Kevin Pietersen has backed England’s retention of Zak Crawley in their Test squad to face India at Edgbaston.
While Brendon McCullum’s reign as England’s men’s Test head coach has exceeded England fans wildest expectations so far, Crawley’s form has been one area of concern. While New Zealand, the inaugural World Test Championship winners, were dispatched 3-0 with England chasing more than 250 on three occasions, Crawley was little more than a bystander, averaging 14.50 across three Tests. The 24-year-old now averages 26.68 after 24 Test matches, with growing questions over his place in the side.
However, England have stuck by Crawley for India’s visit, and Pietersen has supported their decision to do so. “There is no fear of failure. It’s purely backing guys’ talent,” he wrote for Betway. “And you know what I like? That, despite his struggles, Zak Crawley has been selected for the India Test this week. If you’re going to ask players to express themselves, you have to understand that it sometimes won’t work out. If you start dropping them after a bad run, they won’t feel that they can play as naturally again.”
England have scored at a historically fast rate under McCullum – never have a team batted five or more times in a Test series and scored at a quicker rate, where data is available – and Pietersen credited not just McCullum, but also England’s just-retired white-ball captain Eoin Morgan for heralding a culture shift.
“England’s Test team are taking a leaf out of Eoin Morgan’s book, transforming their playing style to entertain the crowds,” he said. “That is Morgan’s legacy as captain of the white-ball team for the last seven-and-a-half years – creating a culture in English cricket where talent is backed and entertainment is paramount.
“It’s actually a culture shift that Morgan introduced to English cricket in 2015. To see it now bearing fruit in Test cricket is great.”
However, despite England’s resurgence, Pietersen felt that India would present a harder challenge. “It always surprised me that New Zealand were World Test Champions,” he said. “I certainly expect England to face a tougher test against India, who are packed full of the best players on the planet. India’s bowlers might not mind so much that England are going to come out swinging at them.”