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Pakistan v England: Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook’s feat of positive thinking relieves the mental pressure
Posted on | February 27, 2012 | 1 Comment
The big question everybody is asking in this one-day series is why couldn’t England bat like this in the Tests?
If they had, England would have won the series. Alastair Cook has made two hundreds, Kevin Pietersen one. Cook’s batting is full of beautiful strokes and lovely footwork, but it’s Pietersen who is the revelation.
He said he was not under pressure during the Test series but that’s nonsense. He batted as if he had a sack of coal on his back. Now he has suddenly found some form. There was the odd play and miss on Saturday and a few edges. But there were some excellent shots, too, and even though he is not quite back to his best, it was a big step in the right direction.
He farcically said on Friday that you now have to defend five stumps because of the Decision Review System and that if a ball hits him on the pad and Hawk-Eye shows it just clipping leg stump, he shouldn’t be given out.
Why not? If his leg hadn’t been there the ball would have hit the stumps and knocked the bails off. From a bowler’s point of view that is out.
Kevin even said: “I played Warne and Murali with my pad.” Well, the greatest run getter of all time, Don Bradman, was quoted years ago saying, “You don’t wear a pad on your legs to kick the ball away, you wear it to stop you getting injured.”
So when he uses his bat and not the pad, like he did during the Tests, then he is going to make runs. Also try playing straighter as well. That helps too. His quotes just show the frame of mind he was in before his hundred. He was making excuses for himself.
Cook’s two hundreds and effortless 80 have shown how playing one-day cricket can free a batsman who struggled in the Tests. His timing is good, his range of strokes is impressive and the fluency with which he is picking off the bowlers makes him look a complete player.
He came into the Test series after a lengthy lay-off and had two failures in the first Test which eats away at you. No runs, no time in the middle – in fact, just eight runs off 85 balls.
This helped make him very tense and put him in a defensive state of mind where he stayed back in his crease protected his stumps too much. His whole thought process was negative. He wasn’t batting – he was trying to stay in.
I understand it more than most because I have been there and know what it is like. The pressure on him and the rest of the team was magnified because they could not read Saeed Ajmal – then again, hardly anyone can – and the ball was turning slowly. In the second Test, when Cook made 94 runs, it took him nearly five hours.
It was commendable but when even more pressure was exerted on him and the others in the second innings they folded and flopped to 72. The more failures you have, the more pressure you bring on yourself and the more introverted you become.
It is a terrible cycle that gets to you mentally. You know you should change but you can’t think straight. It is an awful dilemma.
Fortunately England had six days off between the Tests and one-day series to regroup and do some serious soul-searching. Cook was like everybody else: he had to think through what else was going on and realise he had to play a different type of cricket.
It is possible to make the change because one-day cricket poses different challenges. When you bat in one-day cricket you are always up against the clock. That is hard but it also gives a batsman an excuse for getting out.
This makes you think positively. Being positive helps your footwork improve. England were also helped by Pakistan’s seamers bowling so poorly.
Remember Aizaz Cheema took only one wicket in two Tests and Umar Gul has bowled appallingly in the one-dayers which has helped Pietersen and Cook get off to a flying start.
The Pakistan spinners have bowled without close catchers and spread out fielders leaving lots of gaps for England to pinch singles from defensive shots.
In the Tests it was totally the opposite with close catchers crowding our batsmen and almost everyone saving singles. Our guys felt hemmed in and froze like rabbits in headlights. That is the difference and why Cook is now playing out of his skin.
Article reproduced with kind permission from the Daily Telegraph