Kevin Pietersen: I couldn't have coped with playing this summer
The Betway ambassador is relieved to see the return of cricket, but doesn't envy those who will be stuck in hotels while playing behind closed doors.
Cricket is back
I have missed cricket over the last few months – it's about time we get it back on our screens.
We've got golf back, we've got football back, we’ve got horse racing back, there has been all sorts. It's going to be really nice to actually watch a little bit of cricket.
I would always rather see sport, even in this form, than not.
For the morale of the players, as well as the supporters, it’s crucial that the game gets going again. I speak to a lot of current players and they all say, “Jeez, all I want to do is play”. Some of them are in the prime of their careers and don’t have time to waste.
Playing behind closed doors
It's going to be very interesting to see how the big performers go – the players who need the crowd, need the noise and need to be able to show off in front of people.
You want to be showing off your skills in front of massive crowds, that’s for sure. I hated playing Test matches out in the UAE where there were no crowds.
We saw Dustin Johnson win in the golf the other day, but he's an under-the-radar guy. We haven't seen Rory McIlroy come to the fore, a guy who really starts to walk with purpose when the crowds are up.
Cricket is particularly interesting because they have to keep the game entertaining for the viewer on television. A day of Test cricket is seven hours long and you get some really quiet passages of play.
Usually you can go off into the crowd and watch people messing around, building those snakes out of plastic cups and getting lairy. That can be a nice distraction.
It’s the same for the players out in the middle – I always used those funny moments in the crowd to keep me going during long stints in the field.
There will be a hum of crowd noise on the TV coverage, which should at least add a little bit of theatre.
It’s going to be stressful for the players
I’m actually very glad I'm not a player this summer – I don't think I would have been able to deal with it.
Players usually have their families, their agents and their sponsors. They can get out and play golf. There is always something going on.
Being stuck with each other is going to be testing for the players. I wouldn't have been able to get my head around it.
It’s so important to be able to get away from the game because of the stresses and strains that it places on your mind and body.
The novelty of this situation might exist for the first Test match or two, but being stuck with each other in a hotel is going to be quite testing by the end of the month. I wouldn't have been able to get my head around it.
Stokes wouldn’t be my pick as captain
I wouldn’t have picked Ben Stokes to stand in for Joe Root as captain, I would have picked Jos Buttler.
Stokes is the type of player that I was discussing earlier – he loves the crowd, and he’s a proven performer in testing conditions with a lot of energy around him.
These will be testing conditions, but there will be no energy at all. That’s something that the players will have to generate for themselves.
He’s also the best player in the team. Is the best player always the best choice as captain? I’m not so sure.
I can speak from personal experience. As soon as you are named captain, your responsibilities change and the dynamic completely changes.
It’s no longer about Stokes being a superstar batsmen or taking vital wickets, it’s about how he manages people.
He could face a little bit of animosity from certain sections of the dressing room if he asks people to do something they don’t want to, or makes a couple of unpopular decisions. He will have to do a lot more press and will face a lot more scrutiny.
That’s not necessarily fair on somebody who already does so much for the team.
I’m not saying that he’s going to a bad job, it’s just going to be interesting.
I will add, if you are offered the captaincy, then there is no way you can turn it down. It’s a great position to be in and I wish him all the best.
Anderson and Broad should still be first-choice
England have got a wonderful bowling attack that did really well in South Africa earlier in the year.
They’ve got a variety of fast bowlers, so who they select of Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes in the final XI really comes down to what the conditions are like.
For now, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are still dead certs. In the first Test of the summer, after a long break, you go with them and see how they get on. There are certainly plenty of options, though.
West Indies have got a really good bowling attack, with Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph, but it’s about their batsmen. They haven’t had many great ones for a few years now.
The Ageas Bowl is one of the best venues to bat in the country – the pitch has good bounce and is evenly-paced.
There should be plenty of runs, but can West Indies really score 400 in the first innings of a Test match? That could decide the series.
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