Kevin Pietersen: The eccentric, talented and controversial South African-born cricketer completes 100 Tests for England

Despite all the controversies he found himself in, Kevin Pietersen continues to yield a strong influence in the England dressing room © Getty Images

By Aayush Puthran
 
History has enough stories of how people with little at stake offered to fight for the oppressors. There was Abraham Lincoln fighting against racial discrimination during the 19th century in the USA. Annie Besant campaigned for India’s independence in the next century. One wonders how crucial is the role of leaders from the outside to fight for those who are affected by the oppression; to lead the charge and make them believe that they deserve better. The context of this may not be completely in sync with cricket, but it is easy to notice that Kevin Pietersen’s emergence has coincided with the revival of English cricket from possibly its lowest phase.
 
It is quite bizarre that a man who didn’t get to make a mark for himself in his native land went on to play 100 Tests for a side which has the deepest roots in the game. And funnily, he is not someone who really falls in line of the English style of play. He is quite unlike an English cricketer. Maybe that’s why his role was crucial in the reemergence from cricketing despair since 2005. Even today, as there is room for the more subdued players like Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, Pietersen still plays a key role.
 
A lot has been spoken about the South African-born cricketer’s influence in the dressing room by teammates and former players. And thus, one would have been surprised had they been told last year that Pietersen would indeed go on to achieve the landmark following the text message scandal that broke.
 
He is an enigma; Not a boring one, but extremely controversial. Be it his hairstyle or his statements in public or his relationships with players, Pietersen is bound to attract eyeballs. Attention has come naturally so far to him. And yes, amid all this, he has also gone on to become England’s leading run-scorer across formats in international cricket.
 
Talking about Pietersen the person, his former skipper Andrew Strauss said, “Genius or narcissist? Or both… He could easily be called England’s greatest ever player as well as the most disruptive. In short, he is a man full of complexities that even those who know him best would struggle to unravel.”

Australian journalist Malcolm Conn goes a step further when he writes for news.com.au, “With Pietersen struggling to move beyond the mirror, his perception of the wider world is so limited that his motives shone through as totally self-centered. His extended dummy spit over not being allowed to pick and choose which games he would play for England so he could make an even larger fortune in the IPL led to the extraordinary suspension of England’s best cricketer.”
 
However, Pietersen defended his action by saying, “I can’t help people thinking that I’m arrogant. I think a lot of great sportsmen out there have that little bit of something to them that makes them try and be the best and want to be the best. I call it confidence. You guys (media) call it arrogance, it makes for better headlines.”
 
His personality has caught enough attention, and has earned him enough friends and an equal number of bashers. But what remains constant is his ability to win matches and his influence in the team. For he has certainly been an integral part of bringing England cricket from the depths of despair to make them world-beaters.
 
Strauss put it best when he said, “If he intends to prove his commitment to English cricket over the next six months, then Australia had better look out,”

(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)