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Kevin Pietersen: Forget the pitch, the third Test batting was dreadful


Great to be covering live cricket again

Even though it only lasted for a couple of days, I really enjoyed being part of the commentary team on talkSPORT radio in the UK for the third Test match.

I like diving into the intricacies of the game. I like speaking about it and thinking about it, and I love battles between India and England because of my own journey against spin bowling during my career.

This was a particularly fascinating Test, which I’ve done a lot of thinking about.

The pitch does not justify such poor batting

Yes, the surface at Ahmedabad ensured that the ball was always likely to dominate in the third Test. But I’m just not having this nonsense about the pitch being unplayable. I’m not having it.

The batting from both teams was absolutely dreadful.

As a batsman, you guard against the straight deliveries. That should be your No. 1 priority. If it beats you on the outside edge, that’s no problem.

If you get a really good ball that you just cannot play – like Shane Warne’s famous deliveries to Mike Gatting and Andrew Strauss, and even Moeen Ali to Virat Kohli in this series – then that is what it is.

It’s the same when facing seamers. You might get beaten on the outside, and you might occasionally nick an unplayable one, but you’ve got to be able to defend your stumps when they try and beat you on the inside. That’s fundamental.

So it was very disappointing to see 21 wickets fall to straight deliveries from spinners in this match.

The technique and skill levels on show were horrendous. I’ve heard Kohli and Rohit Sharma concede this in the aftermath, but I’m yet to hear an England player say it.

England players and fans can talk about the pitch, but I’ve played on pitches in England that have had so much grass on that batting is virtually impossible. You have to play the conditions.

I didn’t see a single batsman use their feet properly, other than Ollie Pope a couple of times.

I remember my trials and tribulations on what was an insane wicket in Mumbai in 2012. I had to get down the wicket to Pragyan Ojha a couple of times and hit him through extra cover, I had to hit Harbhajan Singh over mid-on. Eventually I got on top of it and went on to make 180.

You start to get the bowler thinking: ‘Is he coming? Is he not?’. You begin to win the battle.

England could have won this Test match if they’d batted better on day one, there’s no doubt about it. They had a great chance to be leading this series 2-1.

It’s been very frustrating to hear so much debate about the pitch when the relatively simple skill of blocking straight balls was so absent.

England can still bounce back

I don’t want to point fingers at the young England batsmen too much, because this is a testing tour for them. It’s their first trip of this magnitude to India and it’s a learning experience.

 These youngsters shouldn’t be beating themselves up, they should be remembering how cool it is that next week they have another opportunity to play a Test match in India.

I remember on my first trip in 2006 when I walked out to bat in Nagpur for the first time. Wow! Kumble was bowling, there were men around the bat, the crowd were up, then down, then up. It was tough.

It’s something that you want to do as a young player, though. It’s something that you dream of.

So, actually, these youngsters shouldn’t be beating themselves up, they should be remembering how cool it is that next week they have another opportunity to play a Test match in India.

‘Can I do better? What can I work on over the next few days?’ They’ve still got a fantastic chance to walk away with a famous series draw.

I don’t see the next pitch being a road, so if they can just bat really well in the first innings, they have a shot at levelling things up.

I’m still baffled by England’s selection policy

It is worth re-emphasising what I wrote about last week.

I would like to hold the ECB’s selection panel to account for this defeat, because it’s an absolute disgrace that they haven’t sent their full-strength team to play against India in India.

A series like this can define you as a player and define your career.

I speak from experience, because we went there and won in 2012 and people still talk about it. I managed to get that 180 in Mumbai and people still bring it up when I’m over there.

Your career is all about taking these opportunities, so for England to have been rotating throughout this series is utterly disgraceful.

Ravi Ashwin is a very smart operator

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It’s a fabulous effort for Ravi Ashwin to have become the second-fastest bowler to reach 400 Test match wickets.

He is a very smart bowler, who knows exactly how to get the best out of the conditions that he is given – both home and away. He’s got so much variety and so much control to go with it.

He’s been marvellous in all formats and I suspect he has plenty more in the tank to become one of their all-time great bowlers.

Looking forward to the Road Safety World Series

I can’t wait to get out to India and captain England in the Road Safety World Series starting next week.

There are a number of my ex-teammates in the England side – Jonathan Trott, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar and plenty of others – so it’ll be great to take to the field with them again.

We’ll also be playing against some of the greats. Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Brett Lee are all involved in the other squads.

It’ll be fun to be back with bat in hand and catching up with some old mates.

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