Predictably, Kevin Pietersen had a lot to say on his debut for the Test Match Special commentary team… but for once, most of it wasn’t about him.
He sat down in the commentary box at around 5:45am UK time, and the half hour that followed was one of the most frenetic passages of play in the whole Cricket World Cup. South African bowler JP Duminy took a hat trick, five Sri Lankan wickets fell, and even a streaker felt it necessary to give the new man some extra material.
Kevin Pietersen, as the cliché goes, is nothing if not box office – even with a mic instead of a bat in his hand.
The tasty half hour of radio had a tart opening. Pietersen said how pleased he was to make his debut, “the first of many, hopefully.” Commentator Jonathan Agnew shot back immediately, pointing out that, by its very definition, you could only have one debut.
Touché. Was genteel Aggers going to give KP a tough time?
Of course not, this was just the commentator’s way of introducing the divisive England batsman to TMS badinage.
Pietersen, impressively, quickly got into his stride, accusing legendary Sri Lankan batter Kumar Sangakkara of not “taking enough risks”. Bit hard to do when your partners are chucking their wickets away, but still. Pietersen then came over all philosophical: “He [Sangakkara] is a deep thinker and a proud man.” A kindred spirit perhaps?
The cricket must have been good to take the spotlight away from KP. Off-spinner Duminy took a hat trick as South Africa destroyed Sri Lanka’s batting line-up. The trouble was, nobody noticed. Because Duminy had taken the first of his three wickets on the final ball of the previous over, even Agnew was caught off guard when a little voice in the back of the box informed him that the bowler had bowled out three in a row.
See KP? Even the best commentators need a helping hand occasionally.
The flurry of wickets was followed by a fluffed attempt by a streaker to invade the pitch. Perhaps the cricketing Gods were sick of hearing about Pietersen’s continual battles with the England and Wales Cricket Board?
Only once did Agnew manage to sneak in the crucial question – did Pietersen still want to play for England?
“I’ve obviously expressed my interest in trying to pursue getting back in the fold,” he replied. “If I can do anything that can help me get back into some sort of cricket again in England then it’s something that I want to do.”
News line duly presented, it was back to the matter at hand, before a freak burst of rain took everybody by surprise and had the groundsmen stumbling for the covers.
This was the ultimate test. Could KP whittle on for an hour’s rain delay about cake and pigeons?
Sadly, we’ll never know: Pietersen was needed by his TV colleagues Fox Australia next door. He bid a pleasant goodbye in his forever-surprisingly reedy voice, and backed out of the commentary box (hopefully snaffling a still-warm flapjack on his way).
A short, sharp debut from a batsman who has never particularly liked hanging around. What will happen when next time isn’t so action-packed, we’ll just have to wait and see.