“It was satisfying. The century would mean more if we win the match,” Kevin Pietersen had said at a press conference in a Mumbai after the 3rd day of a Test Match against India at the Wankhede stadium in 2012. It was a different side of English cricket’s ‘bad boy’, who was not known to be humble at press conferences, and often had to face the brunt of English Cricket Board (ECB) because of his conduct.
But it was a different Pietersen the world had witnessed the entire day. Against India, on a slow and spinning Wankhede pitch, Pietersen had just scored his 22nd century. His score of 186 on 233 balls at a strike rate of almost 80 on a pitch where not many batsmen could even reach double figures, was something of a miracle. It was an exemplifying example of Pietersen’s talent as a Test cricketer and his ability to counter spin bowling.
On a day when 17 batsmen from India and England could only muster to make 221 runs, Pietersen, on his own had made 122. He demolished Indian spinner Pragyan Ojha’s bowling with his perfectly executed sweep shots. Not only he supported his captain Alastair Cook in the middle, he ensured England’s victory against India on a pitch where England were not the favourites to win. Cricket analysts have often regarded Pietersen’s innings of 186 as the best knock ever played by an English middle order batsmen in Asia.
Four years later, when England are visiting India for a five-Test match series, Pietersen is not part of the set-up. Young sensation Joe Root forms the back-bone and he has able company from all-rounder Ben Stokes and then the services of Moeen Ali lower down the order. But, in spite of the batting options, against a formidable spin line up of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who showed their strength on Indian pitches in recently played series against New Zealand, the Englishmen are in for a hard time and would miss the services of Pietersen.
Pietersen’s statistics speak for himself on his ability against Indian bowlers. He has scored 6 Test centuries against India, the most against any team, 2 of which were scored on Indian pitches. In 16 matches, the batsmen scored over 1500 Test runs against India with an average of 58.55 and had the highest score of 202*. No other middle order English batsmen had an average of over 50 against India in Test matches.
In the recent series against Bangladesh, English middle order completely collapsed against the spin bowling of Mehedi Hasan and Shakib Al-Hasan. Kevin Pietersen could have been the key factor to tackle India’s spin attack on Indian pitches. As now now, Cook has to do with resources at disposal but he’s likely to miss Pietersen.