Pietersen still a man on the edge

It’s difficult to miss Kevin Pietersen at the moment.

Whether it’s his top lip or his mouth drawing the attention, he has been ubiquitous in England’s first fortnight in Australia.

“I’m on fire” was the claim after 93 frenzied runs from 112 balls against a depleted Western Australia.

All very KP. “He’s at his best when he’s arrogant,” said someone in the office. “That’s a good sign”.

Yet I’m not so sure. Is this the over-confidence of a showman who knows he’s back on form, or the empty boast of a man trying too hard to convince himself and the cricket world that he is still a force?

It is true that Pietersen has played his most memorable innings for England under pressure ­ – the three hundreds in his first one-day series in South Africa, the 91 in the 2005 Bristol ODI, the 158 at The Oval that year, his performances in this year’s Twenty20 win. All were masterpieces in bravado, and most were accompanied by gobbiness as bold as the strokeplay.

But this Ashes tour is different. Pietersen has been so short of runs, and confidence, for such a period of time that it cannot be as simple as “KP mouthing off again after runs against a below-par state attack – therefore he’s back.”

It looks ominously like there will be no middle-ground this winter. Success in Brisbane and Adelaide and watch out Australia and the World Cup, the talisman may well be back. Failure, and who knows. One former team-mate told us recently that his hunch was a poor winter for KP could lead to international retirement.

Is that plausible? Well, Andy Flower has already shown that he is not afraid to drop Pietersen, and it is feasible that Ashes omission could be a blow-to-the-ego too far for a man whose whole career has been based upon spontaneity.

Yet Pietersen’s record against Australia is enough to inspire hope that it won’t come to that – 1116 runs from 12 Tests at 50.72, and 490 runs at 54 in 2006-07 are figures to take to confidence from. Interestingly given his aggression in Perth, those 490 runs last time round came at a strike rate of just 48.

Still, however he goes about it, it is about quantity not quality. Let’s hope he’s still crowing when he’s next in Perth.

Sam Collins is editor of thewisdencricketer.com

Follow him on twitter @wisdencric_sam

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