In case you , the reader (with the emphasis very much on the singular), haven’t noticed, times are tough in the 51allout office. What started out as a dynamic ensemble of wannabe star journalists is now just a couple of old blokes desperately trying to think of something to write about every couple of weeks. Since the glory days of 2011, when we first set of in pursuit of fame (or at least being vaguely remembered for getting abused by Adam Dibble on Twitter), things have gone horribly, horribly wrong, to the extent that we’ve had to turn to selling a little crystal meth just to try and make ends meet.
With us staring down the barrel and desperate for content, we’ve sunk to publishing articles sent in to our mailbox. We say articles plural, but that is very clearly a lie, with the mailbox containing little more than a collection of spam and downright lies about free stuff from rubbish betting sites. But having crossed this frontier, there is no way back: please feel free to send your articles in to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might well publish them. Although we reserve the right to try and edit them into some sort of vaguely amusing shape (i.e. taking out all the good bits to make our stuff look better).
This first article came from someone called Vincent Kwesi (hopefully he’s happy for us to use his real name, otherwise sorry Vincent Kwesi) under the title of ‘England’s Best Player: The Myth Of Kevin Pietersen’. Here’s what he had to say about everyone’s favourite doos.
Following the end of Kevin Pietersen’s England career, an effort has been made by the cricketing world to produce its own version of ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ consisting only of passionate articles and angry tweets about KP, including this particularly malodorous and bizarre turd on Jonathan Agnew, whatever the Daily Telegraph ghosts can cobble together out of the ramblings of Michael Vaughan and now Pietersen’s own column. A recurring theme on Kevin Pietersen is that he was our ‘best player’, and this idea has been used as a stick to beat England and the ECB with. Much of this has involved horribly unquantifiable words such as talent (urgh) and genius (spits) and contained repeated mentions of Mumbai and 2012. This is distressing for people like me who are in favour of a) a KP-free England team and b) rigorous statistical analysis.
So let me now flutter my own tiny kebab shop junk mail leaflet of rubbish on to the KP landfill as I attempt to answer whether he really was England’s Best Player™. To Statsguru!
On the face of it, it is easy to make the case in favour of Pietersen. He is England’s highest ever run scorer in all forms of international cricket, and since his debut in 2005, has the most runs and highest average of England batsmen. However, these figures are for Pietersen’s whole career, is he our best player now?
Over the two recent Ashes series Bell comfortably outscores Pietersen, 797 to 682 and averages 44.27 to 34.10. Bell has three centuries to KP’s one. Pietersen wasn’t our best batsmen in the series before either; between the end of the home India series in 2011 and the start of the home Ashes series in 2013, Trott and Cook outperformed KP with the bat and Pietersen was roughly as good as Matt Prior.
Aha you say, you’ve cherry picked those dates to suit your argument. Well, this is the crux of the matter, as up until end of the India series at home in 2011, Kevin Pietersen was the batsman his supporters present him as. Up until that point, Pietersen averaged 50.48 and had scored 19 hundreds in 133 innings. Since then, 26 matches, 1820 runs, at an average of 38.72 with 4 centuries. In a period when England’s batsmen have struggled, they are hardly catastrophic, but equally they’re not Bradmanesque, and much maligned Captain Cook has six centuries to KP’s four. Perhaps we should look to the bowlers for our best player: Broad has a creditable 106 wickets at 28 over the same period. [Editor’s note: we should probably point out that we didn’t bother checking the numbers, but hopefully they’re vaguely correct]
Pietersen has declined since the end of the India series in August 2011. Since then, in a period when he has averaged 38.72 he has insulted a beloved national treasure (Nick Knight), retired from ODI cricket, creating controversy over England contracts, and sent text messages to the opposition in doos-gate. Are his performances worth the trouble he causes?
The myth of Pietersen as the ‘best player’ also handed a powerful psychological weapon to the opposition. It gave a boost to the opposition when Pietersen threw his wicket away, as well as knocking the belief of his own team.
Support for Pietersen comes from a gut judgement of his ‘talent’ from people who like to present themselves as ‘knowing the game’. These arguments aren’t backed up by performances. If talent means anything worthwhile it’s the amount of runs and centuries a batsman scores. If I tried to tell you Samit Patel was more talented than Kevin Pietersen you would punch me square in the guts and thrust KP’s average in my face. If I then told you that ‘oh, sometimes you have to look past statistics’ you would punch me again, and rightly.
So Pietersen fans please stop calling your man England’s best player. It’s Cook, or Broad. [Editor’s note: or Liam Plunkett, the dashing sex god that he is]