England’s life after Pietersen begins at World T20

LET’S talk about Kevin. It is about time. After all England are just about to embark on the World T20 Championships without a player valued just short of one million dollars in the Indian Premier League.
Virat Kholi of India is set to be one of the stars of the World T20. Picture: GettyVirat Kholi of India is set to be one of the stars of the World T20. Picture: Getty
Virat Kholi of India is set to be one of the stars of the World T20. Picture: Getty

Kevin Pietersen was also the catalyst for England’s surprise triumph in the 2010 in the Caribbean.

With every performance since his removal it has appeared a shocking decision and yet no one outside the team’s inner circle really knows the why or wherefore. And no one yet knows the long-term outcome.

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Does it hamper England’s chances at the World T20 in Bangladesh starting next Saturday? Definitely, maybe. Is he a good player of spin? Yes, his Test century at Mumbai in 2012 was a classic, indeed one of the greatest innings ever played, but he also is dismissed by left-arm spin too frequently.

Would it help having him stride out in a 20-over thrash, biceps bulging and big hits beckoning? Absolutely. Would it help having his barely restrained ego in a dressing room of young players? No. That is unequivocal and that is why he is gone. The powers that be, and that includes his friends in the dressing room, had finally had enough of the circus that he creates around himself. After all, who calls on Piers Morgan for a cricketing reference?

Pietersen’s long-term value was diminishing – his last 24 international innings in Test and one-day cricket had garnered one century and six half-centuries. There would still be flourishes of brilliance but age, a dodgy knee and the lure of greater riches elsewhere for half the work had all taken their toll.

Pietersen was becoming more trouble than he was worth. Losing him now is painful but, even with him, England would struggle to compete in this T20 event. The conditions in Bangladesh support spin and England are notoriously bad at both bowling it and scoring off it. T20 cricket has also moved towards massive hitting. Players just clear their front leg out of the way and launch bat, arms and body at the ball, hoping that mis-hits will still clear the ropes. That is anathema to English players brought up on seaming wickets, where caution and a straight-bat technique are vital.

For England to actually progress from their group would be an achievement. Are England good enough to be in the top two against Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand?

This is a tournament for gaining experience. The likes of Chris Jordan, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali need to consolidate their encouraging starts as international players. Ben Stokes would have been there but for his self-inflicted hand injury. A new core of a side needs to emerge and dominate for the next five years. There are good players, especially in home conditions, but they need exposure to cricket elsewhere and time to gel into a strong, unified group.

As for who will actually win the tournament, it is likely to be an Asian side. India have dominant batsmen and, in Virat Kohli, one of the most skilful batsmen currently playing. They also have bowlers with some skill.

Pakistan could provide brilliance or buffoonery and the hope is the former, as they can be wonderful to watch and have enjoyed some good current form. They lost recently to Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup. And then there is the Chris Gayle-charged West Indies. If he fires, anything could happen as no player in world cricket hits as many sixes as the tall left-handed opener.

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The glory of each World T20 championship thus far has been that no one has been able to confidently pick the winner before the tournament.

Just consider this, though. Since its inception in 2007 five of the eight finalists have been Asian and, while not yet being victorious, Sri Lanka have been the most consistent.