At risk of using one of the most somnolent openings possible to any article, last night I had a dream. Specifically one in which I was unnecessarily teaching English (my day job) to Kevin Pietersen (not my day job) in a plush hotel suite. He was dressed in a sort of linen tunic with a plunging neckline - not now, Sigmund - and, far from paying attention to my lesson, just sat opposite me with his head in his hands saying, "Give me a cuddle." Later I wrestled with whether to steal a mousse from the hotel's dessert buffet. I didn't and I regretted it.
On Friday, England begin their new era of unity in the West Indies. They are now free of the distracting presence of Pietersen in all likelihood in much the same way a diabetes sufferer could be free of the distracting presence of insulin injections. Yet in this epoch of ethos we must try to find reasons to get behind the side. It's not easy. If you doted on Pietersen, this tour is similar to cheering on your ex-wife's relatives during their appearance on Family Fortunes. You quite want them to do well, but you're not sure which ones were secretly advising her to kick you out of the house.
Prior says the England dressing room will be a better place without Pietersen. Stat: No match has ever been played in a dressing room.Debutant, lordly bat and soon to be recipient of David Warner-based quips Moeen Ali is clearly blameless, however. As is Simon Pegg's more doughty younger brother trapped in a cricketer's body, James Tredwell, and you couldn't wish for two more likable players to rekindle one's ardour in Team Clarity. If you need further reason, though, also remember that Paul Collingwood is now on board as coach, and launched into his first interview in the role by effectively scrawling a large crayon cock and balls on the ECB's media training manual: “When I first started playing for England we were shit.” Words almost as unfussily majestic as his Adelaide double. No wonder we adore him.
— Pavilion Opinions (@pavilionopinion) February 27, 2014
A few stats:
- All three ODIs will be played at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua. You'll find no KPravdaesque propaganda here, but the highest score there by an Englishman is, undeniably, Pietersen's 104 versus Australia during the 2007 World Cup.
- The highest ODI score there by any batsman is surprisingly pleasant and erudite analyst Matthew Hayden's 158 against the Windies in the same tournament.
- England have played 33 ODIs in the West Indies, winning ten and losing 20 with three no results.
- The highest individual score by an English batsman in those matches is Trescothick's 130 at Gros Islet in 2004.
- Brian Lara took 11 catches against England in ODIs. Truth.
Pietersen bygones have barely put on their coat let alone departed, but, finally, and in the spirit of magnanimity it's only fair to flag up a performance by one of his leading detractors, which also happens to be one of the Three Lions' greatest ever ODI knocks. Ahead of Friday's match Curtly Ambrose is set to be made a Sir and the only other time I can recall him being on his knees in the presence of Englishmen was when, alongside the rest of the Windies attack, he was brutalised in Bridgetown in 1998 by of all people Nick Knight. If any England batsman replicates that feat on this tour and you happen to be near Pietersen, please do the decent thing. Put unity first, put down your stolen mousse, and give the distraught and discarded hero of our faltering dreams a nice cuddle.
Listen to Radio Cricket. It's like rubbing a Kohli off drive into your ears.