Rob Minto

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Tag: Alastair Cook

Pietersen vs Cook: it’s the runs, stupid

Kevin Pietersen’s ejection from the England cricket team is, on one level, extraordinary.

The greatest batting talent of a generation, as many think KP is, has been defenestrated for personal reasons, it seems. The need to rebuild, to move on from the Ashes debacle, meant a scapegoat was needed. KP was an easy target.

Perhaps all that is true. It’s also true that Pietersen’s genius and infuriating ability to get out stupidly has been known for years. Remember this headline: “Dumbslog Millionaire“? That was from 2009.

The truth is, Pietersen simply isn’t as important to England in the test set up as he once was, when it comes to the only thing that matters: scoring runs. In the meantime, captain Alastair Cook has grown in importance, and overtaken him.

To show this, I’ve taken each player and looked at their runs as a percentage of the England total in each innings. Forget averages – they are things like no-outs and by low run chases.

Now of course, that percentage fluctuates wildly. So to smooth it out, I’ve taken a rolling average of 10 innings.

Pietersen from the start of his career was very influential – he was regularly around 15 to 20 per cent of the innings. But that has waned, and apart from a brief spell around 2010-11, including the previous triumphant Ashes in Australia and the successful 2011 home series vs India, his percentage has tended to be below the 15 per cent mark for the second half of his career.

Cook, on the other hand, has seen his importance increase. His peaks over the 15 per cent mark have lasted longer and been more pronounced as his career has gone on, with a recent drop the only blip. His trajectory in terms of run percentage is on the up – KP’s is going down.

This is not something that people tend to measure – cricket watchers use averages, or talk about “important” innings. And those are fine – but they don’t show the relative run-accumulation within the team.

Pietersen is disposable because he isn’t indispensable any more. His runs aren’t any different when you add up the team total, even if gathered in a more exciting way. His sacking may be a huge story – but he won’t be missed nearly as much as some people think. As James Carville might say, “It’s the runs, stupid.”

Why Alastair Cook’s record is no big deal

In all the celebration of Alastair Cook becoming England’s most prolific scorer of centuries, one thing occurs. Despite all the “how far could he go” conjecture, it’s just not that a big deal.

Yes, he’s a very very good batsman. But without wanting to kill the party dead, just look at the overall list. There is only one of the big test playing nations which has a lower all-time century scorer: New Zealand. Need I go on?

OK, put it another way. Cook’s 23 tons puts him equal fourth on the India list, and joint seventh on the all time Australia list for century scorers.

Is the list skewed by more test cricket in recent decades? Not really. Cook would also be 4th on the West Indies list, behind Viv Richards and Gary Sobers, as well as Brian Lara.

If Cook was from Pakistan? Third on the list. South Africa? Third. Sri Lanka? Without wanting to get repetitive – third. So of all the big test nations, bar New Zealand, he wouldn’t even be in second place.

In essence, the England centuries record of 22 was always there for the taking. The fact that it had stood for so long was a strange anomaly, and could easily become a fluid thing for a while with Petersen only one ton behind.

Cook is terrific, on a great run of form, and will be a run machine all-time great. But this isn’t the record to get that excited about. Table below the break…

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