Wednesday, 16 February 2011

KP - an opener?

So after appointing Matt Prior to the England side and saying that he will open in the World Cup, England have obviously had a change of heart. In the 7th ODI, Steve Davies opened With Prior at 6, and now Kevin Pietersen has, in the game against Canada. Because England have made a big and obvious change in batting line-up so close to the World Cup, you'd think that this is now the direction we're going in (although you can never really tell). While it was glaringly obvious that Matt Prior isn't an international opener, and I commend Team England for being brave and making a big call such as promoting KP, I probably think they've made the wrong call.

Kevin Pietersen is a world-class player. Absolutely brilliant batsman. But is he an opener? Well, given the fact that in six years of international cricket he's never done it, it seems an odd time to thrust such a responsibility onto him. Don't forget, opening the innings is a very different proposition to batting anywhere else in the order. To come directly in to powerplay overs, with the bowlers fired up bowling at their fastest with a new, hard ball and being asked to score quickly is a much different challenge to coming in later on in the order, when a big lead could already be on the board, with the ball soft, bowlers tired and part-timers in operation.

I'm not saying it's something Kevin Pietersen can't do, because as the top class international batsman that he is, I'm sure he'll adapt. However, I'm not sure it's the best thing for England to do.

For my money, experience is everything. While KP has the experience of over 100 ODIs, he doesn't have much experience (either at international or county level) of opening the innings. Whereas Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara have all opened, both for their respective domestic sides, and sparingly for England. While they may not be out and out openers; they've been there, done that, and know what to do. Which is more than can be said about KP.

But suitability for the role aside, the biggest mistake in promoting Pietersen isn't what it adds to the top of the order; it's what's taken away from the middle order. KP has become such a world reknowned batsman by coming in two down, and either rebuilding the innings with much needed stability, or continuing an already good start and firing England to a high score. While admittedly he hasn't been in the richest vein of form recently, there were signs in the 7 match marathon against Australia that he can do it (when he's bothered). Taking such an established part of England's batting plans out of the middle order the week after Eoin Morgan was ruled out of the World Cup (and given Paul Collingwood's continued horror run of form), suddely that England middle order doesn't look so solid.

While I applaud the English selectors for making an obviously bold decision, I think that Pietersen is the wrong man to open alongside Cap'n Strauss. I'd much rather see Bell or Bopara face the new-ball instead. But if England bat as badly as they did against Canada, the order shouldn't really make too much difference. That's probably the thing they'll need to work on first.


  1. No mention of Wright's latest stella performance?

    Mind you, I half expected him to fill his boots in this game and nail down a starting spot!

  2. Luckily for everyone that didn't happen!