Pietersen will not bow to former captains' criticism
Thursday 16 March 2006
Kevin Pietersen has vowed to continue playing his natural attacking game despite receiving criticism from two former England captains. Graham Gooch and Nasser Hussain both questioned Pietersen's style of batting after England's nine-wicket defeat to India in the second Test at Mohali. The loss leaves England needing to win the third Test, which starts here on Saturday, if they are to avoid losing their second series of the winter.
Gooch believes that Pietersen is playing into the Indian spinners hands by attacking them. He said: "Pietersen, for all his talent, appears almost desperate to attack and spinners love such characters. He wants to dictate terms even before he gets his eye in."
Hussain, who captained England on 45 occasions, feels that Pietersen has given his wicket away too easily on too many occasions. "He needs to value his wicket that little bit more. England's batsmen must work on mental toughness and stop throwing wickets away."
Pietersen disagrees with their view. "I think I have played pretty responsibly," said Pietersen. "Batting at No 4 has given me greater responsibility. I feel that if I let spin bowlers bowl to me then they are going to get me out. I let Shane Warne do that to me on a couple of occasions during the Ashes last summer, especially in the first innings of the Oval Test, and he got me out.
"And when I looked back at that I said to myself 'why did you do that, why did you play so defensively?' In the second innings I took him on and I got a couple of runs. I know that I have to build an innings and be patient but I also look to be positive.
"By positive, I mean positive in defence as well as attack. When I leave a ball I take a positive stride and when I block a ball from Anil Kumble I move positively out towards him. I feel comfortable playing that way."
Pietersen's brief Test career backs up his approach. It suggests he is a better player when he is looking to get after the bowling and this is how he should continue to play. In the Ashes Pietersen averaged almost 53 with the bat, scoring 71.5 runs from every 100 balls he faced. Yet in the five Tests he has played in Pakistan and India this winter his strike rate has come down to 65 runs per 100 balls and his average has fallen to 37.
In his 10-Test career Pietersen has, in Warne, Danish Kaneria and Kumble, faced three of the best leg-spin bowlers in the world. Each has caused him problems but he believes that Warne is the best of the lot. "Shane is a genius," he said. "When you face him you have to be on the ball all of the time. Shane is in a different league. He bowls six balls out of six on the spot and for 10 overs. Anil and Danish will bowl you a bad ball every four or five overs."
l Ahead of the first Test against South Africa in Cape Town today Australia remain unsure whether to pick Shane Warne as their only specialist spin bowler or to add fellow leg spinner Stuart MacGill. South Africa must make a late decision about the fitness of all-rounder Shaun Pollock.
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