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All is not lost for England, just look at '81

January 08, 2009

A bleary-eyed Kevin Pietersen [Images] arrived at Heathrow airport in London [Images] on Thursday to be greeted by scores of flashing cameras and a bank of newspaper headlines proclaiming that English cricket is in meltdown.

Pietersen had flown back from holiday in South Africa [Images] following a remarkable day which ended with him resigning after five months as England [Images] captain, coach Peter Moores being sacked and opening bat Andrew Strauss [Images] appointed Test captain for the forthcoming tour of West Indies [Images].

With a home return against West Indies in May, the Twenty20 [Images] World Cup and an Ashes summer to follow, England cannot afford to be sucked down by negativity.

They should instead celebrate the fact that, among all Wednesday's speculation, intimation and finally confirmation, Pietersen made it absolutely clear that he wants to carry on as a player.

In that regard there are some useful precedents to draw on, most tellingly with Ian Botham in the 1981 Ashes.

In similar circumstances to Pietersen, the former all-rounder resigned before he could be sacked having lost one and drawn the other of the opening two matches of what was to become a classic series.

England were certainly in disarray then but, with Mike Brearley re-installed as captain and Botham, the weight of captaincy lifted from his shoulders, rediscovering his form to devastating effect, they surged back to win the series with some extraordinary performances from the all-rounder.

And just as Brearley overcame a lack of personal runs to restore calm and order with his thoughtful captaincy, England have Michael Vaughan [Images], the man who led them to their 2005 Ashes success but also desperate to find his form, waiting in the wings.


Pietersen is his own biggest fan and just like Botham, gets frustrated by having to deal with people he considers to be lesser talents.

Moores, having never played Test cricket, was never able to earn Pietersen's respect and their relationship was always strained.

The final straw in its disintegration appears to have been the decision not to recall Vaughan for the West Indies tour.

Pietersen wanted his former skipper alongside him and Vaughan offered hefty support in return on Thursday.

"There will be pressure on KP after all the controversy and I hope he is not going to be affected by it. He has the flair and ability to make world-class bowlers look ordinary," Vaughan wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"What Kevin has to do now is go to the West Indies and score a hundred in the first Test then all the controversy will be forgotten.

"England need Kevin to be challenging to be the number one batsman in the world."

With a Test average of 50.48 from 83 matches, Pietersen is in England's all-time top 10 and comfortably ahead of any of his current team mates.

In one-day internationals, where England have traditionally struggled, he averages 48.36, his country's best and third in the world all-time list.

If, like Botham, and to a lesser extend Andrew Flintoff [Images], he can ease seamlessly back into the ranks, then there is no reason why England should not secure home and away triumphs over the West Indies.

Australia [Images], despite their recent blip in form, represent a bigger challenge but it is one that Pietersen will relish who ever is in charge.

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