Professional Reader

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*Naughty swear words in this post!*

Kevin Pietersen is an enigma in world cricket – on the one hand, an incredibly talented batsman and England’s highest run scorer in all forms of the game (for a sample of what he can do with a cricket bat, check here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIkXjsdWW9E ); and an introverted, self-absorbed character who has become English cricket’s pariah on the other hand. Since retiring from international cricket however, KP seems pretty happy. Why wouldn’t he be? Like most international sportsmen (even with a head like his), he has a stunning partner (former Liberty X singer Jessica Taylor who, for the benefit of Duffy the Writer’s hordes of male fans, apparently hangs out at Tescos: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/5002072/Jessica-Taylor-models-new-Tesco-underwear.html) and spends his days in cricket heaven – commentating on cricket, playing Twenty20 cricket and writing books on cricket. His latest book is: Kevin Pietersen on Cricket. For a cricket fan like me, it is an easy read. The print is big and you don’t have to concentrate too hard as KP regales the reader with stories of past battles and some of the great players he played with and against during his exceptional career. Towards the end of the book, he selects the dream Test team of his era. He doesn’t put himself in it, but he would be perfectly entitled to have thought long and hard about it.

But back to the “Pietersen paradox” because this is what I find most interesting about the book. Remember this is one of cricket’s most controversial personalities telling it in his own words. On page 3 of the book, he says: “People like to say that cricket is a team game, but that’s nonsense. Cricket is not a team game; cricket is a collection of individuals playing for a team.” Herein lies the problem! He is not a team man! How could England have made this guy captain? But then on page 75 he says about his return to South Africa in 2005 to represent England: “…..before the first game in Johannesburg, on the outfield at Wanderers Stadium, we got into a huddle and Michael Vaughan said, guys we know and we understand that KP’s in for a hell of a ride over the next two or three weeks from the crowd. If anybody goes at him, if you hear anybody go at him, you fucking support him like he’s your best mate, because we are a team, we are a unit, and we are going to fight like fuck. That made me feel incredible. Michael Vaughan, the great Michael Vaughan and the captain of the team, was treating me like his mate. Treating me like his mate and asking everyone else to back me through a situation that they knew was going to be difficult. And I felt the support in the team; I felt it around the lads.

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Sorry KP, but I think I am going to be sick! You just said cricket is not a team game. It is just a bunch of guys (or girls of course) playing for themselves. There cannot possibly be any bond between them. There cannot possibly be any camaraderie or need to stand together. This is why Pietersen failed as a skipper, divided the English team, fell out with the English Cricket Board and ultimately had to cut short his career. I have had the great pleasure of playing cricket for a lot of different teams during my life – not at any great level, but just because I love playing cricket. I am sure any normal person who has been fortunate to play team sport knows the feeling. In some cases, I have joined teams where I initially knew nobody or have just been filling in. There is however (I think at least) an immediate awareness that you are all in it together. You want the others in the team to do well and they want you to do well. If you make a duck or drop a catch, somebody puts their hand on your shoulder and says don’t worry about it. And the more you play together, the tighter the bond becomes. I am glad that at least for that scintilla of time in South Africa, KP felt what it was like to be part of a team, but for the rest of the time he just never got it.

Thanks Mr B for your VERY honest review!  A great Christmas book idea for all cricket fans and sure to bring some passionate debate over your turkey and prawns!