diogenes

    I would just like to draw your attention to this

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9210009/Edwin-Moses-Team-GB-must-create-bubble-around-themselves-or-get-blown-away-at-London-2012-Olympics.html

    It shoew the self-awareness and control of the supreme athlete. Ed Moses won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles in 1976 and 1984 – would you bet that he would not have won in 1980 if the US had not boycotted the games? To stay in front of everyone for 8 years!

    I think that Pietersen is not quite as self-aligned as Moses. He needs the occasional input from an outsider. Batting requires an element of luck – more than hurdling. But this is the intensity of a true champion. when KP comes off, it is clear to see. A small lapse of focus readily leads to disaster.

  6. diogenes

    Brian

    Just wondering how the traditional watchers of county matches would have reacted to the advent of WG Grace. This imposing athlete, obviously much fitter and stronger than anyone else on either side, with an ability to break the “rules” and get away with it. Playing forward and back – treating each ball on its merits. Being able to play a long innings.by virtue of his extreme fitness – he was a great athlete.

    I think the chaps with their flasks would have been a little bit sniffy at the bravado of it all.

    And this is before the legendary/mythical/pseudo-quotes about challenging umpires’ decisions etc, which were from a much later period.

  7. Diogenes, I don’t think they would have liked him.

    There’s someone who sits near me at Taunton who hates anything about the game that didn’t exist when he was a lad (reverse sweeps, Matt Prior, reverse sweeps by Matt Prior). He wouldn’t have liked WG.

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