As the World Cup approaches, Third Umpire will be selecting a ODI World 11, with one player featuring every day. We continue with our number five, England's Kevin Pietersen.
While Andrew Flintoff’s all-round qualities are exceptional, it is surely Kevin Pietersen who holds the key to England’s World Cup hopes. Over 42 ODIs, Pietersen has averaged 56 – only Michael Hussey averages more over such a long period – at nearly a run a ball.
In South Africa two years ago, Pietersen faced the wrath of a nation as he returned to the country he had turned his back on. But he responded extraordinarily, scoring three hundreds, including the fastest ever by an Englishman. Thereafter, his ability to handle pressure or his technique has never been in doubt. Pietersen’s style is idiosyncratic, characterised by phenomenal power and an ability to flick almost any ball to the leg side, but he has thrived against all opponents, including Australia.
His self-belief, as epitomised by an impetuous reverse-hit for six off Muttiah Muralitharan, seemingly has no limits. Only he and Flintoff amongst Englishmen have the ability to pulverise attacks; Pietersen, who does this far more consistently and paces run chases to perfection, is crucial to their hopes. And, after they won the CB Series without him, expect his displays of team spirit to be extra vociferous.