Kevin Pietersen's 62 from 29 deliveries brought home the Royal Challengers of Bangalore the other night. His innings proved the salvation in an otherwise undignified run chase of Rajasthan's measly total of 131. However he looked like a complete twit doing so.
Recieving an annual IPL contract of US$1.55 million dollars one would imagine performances such as these would not be an infrequent occurence. Pietersen's IPL career is far from distinguished though. This princely sum was granted following revelatory initial appearances with England, including proving the mother country's only player with a spine in the woeful Ashes of 2006-2007. The cricketing world gasped at the riches of this strange new existence while Pietersen's celebrity grew. The inaugral 2008 season was a forgettable time for Bangalore, Pietersen's belated entry was diverting but ultimately ineffective.
Following this Pietersen's career soured. In their infintesmal stupidity, the ECC appointed him captain of his adopted nation because he was then their most exciting player, a strategy that had already failed with Andrew Flintoff. Though initially commanding a fantastic one day series victory over South Africa, our hero managed to botch everything up, derailing the team with his arroagance and culminating in a very public spat with Peter Moores that ended Pietersen's leadership.
The 2009 IPL was a further lesson in the ugly character of Kevin Pietersen. Rahul Dravid was sacrificed for the team's poor performance in the previous year and in a bizarre and ill-advised move the top job was given to our Kevin. Not only did he proceed to fail with bat and ball, (the gallant captain felt no shyness in continually bowling himself,) he also managed to incur the rancour of his players and officials in much the same way as previously achieved in the ignoble captaincy of England. It came as a relief then when he left midway through the tournament to play a test series against the West Indies. Anil Kumble replaced Pietersen as captain and led the Royal Challengers to an unlikely renaissance, only narrowly losing to Hyderabad in the final.
Pietersen's stock has dwindled substantially this past year and indifferent form paired with injury has made for a bleak period in the player's career. However he has proceeded to act like a prat in this IPL. Unable to accept his utter in eptitude in captaincy he skulks about the field barking orders that nobody listens to. Apart from an unconvincing 60 odd runs earlier in the tournament and Wednesday night's effort his batting has been incredibly lacking. When dropped for a couple of games he bleated in his News of the World column about the huge injustice dealt him, an act of puerile self-indulgence. In this same column, for some added bile, the player aimed barbs at his English teammates Stuart Broad and James Anderson, claiming their indolence in rejecting the Indian franchise with excellent oppurtunity it affords leading up to the World Twenty 20 tournament.
On Wednesday, Pietersen did two remarkable things. He took a beautiful catch to dismiss Shane Watson, and while his team fell about him he made a very decent innings. Still though this does not excuse his arrogant behaviour. During the strategic time outs, the player absented himself from the team huddles, milling on the outskirts and absently eyeing the crowd. His self-absorbtion was perfectly displayed when run out by his partner Virat Kohli. This has been typical this IPL and a complete lack of communication between batsmen led to the pair occupying the same end. Probably it was Kohli's fault as Pitersen made clear signal but the South African-come-Englishman's petulance on being run out is unexcusable . He swore and cursed at Kohli and in his very slow exit from the field turned to the centre some half-dozen times to meet the Indian's eyes and deliver a piercing look of hatred. The photo below does ill-justice to the vehemence of this display.
Pietersen's presence in the team keeps out Cameron White, a very able player. Further the bench is warmed by the highly talented Roelof van der Merwe and the Australian Steven Smith. Surely it is better management to drop this unruly lout for one of these keen young players?
In other IPL news Chennai and Delhi played out an at times thrilling but ultimately fairly dull match last night. Fantastic bowling was undone by some very ordinary cricket. Gambhir's disciplined half-century gave Delhi the victory but the captain almost undermined this with some poor bowling changes made in the middle of the previous innings. One can't help but feel that the quality of the IPL has dwindled somehwat of late. I hope it picks up for the finals.