CRAIG KIESWETTER
Illustration- Vasim Maner

Kevin Pietersen migrated to England from his country of birth in protest against the quota system. Another South African born, snubbed by his provincial team, moved to England in 2006. Often compared to Pietersen, in batting style and aggressive stroke-play, but given nowhere near the recognition as the former England great, Craig Kieswetter has been a giant in the shortest format of the game, both for his county, Somerset and his adopted country, England.

CONSISTENCY AS A HALLMARK

His T20I record seems middling if seen through the conventional average and strike rate prism – 526 runs in 25 innings at an average of 22 and a strike rate of 112.

But if you keep two facts in front of you, it will not be difficult to see why Impact Index finds Kieswetter as the second-highest impact T20I player (min. 20 matches) till date (only after Samuel Badree).

One, he was a big match player, who was instrumental in taking England to their only world title ever in cricket history, in any format – the World T20 title in 2010.

Two, while opening the batting, he also performed the specialized role of wicketkeeper competently. That makes him a genuine all-rounder.

Even though we are talking about low sample sizes of matches, Kieswetter’s place in English cricket is assured because of what he helped his team accomplish.

ICC World T20 Final, England vs Australia, Barbados, 2010: England are chasing 148 for their first-ever world championship title in this sport in any format at a venue where the highest-ever impact Australian ODI side had won their third consecutive (50-over) World Cup three years ago. England are 8 for 1 as Pietersen joins Kieswetter, choking set to unfold. But in a spectacular display of batting where they take the advantage in the powerplay itself and put on 117 runs in just 11 overs, effectively finishing off the match amongst themselves – Kieswetter 63 in 49 balls is the highest impact batsman and player in the match. Pietersen – 47 in 31 balls – the highest impact player in the tournament.

Kieswetter was the second-highest impact batsman and player of the tournament after Pietersen. As a batsman, he failed just once in the six matches in the tournament, and that too marginally.

Two of his five highest impact batting performances (in T20Is) came in this tournament. He earned the only Tournament-Defining performance (TD) of his career for his performance in the final.

Contrary to popular perception, Strike Rate Impact (rate of scoring in comparison to the match norm) is not Craig Kieswetter’s strong suite. But his consistency is.

Only three batsmen – Virat Kohli, Kevin Pietersen and Kane Williamson, Brendon McCullum and Kumar Sangakkara have been more consistent than Kieswetter (failure rate of 35%).

DOMESTIC T20 GIANT

Twenty20 Cup, Warwickshire vs Somerset, Birmingham, 2007: 19 year old Kieswetter, on debut, walks in with his team in a spot of bother at 51 for 3 and smashes 48 in just 35 balls. 

But Kieswetter only tasted consistent success a couple of years later.

Twenty 20 Cup, Gloucestershire vs Somerset, Bristol, 2009: Chasing Gloucestershire’s 173, Somerset were reeling at 12 for 3 when Kieswetter walked out to the middle. De bruyn’s departure made it 23 for 4. Kieswetter played second fiddle to a rampaging Peter Trego who smashed 49 off just 26 balls before exiting with the team score at 102 for 5. Kieswetter then changed gear and went helter-skelter taking the Gloucestershire attack apart. His 84 off 42 balls – his highest impact T20 innings, won the game for his side comfortably.  

Kieswetter scored the highest proportion of runs ( Runs Tally Impact ) between 2010 and 2014 in England’s premier domestic T20 tournaments. Moreover, he forged the most batting partnerships in this period too.

There is a direct correlation between Kieswetter’s impact and Somerset’s results during this period. In 2010, Somerset ended up as the runner’s up to Hampshire and Kieswetter was their second-highest impact player (after Kieron Pollard). Somerset were again the unlucky finalists in 2011 with Kieswetter being their fourth-highest impact player (after Roelof van der Merwe, Pollard and Murali Karthik) of the season. He was their highest impact batsman and player in 2013 when Somerset bowed out to Surrey in the Quarter-Finals.

He was the highest scorer in Somerset’s final knockout game in 2010, 2012 and 2013 again showcasing his big-match temperament.

Somerset did not go on to win any of the tournaments, thus he did not get the opportunity to register a tournament-defining performance , and yet, even without that, Kieswetter is the third-highest impact batsman in these tournaments, after Richard Levi and William Porterfield (minimum 20 matches). His batting failure rate of 31% is the third-lowest too, remarkable given that he was also the wicketkeeper.

Kieswetter is a giant in England domestic T20 cricket – he is Somerset’s highest impact T20 batsman and second-highest impact player (after Pollard) ever, above the likes of Marcus Trescothick and Jos Buttler.

And indeed, the fifth-highest impact T20 player from England (domestic and internationals), only after Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Darren Maddy and Kevin Pietersen (minimum 60 matches).

Kieswetter was struck by a bouncer during Somerset’s County Championship match last year – at the peak of his batting prowess.  He underwent surgery for a broken nose and fractured eye socket but was never the same player when he returned. He failed with the bat in seven of the ten matches he played post the injury before retiring in June at the age of 27.

A great T20 career which promised to reach further heights came to an unfortunate end.

 

 

Nikhil Narain

NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.