Short Memory Syndrome

When I described Alastair Cook as a great batsman last week I was getting carried away. Carried away on a cocktail of admiration for his batting, especially since he became England's one-day captain, and the type of mellow 'everything's right with the world' feeling that a walk in the Devon countryside in the late winter sunshine can bring on.

For all Cook's precocity, and runs, and undeniable rightness for what he's doing, it's hard to see him ever quite being great. He'll break a few run accumulaton records, sure, but you can do that without being great (just ask Geoffrey Boycott. Well, no, actually, don't ask Geoffrey Boycott.). He'll do for the future, though.

Kevin Pietersen, though, is different. As his century in the final ODI between England and Pakistan last Tuesday showed, he is capable of breaking bowlers in a way that no other English batsman from the foreseeable past has.

I always thought Pietersen had it in him to be great, but the type of long silence which he has endured in the one-day game over the past three years can lead even those of us who don't earn our living from writing to be sucked in by the short memory syndrome which habitually affects full-time journalists.

Apart from the reminder of just how good Pietersen can be, the lasting fascination of the innings was the way in which it illustrated how a prolonged period of under-performance can diminish the confidence of even the best.

The Pietersen who went to the wicket in the final match of the series wasn't very different in a technical or physical sense from the one who began the previous game.

He, like the rest of us 153 balls later, had just remembered what he could do.

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