TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHAT with Kevin Pietersen making fresh noises about playing for SA, it’s worth wondering what others of his ilk are getting up to.
They would be South Africans playing on the county circuit – where Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen took refuge in 2000, blaming race quotas for his decision to move to England.
Sixteen years on Pietersen is singing a different tune even though race has become a bigger factor in the way teams are picked in SA.
“If it happens it happens; if it doesn’t it doesn’t,” Pietersen said at the weekend about the possibility of turning out for his native country.
“Do I miss playing international cricket? Yes, I do very much. So you never know. The eligibility (to play) for SA is still a year away, so we will have to wait and see. But it is definitely an option.”
Pietersen’s England career roller-coasted from one controversy to the next until its sticky end in 2014, when he was sacked in the aftermath of England’s Ashes whitewash. He is now a T20 mercenary.
The reasons given for his England axing came couched in descriptions like being “disengaged” from the team and the implication that test captain Alastair Cook did not have his full support.
In short, Pietersen was damned as a selfish, egotistical doos – a word he used to describe his former England captain, Andrew Strauss, who unhappily for Pietersen now calls the shots as England’s director of cricket.
The fact that Pietersen has scored more runs in fewer test innings than Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Atherton, Ian Bell and Colin Cowdrey, and on his day can win any match from anywhere, would seem to pale next to the problems he brings to the dressingroom.
So Pietersen’s comments sound more like desperation to play with the big boys again rather than the emergence of latent patriotism.
Not that he looks likely to win a SA cap. For one thing, he turns 36 in June – how much can he have left in the tank? For another, he will have to show a sincere commitment to playing franchise cricket before he could be considered for national selection.
For still another, the aggressive transformation climate that prevails in SA makes it unlikely that someone who has voiced disagreement with the game’s attempts to redress the unlevel playing fields of its past would be welcomed into the fold.
Perhaps South Africans should remember Pietersen as a noisier version of players like Riki Wessels and Keaton Jennings – sons of Kepler and Ray, respectively – and Tim Groenewald, who left SA for England and quietly got on with building solid country careers.
None of them are in Pietersen’s league in terms of talent. Happily for them and their teammates, they also don’t share his temperament.
Wessels scored 81 for Nottinghamshire in the first innings of their opening championship fixture against Surrey at the weekend, while Jennings made 116 for Durham against Somerset. Groenewald took 3/54 in the first innings of the same match.
Two players who have worn a SA shirt, Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt, scored 11 and 13 for Northamptonshire against Sussex.
And there’s more where they came from. Imran Tahir is on Notts’ books this winter and Alviro Petersen is padding up for Lancashire, while Glamorgan count Wayne Parnell, Jacques Rudolph and Colin Ingram among their players. Kent will have Kagiso Rabada in their ranks for four weeks.
There is only one KP, but there are plenty of Saffers playing in England.