Regular readers will know that Kevin Pietersen is one of my favourite cricketers and I believe that once we have enough distance to make a sound judgment he will be considered one of the greats—a term too often applied to very good players going through a purple patch, Matthew Hayden being a good example.
He did it his way
Even though his statistics put him in an elite group of players when simply taken on their own, they are almost an afterthought when it comes to any discussion of where he ranks in cricket’s pantheon. In the same way it made his batting never less than compulsive viewing, the thing that will shape his legacy is the way he thrived on turning convention upside down, doing things that went against every idea of how things were meant to work.
After all, this is the guy with the infamous skunk hairdo and the switch hit, a stroke that required a rewriting of the laws of the game. He was known for his unorthodox batting and willingness to break all the rules of stroke play, succeeding without sticking to the methods that were meant to be indispensable.
Given this reputation, it may come as a surprise that he has been such an outpspoken champion of Test Cricket as the highest form of the game a player should aspire to, and the true measure of player’s skills.
But what many people don’t realise is that the key to his success and the reason he was able to break so many of the rules of batting was that he knew them in and out. Like Sachin Tendulkar, his polar opposite in style, he wasn’t a successful T20 player despite his Test background, but because of it. Because he possessed that foundation, he could make the transition from Test to T20, unlike many T20 players who were found out when they went the other way.
When Pietersen broke the rules or went against the accepted wisdom of how he should be batting, it was intentional. He knew what he was doing, and it generally worked. It’s similar to experienced tradies, who spend years as apprentices learn- ing the skills of their trade and the concepts behind their work, eventually knowing the shortcuts they can—and can’t—take to get the job done quickly and properly, and in half the time.
It’s a mark of great artists, too, like writers and poets who play loose with gram- mar or storytelling conventions. Often, newer writers see their success and reach the conclusion that learning the fundamentals of grammar and syntax isn’t impor- tant. They don’t see the work and effort that went into getting to that point, and break the rules out of ignorance, rather than making a deliberate decision as to what can be dispensed with.
When Jesus debated with the religious experts of his day, and spoke about the importance of honouring God not tradition, he wasn’t ignoring all that came before. He knew those teachings inside out, and it was that knowledge that allowed him to cut to the heart of their true meaning and know what could be dispensed with and what couldn’t.
They know not what they do
Too many people try to do the same thing without putting in the time to learn what Christianity is all about. That leads to Christians who show too little love in the name of truth, or those who compromise truth in the name of grace. And it leads to plenty of people who base their decision to discount Christianity on an incomplete or incorrect understanding of what it is actually all about, taking their conclusions from Hollywood or popular culture.
We all need to decide what to believe and how to live our lives for ourselves. But, the first step is ensuring we are doing so from a strong foundation, built on knowledge and understanding, making our choices intentionally, not out of ignorance.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html