Pietersen hails IPL as 'new level'
Former captain says England must learn from India's dynamic one-day batting
Friday 13 March 2009
England began the task of regrouping yesterday. Since they are doing so on the back of losing a Test series they were widely expected to win and are now about to play a form of the game they have not been much good at for 10 years this may take some doing.
In the next three weeks the tourists will play one Twenty20 match and five of the more traditional, considerably more humdrum, 50-over versions of the one-day game against West Indies. They will take the field painfully aware not only that they are already behind much of the rest of the world but also that there has been another dramatic shift recently which has cut them further adrift.
The position in which England find themselves was put bluntly by their most accomplished player. "India have taken the game to a new level," Kevin Pietersen said yesterday. "Their scores in New Zealand at the moment are ridiculous. Compare that to how we played in New Zealand last year and they are on a different plane. We have got to do something."
India have racked up scores of 273 in 38 overs, 188 in 28, 392 in 50 and 201 in 23 – the latter might have set them up for a total of above 500 – in a breathtaking sequence. Pietersen was in no doubt about the explanation.
"I think the reason India's cricket has gone through the roof is because of the Indian Premier League," he said. "I said that when we missed out on it last year there's no way we can catch up. It's important for our players to learn how to hit sixes and fours.
"They can practise it in and around the IPL and you have to practise it in order to play it in the middle and when you play it you have to know that you have practised it, and Twenty20 is a boundary fest. I'm afraid to say they have taken cricket to a new level because of the IPL. I think our players recognise that."
Well, he would say wouldn't he? Pietersen has been signed to play in the IPL for three years and went for $1.55m (£1.1m) at last month's auction. He is not about to rubbish the concept, though famously he once described Twenty20 as a silly game, and he fully intends to play in the tournament for three of its six weeks if the security reports are positive.
His assertion is also backed up by the facts from the IPL's spectacularly successful inaugural season a year ago. Of India's team in New Zealand five of the batsmen – Yusuf Pathan, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina – were among the top 10 six-hitters in the 2008 tournament and Gautam Gambhir struck the most fours.
Like every England player here he spoke highly of assistant coach Andy Flower. "He has been brilliant," he said. But Flower, like all coaches, needs some victories. There is early evidence to suggest that England may be about to change their tactics but finding somebody like Sehwag, who hit 125 from 74 balls in Hamilton the other day, may not be easy.
They could do with a win, any win, something they have failed to achieve in 12 international matches this winter. "I'm very, very disappointed just for the simple fact that we haven't won a single game this winter and we still don't seem to be doing enough to win," Pietersen said. "We have to go out there swinging, playing some positive cricket. I'm not too sure I want to be here for another month if we don't win a game." He was joking, but only a bit.
England's itinerary: One-day duty
14 Mar: W Indies Player Assoc XI v England XI, Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad
15 Mar: Twenty20 International, Trinidad
20 Mar: First ODI, Guyana
22 Mar: Second ODI, Guyana
27 Mar: Third ODI, Barbados
29 Mar: Fourth ODI, Barbados
03 Apr: Fifth ODI, St Lucia
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