Kevin Pietersen Improves, the Delhi Daredevils Improve as IPL 7 Continues

Antoinette MullerFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2014

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRCA - OCTOBER 21:  Kevin Pietersen of the Delhi Daredevils in action during the Champions league twenty20 match between Perth Scorchers and Delhi Daredevils at Sahara Park Newlands on October 21, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Carl Fourie / Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

Kevin Pietersen has been away from a cricket field for far too long, but now that he is back it's a glorious thing.

After being shunned by England and injuring his finger, fans of the firebrand batsman have had to wait too long to see him wield the willow.

Although he only scored an unbeaten 26 off 18 against Mumbai, he showed glimpses of the Pietersen everyone—except the ECB—know and love on Sunday.  

It was a far cry from the K.P. that stepped out for Delhi in his comeback game, and he helped Delhi clinch their second win in the competition, beating Mumbai by six wickets.

In his comeback, against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Pietersen managed a laboured 16 off 17 as Delhi lost by four runs.

It might not sound like a big deal, but Pietersen's sluggish showing was arguably one of the reasons for Delhi's loss. Pietersen walked in at 99-1 with the team needing 10 an over, with just under nine overs to go. What was needed was acceleration, not a tentative return.

His detractors would have labelled his approach selfish or even pompous. Having promoted himself up the order after dropping Ross Taylor, Pietersen failed in his mission. 

It threatened to be more of the same against Mumbai.  

Chasing a lowly 126 for victory, Delhi took a slow, steady approach, and Pietersen strolled to the crease with Delhi at 79-2, needing 47 to win off a touch under eight overs. Pietersen poked and scratched around for an over, content with simply rotating the strike.

But then things changed.  

Rohit Sharma became the victim of Pietersen's assault, which started off with a glorious straight-down-the-ground six. He followed it up with two imperious fours, down to long off and long on, to pick off Sharma for 17 runs off one over and put Delhi very much in the driving seat. 

Pietersen might have had a slow start, but support for him has not waned. All over the world, cricket fans are waiting to see him return to his best, and if there is one man who can lead Delhi out of the doldrums, it's him. 

After a miserable season in 2013, Delhi started the 2014 season off in the same way, with an underwhelming loss. They bounced back against Kolkata, but it was very much a bits-and-pieces performance with K.P. on the sidelines—and they returned to losing ways against Chennai and Hyderabad. 

Delhi just couldn't click as a unit—until Sunday that is. 

The bowling was tidy, the batting was nifty and almost every single player contributed significantly. The bad news is that it's right as the teams have clicked. They are jetting back to India.

Delhi's next game will be played at their home ground in Delhi against Rajasthan. The win might give them momentum, but with so many new faces in the side, they will have to get to know the conditions all over again. 

The good news for Pietersen's charges is that the tracks are likely to offer a bit more assistance to the batsmen. They will still have to contend with brutal weather conditions (Delhi can get up to 40 degrees during this time of year, as per Accuweather), and, of course, spin-friendly wickets.

Luckily for Delhi they have two players in their arsenal who are superb at playing spin: Pietersen and JP Duminy.

The adjustment shouldn't be too big of a deal for freelancer Pietersen, though. As a player who has been part of the IPL since 2009 and who averages over 42.00 in the competition, returning to Delhi and competitive cricket is very much like riding a bike. Team and captain alike have plenty to prove, but they have the resources to do so.

"The KP Factor" can be one of the most extraordinary sights in the world. It's brutal and mesmerising. It's unforgiving, captivating and destructive. He might not have played competitive cricket since January, but Pietersen's cool, controlled approach on Sunday showed that he might just be ready to get back into the middle and blow everyone away.