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the highlight of my day (now cricket discussion thread)

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Old 12-30-2006, 11:05 PM   #11
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Re: the highlight of my day (now cricket discussion thread)

I find it pretty amazing that a batsman is allowed to dictate his place in the batting order to both his coach and his captain.

Pietersen bats for himself
Andrew Ramsey
December 30, 2006

AFTER exposing the myriad weaknesses in England's Test campaign, a relentless Australian camp has turned its attention to one of the tourists' few strengths by suggesting that batsman Kevin Pietersen is not a team player.
Australia coach John Buchanan made the observation yesterday as the post-mortem of England's spineless three-day defeat in Melbourne revealed the shambolic truth about life in the England dressing-room.

Coach Duncan Fletcher revealed Pietersen initially refused a request from Fletcher and captain Andrew Flintoff to move up the batting order from five to four because he didn't want to shift from his favoured position but then asked to be promoted in the second innings of this week's fourth Test because he was frustrated at having to bat with the tail.

While Buchanan prefaced his assessment of the flamboyant stroke-maker with the admission that he was not privy to what went on within the England camp, he claimed that Pietersen struck him as a player apart from most of his team-mates.

"Pietersen certainly talks about himself as a team player," Buchanan said. "Personally, I don't see any evidence of that. I do look at him on the field and he seems to distance himself quite a bit, just in where he fields.

"That might be because England want him to field out on the boundary. But he's a good fieldsman, somebody that is good around the (infield) ring and it surprises me that he always seems to be distanced from the rest of the group.

"I wonder sometimes whether the criticism of him is because he is different. Difference is an important part of the make-up of a side. But it's how that difference is managed."

Fletcher confirmed that the decision to shift Pietersen up the order at the MCG was done at the player's insistence. He claimed the sudden change in Pietersen's tune on Thursday was prompted by being left stranded at the crease with only the tailenders for company in Melbourne and Perth.

Tellingly, Fletcher also revealed that after England's first innings at the MCG, Pietersen, whose placement at No.5 was supposedly due to his ability to handle Shane Warne's leg-spin, claimed he had never seen Warne bowl better.

The 26-year-old told his coach that he found it "very, very difficult facing Warne", who took five wickets in that innings. One of those was his Hampshire team-mate, Pietersen, who is England's best-performed batsman of the series with 420 runs at an average of 60.

The revelation that the 'veteran' of just 22 Tests dictates where he bats even if it is at odds with the captain and coach portrays a player unwilling to put himself out for the benefit of his team.

It is customary for a Test captain to decide on his preferred batting order, but Fletcher confirmed that Pietersen flatly rejected his skipper's request.

"We wanted Kevin Pietersen to bat at four, where the top batters should bat," said Fletcher, who confirmed that Pietersen would remain at No.4 for the fifth and final Test in Sydney which starts on Tuesday.

"He was a little bit reluctant and, if you man-manage people, it's very wrong to make them do things that they don't want to do in tight situations. So we thought it was best, on a tour like this, if he wanted to bat No.5 and he felt comfortable there that he would bat at No.5.

"Suddenly, Kevin came to us and discussed it and said, 'look, I'm batting with the tail a lot here, I'd like to bat at four'. We sat and had the discussion and said, 'right, if you are sure you want to bat at four then move up'."

Pietersen's demeanour recently has suggested he is fed up with the humiliation being heaped upon Flintoff's team, which faces the ignominy of being the first England side in 85 years to be humbled 5-0 in Australia.

As England fought for survival on the fourth day of the third Test in Perth, Pietersen's column in an English Sunday tabloid paper announced that "our best is not good enough against this great Aussie side" and conceded that the Ashes were lost.

He was one of five players who opted out of the England players' and officials' Christmas lunch the day before the Test in Melbourne, and on the first morning he chose to attend a pre-game breakfast fund-raiser organised by Warne.

In the field, he often appeared half-hearted when chasing balls into the deep. And having eventually insisted that he adopt England's original team plan by batting at No.4, he lasted just eight balls and made a single before being bowled by Stuart Clark.

"From my point of view, Kevin Pietersen has always performed like that," Fletcher said, when asked if he was satisfied with Pietersen's commitment to the team cause.

"He's batted exceptionally well and shown he's a classy player and you have to let him play like that.

"You don't want to interfere with the way that he's always played."
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