to be world number one
self-belief and an ability to improvise bordering on genius combine to make
Kevin Pietersen the most exciting batsman currently strutting the world
In an age of
increasingly dizzy run rates there are no shortages of pretenders to
Pietersen's unofficial title.
One shot alone in the
second test against Sri Lanka last month lifts Pietersen from the pack,
however, and puts him alongside such masters of the unorthodox as Denis
Compton and Viv Richards.
On the second day of
the test at Edgbaston, Pietersen decided to employ a reverse swing against
the consistently dangerous Muttiah Muralitharan.
Daring enough in
itself, the stroke became an instant masterpiece when the ball soared high
into the stands for a six.
which infuses Pietersen's batting has been evident since he announced he was
unhappy with South Africa's quota system for black players and decamped to
England, the birthplace of his mother.
increasingly fraught years at Nottingham he joined Hampshire and the
county's Australian captain Shane Warne, in many ways a Pietersen prototype.
After serving his
qualifying period, he was selected to tour Zimbabwe in September 2004,
averaging 104 in three innings. In the following year he showed his appetite
for a fight when he was similarly effective in the face of a raucous and
hostile reception during the one-day series in South Africa.
pyrotechnics in the one-day game, Pietersen was not picked to play against
Bangladesh at the start of the 2005 series and was far from an automatic
choice for the first test against Australia at Lord's.
In the end, after much
debate and consultation, the selectors concluded that 25-year-old Pietersen
was a better bet than 35-year-old Graham Thorpe.
Rarely can a hunch
have been rewarded so swiftly.
in both innings of a losing match and, indicative of his self-assurance, he
deliberately targeted Australia's two best bowlers.
Glenn McGrath had made
the England top order look like schoolboys. Pietersen responded with a four,
six and a four from successive deliveries. He then turned his attention to
Warne, hitting the leg spinner into the grandstand.
There was also the
little matter of three dropped catches, which did not appear to bother
Pietersen in the slightest. Instead he seemed puzzled when questioned at an
end-of-day news conference.
"That's part of
cricket," he said. "Everybody's going to drop catches, no one's gone through
a career and not dropped a catch, I don't think."