After 11-month break from ODIs, stage is set for Pietersen to perform
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On May 31 last year, Kevin Pietersen had announced his retirement from all forms of limited-overs cricket. A retraction was followed by the text message scandal and it looked like it was the end of the road for Pietersen, before the latest reconciliation. With all the off-field incidents assuming importance, Pietersen missed almost a year of ODIs.
Prior to the current series, Pietersen last played a 50-overs game in February last year. In fact, his last two games before the hiatus both yielded centuries. One can understand just why England were eager to have have him back. It is not just his destructive ability with the bat, or that he has been in form — having struck two fifties and a big hundred during the Test series to go with two scores in the 40s in the two ODIs. There are several other factors that make Pietersen a gamechanger.
Firstly, India is a country he likes. His desire to play the IPL may or may not have influenced his earlier decision to quit the limited overs format, but there is no doubt that the fans here adored him. Also, the conditions in India suit his style of batting. And what is more, in the current English squad, with the likes of Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson rested, the 32-year old will also have the added responsibility to lead from the front. Pietersen is expected to mentor the youngsters like Joe Root and Jos Buttler and give them the space and confidence to make significant contributions.
Then, there are the new ODI rules which favour an aggressive and innovative batsman like Pietersen, who can manipulate both the field and the crease to good effect. In the first ODI at Rajkot, Pietersen didn't get much opportunity to build his innings after Alastair Cook and Ian Bell had used up most of the overs. A 45-ball 44 was still good returns. At Kochi, however, the stage was nicely set for him during the chase. After tonking Shami Ahmed repeatedly, disrupting his line and length with his range of shots and moving across and down the wicket, Pietersen was looking imperious. This was until he was castled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar for 42, which had seven boundaries.
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