England’s Ashes campaign has been in a tailspin ever since Joe Root decided to bat first at the Gabba. Barring fleeting moments of individual resistance, England have always been behind Australia in the tour, culminating with a dismal 68 all out to surrender the Ashes barely two days into the third Test.
Unlike some others who called for Root’s removal, Pietersen felt that the Yorkshire player could do little about matters. “There is no point blaming Joe Root for what’s happened in Australia,” he wrote. “He’s the only class batter in that team and has been tasked with leading an underprepared, low-quality team into an Ashes series. It was a hopeless task.”
Instead he believed that the fault lay in the falling standards of county cricket. Putting forward his own experience, he compared the feeling of playing a county game when he started playing first-class cricket as being akin to Test cricket.
“I learned my trade against some of the greatest players in the world every week,” Pietersen wrote. “In 2001, three of the top four run-scorers in Division One were Mike Hussey, Darren Lehmann and Stuart Law, three batters who are remembered as established Australian internationals. You had Muttiah Muralitharan and Saqlain Mushtaq towards the top of the wicket-taking charts…The Leicestershire side we came up against in 2003 featured Virender Sehwag, Brad Hodge, Paul Nixon, Jeremy Snape, Phil DeFreitas and Charlie Dagnall. When I made 355* against Leicestershire in 2015, I would have made 250 without pads on. It was a moment when I realised just how far county cricket had fallen.”
He proposed a first-class structure in the vein of The Hundred.
“They now need to introduce a similar franchise competition for red-ball cricket, whereby the best play against the best every single week. They would make money available to attract some of the best overseas players in the world and the top English players would benefit from playing alongside them. It would be a marketable, exciting competition, which would drive improvement in the standard and get people back through the gates for long-form cricket. I see it as an eight-team round-robin league in the middle of the summer.”
To improve the standards of batting, Pietersen proposed that greater consideration was given to the quality of surfaces played on. “The pitches are monitored by the ECB so that we’re not seeing majorly bowler-friendly conditions like we do now. We have to have good pitches that reward and encourage strong batting techniques, batting for long periods of time, and that require skill from bowlers to take wickets. The county system doesn’t necessarily need to change. It can be the feeder system below this competition, where players are developed until they’re ready to step up.”