Kevin Pietersen is a man bereft of confidence. There's no doubt that all being equal that he is by far England's most talented batsman, but in the last few years his scores have massively tailed off. With an apparent weakness to left-arm spin and an even more apparent lack of zest for the game, KP has gone from a world beating first choice to a runless liability.
It's difficult to precisely pinpoint exactly when KP lost his mojo. However, 2008 was the year for KP. It was the year of the switch hit and the ascent to the captaincy. Pietersen had never felt more loved by the English cricketing public; something confirmed when he was chosen to replace Michael Vaughan as the skipper. And his form reflected it. 2008 was the last calendar year that Pietersen averaged over 50 in tests, and he was at the peak of his talents. The world was at his feet.
As we know, the rest was history. The Night of the Long Knives which saw Pietersen and Moores lose their positions also saw KP lose that aura of invincibility. Gone was the brash cock of the walk, and with that slight loss of confidence came the dip in form. Yes, he made a ton on the first tour post-captaincy in the West Indies, but it wasn't the ton of the KP of old. The notorious Achilles injury meant the English summer was written off, and he never really recaptured the form that made him the superstar of his earlier career. An inability to score runs on his return in South Africa manifested itself into a real problem, and Pietersen failed to score a test century for 20 months after that solitary one in the West Indies. The media hyped problem against left-arm spin grew into a real mental block, and combined with poor scores, Pietersen cut a forlorn figure. He may have made a double century at Adelaide during the Ashes to ward off the vulture, but they've returned once more. Once an automatic pick, Pietersen's neck is on the chopping block, as he just isn't justifying his place in the team.
For my mind, there's still no question about KP's ability. The only issues with his batting are all in his mind. Does he still have the desire and hunger to play for England? Does he still believe he's good enough? The skunk-haired cocksure of 2005 who would try to smash Shane Warne over the Lord's pavilion is long gone, and in his place is a man filled with worry and doubt. KP needs runs tomorrow, and he needs a lot of them. There's no doubt that techically he is good enough, but if he lacks the self-belief and confidence that he can make runs, then quite simply he won't. And in this fairly ruthless England regime, if a player isn't making runs, he won't be in the team. I don't know if this is actually KP's 'last chance', but he probably thinks it is. If he's able to grind out a century that helps fire England to victory, the confidence will start flowing and the runs will start flooding in again. If not, or if not at the Rose Bowl next week, then we could be seeing the end of one of the most talented cricketers of the generation.
For KP's sake, for England's sake, he needs this.