Maverick Kevin Pietersen and his long love-affair with controversy

Kevin Pietersen has made headlines quite frequently for all the wrong reasons © Getty Images

By Karthik Parimal


Kevin Pietersen’s nine-minute video that revealed his plans to play for England in all three formats of the game has certainly not done much good to the controversial cricketer. He was eventually dropped from the final Test, after he failed to prove to the authorities that he did not send any derogatory texts about fellow teammates Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower to a few South African players.


As if the Olympics hadn’t already stolen the spotlight from the England-South Africa series, drama off the field has ensured that this series will be remembered primarily for the controversies instead of some fantastic cricket that has been played during the last two Tests. However, it must be quite obvious by now that wherever Pietersen goes, controversy follows. Apart from scoring runs, the South African-born English batsman has also made headlines quite frequently for all the wrong reasons.


The litany of Pietersen’s controversies: 


Trouble at Nottinghamshire


Despite starting off well, Pietersen often stated that he wasn’t happy playing for Nottinghamshire, and then started blaming the wicket once he stopped scoring runs. He confessed his unhappiness to captain Jason Gallian and told him that he wished to quit. A furious Gallian allegedly threw Pietersen’s belongings off the Trent Bridge balcony in the latter’s absence, and asked him to leave if he wanted to, in rather colourful terms. Pietersen, however, had to honour his contract for one more year thereafter, but kept reiterating that he was very unhappy with his stint at Nottinghamshire. 


Tour of South Africa and hostility from the crowd


When Pietersen initially toured South Africa, he was regarded as a traitor by the crowd and was continuously abused for that reason. But Pietersen said that he just laughed at the volley of abuses that headed his way, and went about his business of scoring runs. However, he further provoked the South African crowd when he went on to say, “My affiliation is with England. In fact, I’m starting to speak too much like Darren Gough. I’m going to get one of Gough’s tattoos with three lions and my number underneath. No one can say I’m not English then.”


Pietersen didn’t do much off the field to win over the crowds, but his on-field onslaughts helped him gain immense respect by the time the series concluded.


Captaincy and the Peter Moores episode


Pietersen’s stint as a captain was brief and highly unsuccessful. It was believed that he and coach Peter Moores were in disagreement over a lot of things. After one such debacle, Pietersen wanted to meet the selectors and discuss Moores’ future with the team, but the details of the meeting were eventually leaked to the public, and soon thereafter Moores was sacked and Pietersen resigned as a skipper. After Moores’ removal, England went on to win the fourth Test of the Ashes that year, and Pietersen stated that the success was possible because the atmosphere in the English dressing room was good after the former’s exit.  “The team wasn’t happy, things weren’t right, and England cricket was going nowhere, but I believe in the last six months the team has made big progress before a huge, huge series against Australia. I’m very happy, and everyone’s happy.” said Pietersen.


Switch-hit saga


Pietersen’s switch-hit off Scott Styris’ bowling received mixed responses. While many admired his ability to switch hands, just before the bowler released the ball, and clear the ropes by a big margin despite the unusual stance, an equal number of people were miffed at the fact that he was making a mockery of cricket’s laws. Pietersen, as usual, paid attention to the criticism and went on to say, “That’s ridiculous, absolutely stupid. I am just fortunate that I am able to hit it a bit further. That is a new shot played today and people should be saying it’s a new way to go. There are new things happening for cricket at the moment and people shouldn’t be criticising it all the time.”


Despite the outburst, he never refrained from playing that shot. The switch-hit controversy was reignited when England toured Sri Lanka earlier this year, and Pietersen continued to get into position to play the shot but the bowler refused to bowl. He was later warned by the umpires for wasting time. However, the umpires’ warnings fell on deaf ears.


‘Admiration’ for the Indian Premier League (IPL)


During the fifth edition of the IPL, Pietersen once again made headlines off the field, this time by attributing England’s lack of interest in the cash-rich tournament to jealousy. “It saddens me because I have had an amazing time in the IPL. There is a lot of jealousy with it, which is sad because I would love to see a lot more English players in the IPL,” stated Pietersen. He also raised a lot of eyebrows when he went on to add that England have got world-class players who are sitting at home now wanting to play the IPL, especially when some ‘second-rate’ Australians are getting gigs here.


The costly Tweet


Just a couple of months ago, Pietersen once again stole the limelight both off the field and on Twitter when he tweeted, “Can somebody PLEASE tell me how Nick Knight has worked his way into the commentary box for Home Tests?? RIDICULOUS!!”


The tweet obviously didn’t go down well with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and they eventually fined him £2,500 for it.


Nick Knight too didn’t refrain from taking a dig at Pietersen a few days later by stating that England were better off without the latter. 


Retirement and U-turn


Just after the Test series against West Indies, Pietersen announced his retirement from the One-Day Internationals (ODI) and T20 format. He blamed England’s hectic schedule for his out-of-the-blue decision, but also stated in same breath that he’d like to help England defend its T20 crown during the World Cup this September, but that the ECB’s policies wouldn’t let him do so.


He did a U-turn on his statements a month later and revealed that he’d like to resume playing all forms of cricket for England, but this time the head honchos decided to refuse his offer. That’s when the relationship between Pietersen and the ECB began to go downhill rapidly.


After the second Test against South Africa, where Pietersen almost single-handedly fought one of the best bowling attacks, he made headlines for his emotional press conference during which he threatened to stop playing England after the ongoing series. A couple of days later, he released another video stating he wanted to play all forms of cricket for England and that he got carried away earlier. However, the selectors dropped him from the final Test, and it now remains to be seen if Pietersen will ever don the national colours again.


(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)