Kevin Pietersen has the somewhat unfounded reputation of being a non-conformist, but he made a strong pitch for Test cricket in Bangalore on Tuesday (June 12).
Delivering the sixth MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture ahead of the BCCI Annual Awards, the former England captain said the five-day Test ‘remains the greatest all-round challenge in modern-day sport’.
“In my humble opinion, a hard-fought five-day Test match remains the greatest all-round challenge in modern day sport. A challenge as mentally demanding as it is physical,” Pietersen, who made 8181 runs in 104 Tests at 47.28, said. “A challenge demanding the very highest levels of concentration of technique, of determination, of stamina, all, for the batsman at least, with no second chances.
“Because, having played every form of cricket in every corner of the cricketing globe, I remain 100% convinced that the five-day Test remains the supreme form of the game. This may surprise some of you. After all, I am not known as a traditionalist. But in 2005 I maintained that you shouldn’t judge a man by his haircut. And now, 13 years later, I suggest you should NOT believe everything you read on Twitter!”
With players from Afghanistan, who will play their historic first ever Test on Thursday, in attendance, Pietersen asked and answered a few questions pertinent to the occasion. “What does it take to succeed in a test match?” he asked. “What makes it different from the other forms of the game in which you have already excelled?”
Answering those questions, he went on, “For me, it’s the ability to take your lessons from the nets into the heat of battle.
“It’s the determination to prepare, practise and give 100% commitment to everything away from the game. I appreciate that’s quite lot to ask for before Thursday! But I know some of you personally and you have been demonstrating those qualities and that application for a long time now.”
Appealing to all players and fans to back Test cricket, he urged the administrators to play their part too. “How do you ensure that Rashid Khan and his fellow stars in this room commit to Test cricket? How do you push them towards a career where they truly care about the five-day game? Where they don’t just pay lip service to the national test side but dream of test cricket and strive to master it?
“Well, I’m not so long in the tooth that I’ve forgotten the answer to that one!” he continued. “It’s remarkably simple. Ensure that it becomes their priority. They are professionals. They are brands in their own right. And as this incredible Afghanistan team proves great players can move mountains – and inspire populations.
“So ensure that they are paid as well over five days as they are over five hours of 20-20 cricket. You can’t blame a player for seeking financial security through his or her sporting talent. The days of amateurism are gone.”
Signing off by invoking the spirit of Tiger Pataudi, one of India’s most inspirational skippers, Pietersen said, “If you take his values onto the square, then whatever you achieve in this game and wherever it takes you, you will never regret a moment of it.”