7:03 am - Thursday November 5, 2015

The ghost that haunts England

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In a week that saw Stuart Broad make a mention about his London hotel room being haunted, there seems to be no running away from the illusions of a lost-world. The moment England lost the Lord’s Test, Kevin Pietersen tweeted: Don’t blame me…blame the ghosts! 

England’s premier batsman, who was forced into exile from international cricket following unresolved issues, cannot be wished away at a time when Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have failed.

Pietersen’s ghost made its cold presence felt in the press conference after the second Test.

A British journalist asked Cook if the strategy of dropping Pietersen, was right. The England captain’s eyes would not reveal any emotion but he puckered his lips, there was a hint of a grimace followed by a pause, and then he said: I still think it is.

If Cook and company keep failing, the KP question will do the rounds. Ever since Mitchell Johnson dismantled England in the Ashes, Cook’s men have suffered a steep fall. Seven losses in the last nine Tests is a damning statistic.

Jonathan Trott walked away due to depression, Graeme Swann retired, Matt Prior has stepped down from Tests, and James Anderson and Broad were out-witted by rival fast bowlers, be it the Sri Lankans last month, or the Indians now.

Horror run

The knives are out for Cook and over the past fortnight, almost every press conference, involving an England cricketer or even the man himself, featured multiple questions on the skipper’s form. With 8162 runs from 106 Tests, Cook has the numbers in the larger scheme but when a microscope is used, the horrors come into view.

After the 130 against New Zealand at Leeds during May 2013, the opener has played 27 innings without a hundred, scoring 638 at an average of 23.62. For a team that drew a fair chunk of its strength from his ‘daddy hundreds’, Cook’s poor form has delivered a knock-out blow.

It is a wound that got aggravated through the absence of Pietersen and Trott. Add to it Bell’s equally meagre stint (19 innings without a hundred), and England has been forced to unfairly lean on Joe Root, Sam Robson and Gary Ballance besides the tail. All-rounder Ben Stokes pin-code scores, haven’t helped either.

Its lead batsmen under pressure, strike bowlers over-worked and lacking ideas, and a bare spin cupboard, England and Cook, have an onerous task while chasing results and runs for the rest of the series against India. And Pietersen is peering from the cyber-world.

Perhaps Cook could listen to M.S. Dhoni’s take on the England captain’s crisis “I have gone through a phase where I have lost eight Test matches in a row and then you will get all sort of comments. If you think you can accomplish the job that has been entrusted to you then it really doesn’t matter what the world is saying about you. It depends on the individual.”

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