When I am working with our Colts, I always try to illustrate a coaching point with examples from the First Class game.
A lot of the boys try to hit the ball too hard, and fall over as they go for a big shot. I try telling them to stand still, and to keep their balance. But there can be few better examples of perfect balance at the batting crease than MS Dhoni, hitting the winning 6 in the final of the 2011 World Cup. They have all seen the pictures, all seen the poise and the twirling bat. And some of them are hitting the ball a lot more often, and more cleanly, now they follow Dhoni’s example.
For straight lines when bowling – Dale Steyn. Run straight towards the stumps; look straight ahead; follow through straight; bowl straight…it works!
For absolute focus on the task in hand – Alastair Cook, every time he bats.
And now I might have a new role model – Kevin Pietersen. Not (this time) for the inventiveness in his stroke play, or confidence to back his own methods, but for his innings in the Mumbai test.
Not just a great innings, but a great innings when it mattered, both to KP himself and to the England team. Now if I could just encourage the Colts to follow KP’s example, and to find the commitment in themselves to perform at their best when their team needs them, I think I might be working with some even better young players.
Who would you choose to bat for you?
In case this sounds like an over-reaction to an exceptional performance, Pietersen’s stats do seem to support the idea that he really is a man to have on your side.
In a fascinating interview on the BBC’s “More or Less” radio programme, Rob Eastaway (@robeastaway), one of the men behind the ICC World rankings, took a closer look at batting averages, and at alternative data that perhaps give a better perspective on a batter’s worth to his team.
Across his Test career to date, KP has (on average) made nearly 15% of the England team’s runs when he is in the side. This puts him a little ahead of Alastair Cook, and well ahead of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott. He really does score runs when the team need them.
If you had to pick one batsman to score a hundred, who should you choose? As Eastaway shows, KP comes very near the top of the list, again.
Pietersen’s record shows that he scores 100 in 14.3% of his innings, just behind Alastair Cook at 14.7%. Ian Bell manages just 11.7% and Jonathan Trott 11.3%.
So – my new role model for consistency and reliability – Kevin Pietersen.