In the fifth and final of Kevin Pietersen’s favourite five Test innings, he looks back on his series-turning innings against India and one shot in particular off Pragyan Ojha, as part of an exclusive interview with Phil Walker.
Mumbai. The last of Pietersen’s five, and his third from 2012. For pure drama it stands with the 158 at The Oval. It had even been touch and go whether he would make the tour, the summer shenanigans still fresh in the minds of those implicated. But Cook, the new captain, came out in favour of his best batsman, and Pietersen was on the path to reintegration.
The first Test for the tourists was a stinker, Ahmedabad falling to India after a first-innings collapse by England. Pietersen, who would later speak about not trusting his defence in that match, was bowled twice by the left-armer Pragyan Ojha. England’s ineptitude against spin and Pietersen’s issue with left-armers was once again the story.
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A week later at the Wankhede Stadium, England were confronted with a dusty brown mudpack. Hearts sank when Cook lost the toss – this would turn from the off and get worse. The damage Swann and Panesar wreaked on the first day confirmed everyone’s worst fears. It was England’s turn next…
“Yeah, playing spin… and my travails against left-arm spin – which are documented, because whatever I do gets documented in cricket, good or bad – so, unfairly I think, the left-arm spin thing played a big part [in India’s approach that series]. But actually it might have worked in my favour, because I thought, ‘You know what, if they’re going to keep going on it, maybe there is something I need to go and work on, maybe there is.’
“So I sat down with Rahul Dravid in the IPL, who is one of the greatest players of spin ever. I worked out a technique, I worked out a game plan, and I’ve just played to that game plan ever since.”
Can you explain the technique?
It’s a simple technique, it’s a simple method that I need to just tap back into occasionally. I train it in the nets. And on a wicket like that, where it was spinning as much as it was, I walked out there to bat and I saw what happened in the first innings and you sit there waiting to bat and you go, ‘If a ball’s got your name on it, it’s got your name on it.’ And I play with such a carefree attitude now that I’m not really fazed – if I get nought, I get nought, and I’ve played with that for the last three, four, five years and I haven’t really worried.
Where does that come from?
I think it’s maturity, I think perspective as well – you know, having a kid and also knowing that there’s more to life outside of cricket. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have the drive, because I want to achieve things in cricket still. I’m a total professional in everything that I do. But an attitude like that definitely stands out when you look at this innings that I played in Mumbai because if a ball’s got your name on it then it’s got your name on it. If you miss it and it hits your stumps, no problem. If you miss it, and it goes to the keeper, no problem. But if you hit it, it’s going. And that’s the way that I played and that’s the way that I continue to play.
Is there one particular shot that sticks out from Mumbai?
Yeah, Ojha bowling. So Dale Steyn at Headingley was one, and [the other shot that sticks in the mind was] Ojha bowling over the wicket and landing the ball on the stumps and hitting him over extra cover. You look at the switch-hit and stuff, it is what it is and it’s fun and it’s adventurous, but just the slowness of my bat speed through those balls is what stands out to me. I look at those two shots – and I don’t normally like to talk about my shots – but I do occasionally look at those and go, ‘How the hell did you do that?’ I don’t know…