KP returns to Surrey for the T20 Blast this season which could be the swansong for the love/hate maverick.
When you think of Kevin Pietersen, what moment comes to mind? Is it the flamingo shot, the switch-hit, his stunning 158 to clinch the 2005 Ashes for England? Or his failed captaincy stint, ‘text-gate’ or the parody twitter account? Whatever you think of him, it was always entertaining when he was in an England shirt.
It all started with a magical 2005 Ashes series, and his career may end this summer, competing for Surrey in the T20 Blast. The 37-year-old shows he still has it, hitting 52 in the win over Essex, and a final at Edgbaston in September would be a fitting send off for a man who has done so much for England cricket.
A controversial statement for a controversial man, but the English game is better off for Kevin Pietersen. England had never had a batsman who was less afraid to give his wicket away when he burst onto the scene in 2005. Arriving at the crease at Lord’s at 18-3, Pietersen counter-attacked an on-song Glenn McGrath to reach a brilliantly half century, and he would go on to be highest run scorer in the series. His attacking nature with the bat was matched by Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff with the ball, and England would go on to clinch an Ashes series for the first time 18 years.
Pietersen arrived on the international circuit just as Twenty20 cricket was starting to create attention. His destruction across all three formats made him one of the biggest stars in the game, and you look at how many attacking players in the current side that have been inspired by his play.
Back in 2005, you would never had attacking players such as Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali all in the same team, but due to the modern game, that KP laid the foundations for, this has become the norm. You look at the fascinating shots that have been invented in recent times – the helicopter, the Dilscoop and paddle scoops, have come about due to the expansiveness of players such as Pietersen, you brought us the flamingo and switch-hit.
It caused controversy when Pietersen jetted off to the IPL in 2009, jeopardising his test place. KP was hammered for prioritising the cash of Twenty20 cricket instead of pulling on the test jersey for England, but now English players are encouraged to go and play in T20 tournaments.
In recent years all of Alex Hales, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and even the young Sam Billings have gone on and played in the IPL or Big Bash. He was allowed to play his game, but he was very much a one off in that England side. It would be intresrting to see what would have happened if Pietersen had been coached under the attack-minded Trevor Bayliss, and you can’t imagine a parody Twitter account would have been set up inside the dressing room.
He hit the most runs for England in the dismal 5-0 Ashes loss in 2012, but was made the scapegoat of that series, and has not played for his country since.
Two incidents cost him international future. The first came in 2012, when he reportedly sent texts to South African players, the test opponents at the time, about coach Andrew Flower and captain Andrew Strauss. Pietersen was dropped from the team over trust issues, but surprisingly returned that autumn.
It seemed the management never recovered from this, despite discussing the issue with several senior players, and when Andrew Flower left his post after the 5-0 Ashes thrashing, Pietersen was sent packing. The final nail in the coffin for KP was a night out in Adelaide at the start of the tour, and he was thought to be leading younger players astray.
A lack of runs from the whole side meant that a fresh start was needed. He had always hoped that he would one day return to the test arena, but with former skipper Andrew Strauss now Director of Cricket it never looked likely. KP was given the impression that if he hit runs in the County Championship, but after hitting a career best of 355* and the door remaining closed, it was clear that his international career was over.
So do we expect KP to carry on for much longer? He is still hitting the runs, and he has not ruled out the prospect of playing for South Africa in the 2019 World Cup. That is two years away, but if he keeps himself fit, who knows. Pietersen is a man who has never been afraid to turn heads. After being let down by the ECB, you can’t blame him for one last crack at international cricket. The ultimate switch-hit.