Monday, 6 November 2006

Can Pietersen keep his machismo in check?

No one on either side will attract more attention than Kevin Pietersen this winter. His flamboyant and brash personality mimics his batting. Throw in his intriguing relationship with Shane Warne, and it is clear KP will never be far from the spotlight this winter; being the man he is, he will doubtless relish it all.

But how will he fare? The Champions Trophy game was surely an indicator of where Australia’s fast bowlers plan to target him. Short and hostile bowling, followed by full balls outside the off stump, will be the order of the day.

Providing he uses his head, Pietersen should enjoy considerable success down under. If he lets arrogance get in the way of common sense, he will try and hit sixes of Warne and Brett Lee; this will prove successful a few times before Pietersen tries it once too often. However, if he is prepared to play in a subtler manner, then he will find Australia’s big outfields to his advantage; after all, he does not need to take risks to score at a more-than-satisfactory rate. Australia, on the back of his exceptional 158, certainly fear him; several men will be put on the boundary. But will he be able to keep his machismo in check?

As is his wont, Pietersen, if and when he falls in a seemingly reckless manner, will hide behind the unsatisfactory excuse of “that’s the way I play.” It seems very likely his idiosyncratic way will yield at least a couple of vital innings in the Ashes. But, if he mixes his characteristic offensive brilliance with the nous he seems to be slowly learning, then he could conceivably be the single most important player on either side, as well as the most talked about.

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