KEVIN PIETERSEN
Illustration- Vasim Maner

Kevin Pietersen felt good when he landed in the West Indies in late-April, 2010 for the World T20 tournament. He was valued in a team that seemed driven and relaxed at the same time. And on a personal front, he felt optimistic and upbeat as he was due to be father any day.

Though the first game was lost to the West Indies, thanks to rain leaving only 6 overs to decide the match, the team was focussed and motivated. The game against Ireland was washed out as well. Then came Pakistan, and a chase of 148 was made comfortable thanks to Pietersen’s unbeaten 52-ball 73.  Against South Africa, Pietersen top-scored again, with a 33-ball 53 as an emphatic victory was accomplished. England were in the semi-final, with a formality of a game to play against New Zealand.

Pietersen then took permission to fly back to England as his wife had just delivered a baby boy. He flew 7000 miles, spent a singular blissful day with his family, travelled the same distance back, just in time for the semi-final against Sri Lanka, a handful in these conditions. The bowlers did their job, and England won by 7 wickets with Pietersen top-scoring again with 42 off 26 balls.

Australia was the other finalist, after a stunning turnaround through Michael Hussey – perhaps the most famous T20I innings till date. The all-conquering Aussies were hungry for their first T20 title, the English were desperate for their first-ever world title – the match-up promised much.

On the morning of the match, Pietersen knew things were going well because during throw-downs, every ball he hit was going exactly where he wanted it to. Just as well, as he came out to bat at 7 for 1 as England chased 147. Craig Kieswetter got 63 and for once in the tournament, someone beat Pietersen to the highest score in the innings. But Pietersen’s 31-ball 47 was not far behind. England won easily, historically, and Pietersen was the highest impact player of the tournament and the official Man-of-the-Tournament.

This particular brand of breeziness appeared to be Pietersen’s signature, and it seemed to work great for the team too. What has come to pass in later years is one of the great tragedies in English cricket history, whatever the traditionalists may feel in those quarters.

A GIANT IN T20 INTERNATIONALS

Even though the sample sizes of T20 international matches are not much (35 in Pietersen’s case), the findings are significant.

Pietersen is the highest impact batsman in the world when it comes to T20Is (minimum 20 matches).

Only Virat Kohli and Jacques Kallis have scored a higher proportion of runs than him, but are lower impact because of Pietersen’s tournament-defining performance in West Indies.

He is also among the top 5 pressure-absorbing batsmen and partnership-builders in T20Is.

With a 20% failure rate, Pietersen is the second-most consistent batsman ever in T20Is. Again, only Kohli with a 18% failure has done slightly better than him.

Pietersen has, by far, the highest Strike Rate Impact ever in this format. In fact, the three who follow him in this respect – Darren Sammy, Elton Chigumbura and Thisara Perera, rank 74, 54 and 67 on a list of highest impact T20I batsmen. And the third-highest Chasing Impact after Kohli and Michael Hussey.

Every batting parameter has Pietersen having a say of some sort. Add to this the tournament-defining performance in the World T20 (England’s only World title in cricket history) and you have the most complete batsman in T20 Internationals.

NO DOMESTIC PUSHOVER

With a sample size of 114 matches, his combined T20 record (domestic and T20Is combined) provides a clearer picture.
He is amongst the highest Chasing Impact batsmen ever in T20 cricket (minimum 40 matches). And, with a 38% failure rate, amongst the most consistent too.

Amongst the twenty highest impact batsman in the T20 format, only Darren Bravo has absorbed more pressure (of falling wickets) than Pietersen. And also amongst them, only Imran Nazir and Chris Gayle have a higher Strike Rate Impact than Pietersen.

Pietersen is overall the 14th highest impact batsman in T20 cricket and the second-highest impact Englishman after Darren Maddy by a whisker.

Unfortunately for him, no team he has ever played for in any of the domestic leagues has ever gone on to win the title, when he has been on duty. That reduces his impact but given that, it is remarkable that he should still be so high impact.

Pietersen is also England’s highest impact batsman in ODIs, ever. The shorter formats were tailor-made for him.

 

 

Jaideep Varma

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.