There are few players better to watch than Kevin Pietersen when he’s in the swing of things. And after a few months of awkward press conferences, peculiar negotiations and bizarre YouTube videos, it was spectacular to see him back and firing for England. By ANT SIMS.
There’s something about Kevin Pietersen. If he were a contestant on The X-Factor or Idols, judges would say he had “the it factor”. Whether it’s the way he swaggers around like a hard-hitting West Indies hero, his dogged determination to overcome the odds, or simply his complete lack of understanding around the consequences of his actions, there’s something very special about KP.
He proved it again a few days ago in Mumbai, when he hit a scintillating 186 off 233 balls against India, on a pitch nobody except Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Che Pujara seemed to be able to master. His innings comprised of four sixes and twenty fours, blistering and bewildering, just like the former South African himself.
At the end of the Test, which England won by 10 wickets, Matt Prior Tweeted a picture of KP looking like a Cheshire cat who just got a dose of double cream (possibly even laced with acid) with the caption: “Re-integration complete! Well played @kevinpp24.”
It’s hard to imagine that, just a few months ago, Pietersen was in limbo, lingering in exile after a bizarre series of events that resulted in his falling out of favour with the England selectors. From apparently dodgy text messages to the opposition (which the brains trust admitted to never seeing) to an astounding YouTube video proclaiming his love for all of English cricket, it looked like Pietersen might become another one lost in the abyss of Twenty20 leagues around the world, never to don the three lions again.
The firebrand batsman played down the saga, though, and his admission that he takes things as they come might give some insight into the workings of his mind.
"I never know what is going to happen tomorrow," Pietersen says. "I don't take myself that seriously. I do everything on a day-to-day basis. What will be, will be. I live my life day to day."
KP has said and done some peculiar things in his career off the playing field, but he has done equally bizarre and brilliant things on it. The knock at the Wankhede Stadium was his 22nd Test hundred and during his time as England player, he has never gone more than five consecutive Tests without passing 50 in an innings. His longest stint without 50 includes an unbeaten 45 against Sri Lanka in a match which resulted in a draw.
He has tormented and obliterated the best of bowlers from all over the world, averaging 47.89 away from home and 54.59 at home. For Pietersen, the experience in India is just another chance to improve.
"We have come here to learn; we have come here to try to win, and we want to front up to the challenge. The captain asked that of us before the Test,” says Pietersen.
Pietersen had his work cut out for him after the first Test in Ahmedabad, though. He looked utterly clueless against Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner, and scored just 17 and 2. But not one ever to surrender, no matter what the situation, Pietersen went back and fixed what was troubling him to complete a remarkable turnaround in Mumbai.
"I wasn't playing well at all in Ahmedabad. I didn't trust my defence as much as I trusted my defence in this Test match. And as a batter, if you don't trust your defence, you try too many things; you try to force the issue,” said the 32-year old.
"So I went and did a lot of hard work, as I always do, and luckily it had paid off. I like to keep things simple. I just didn't go into that Test match trusting my defence. I don't think the warm-up matches going into that Test match tested my defence. It is just about keeping things simple and doing the basics right."
Love him or hate him, Pietersen, once in his stride, is a joy to behold. To think that the cricket-loving masses were nearly robbed of his genius because of mismanagement is a shame. It is, however, slightly irrelevant. Pietersen is back now, and when he coyly told Suarav Ganguly that he was happy to be back on the Test scene and getting runs, all seemed right with the world.
When it comes to thriving under adversity, few do it better than Pietersen, and while controversy is never far away when he’s around – often seemingly as the fuel that drives him to greatness – one can only hope that he winds down his career in harmony and without too much distraction. And one can only hope that his crazy diamond continues to shine on. DM
Photo: England's Kevin Pietersen reacts during a cricket practice session in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad November 13, 2012. The first test cricket match between India and England will be played in Ahmedabad starting on November 15. REUTERS/Amit Dave