Why Indian Fans are on KP’s Side

by Devanshu Mehta

On Twitter, Indian cricket fans (and fans of Indian cricket) are largely on Kevin Pietersen’s side in his battle against the ECB. Here is my theory why.

I want to preface this by saying:

  1. This is a theory.
  2. Since it is a theory, and it might hit close to home for many people, I don’t expect everyone to accept this theory as explaining their feelings on this matter. Even if the theory is true. Instinctively– and perhaps reflexively– we may discount this theory purely because it says some uncomfortable things about how our minds work. Having said that, I accept that the theory may be wrong.

In the summer of 2011, England comprehensively beat India over the course of four Test matches and a handful of limited overs engagements. India was significantly disadvantaged through injuries and the unavailability of players, but to be fair, they were also outplayed.

The combination of the English press and the English Cricket Board, however, continued to make the point that the English system for producing a cricket team was, in fact, inherently superior.

Now this may have been true– the truth is, we will never know for sure. However, this was not a message palatable to Indian fans at the time. Especially since the much-maligned Indian system had until recently produced a world-beating team in Tests and One Day Internationals.

In addition, this message was coupled with the common attacks about too much cricket, IPL as devil-incarnate, the lack of preparation for “transitioning” the senior players, your players are fat, with unmanaged injuries and on the other hand–

–Look at the professional, perfectly managed English team that Andy Flower rules with an iron fist and a heart of gold. Marvel at our perfection, for we will be the new dynasty in Australia’s place.

Indian fans did not take kindly to this message. And Indian fans took note of the members of the press most stridently pushing the all-hail-andy-flower-ecb-is-singularity message.

This summer, the ECB is locked in a battle for its relevance against Kevin Pietersen. And the English press has largely fallen in line with the ECB, serving as their mouthpiece, dropping leaked tidbits when requested. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, KP was a Saffer anyways.

Schadenfreude time.

The English establishment– and specifically certain characters we remember well from last summer– has continuously upheld and sold the English system as perfect and “professional”.

In the KP story, we see how and where this is not true. We see how and where the narrative of a perfect English system breaks down.

And we enjoy it.

At the same time, Kevin Pietersen alone among all English Test cricketers plays a brand of cricket that is (sometimes abhorrent-ly) referred to as a “subcontinental” brand of cricket. I say this with no disrespect to English batsmen, but KP is the least English of English batsmen.

His style of play would not stand out so much among say an Indian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan line-up. But among the English, he is positively alien.

And we appreciate this.

Also, KP is an iconoclast. India is a country of one billion iconoclasts. In fact, India as a country is united by one thing and one thing alone– to rail against the man. KP is an honorary Indian.

Sorry, make that Delhi Daredevil.