TELFORD VICE in London
KEVIN Pietersen’s relationship with South Africa is set to become still more complicated, and next summer’s inaugural Global T20 league could serve as the stage for that drama.
In 2000 Pietermaritzburg-born and educated Pietersen left for England in a huff, blaming South Africa’s transformation policies for his decision.
The rest was history: 104 tests for England in which he scored 8181 runs at 47.28 with 23 centuries and became one of the dominant — and divisive — players of his era.
It will forever be a blot on South African cricket that Pietersen’s potential as a batsman was not spotted before he left the country as nothing more notable as a mediocre off-spinner.
But could space could have been found in South Africa’s team for him and his dressingroom-sized ego?
Now a week away from his 37th birthday, Pietersen last played a test in January 2014.
That was also his last game for England, a fact that has been blamed on his self-centered personality.
Since Pietersen last pulled an England shirt over his head he has become a key figure in the travelling circus of mercenaries who are hired to put a sheen on what would otherwise be just another T20 tournament.
The Global T20, which was launched in London on Monday, is the latest specimen.
And Pietersen will be there as a “marquee” international player.
He has been back to the country he spurned before, playing for England there in 2004-05 and 2009-10, in the 2007 World T20 and for the Dolphins in the domestic T20 tournament in 2015 and 2016.
But his presence this time has a different emphasis.
Pietersen said on Monday that his Indian Premier League (IPL) days were behind him, and that this English summers as a player were numbered.
“I reckon this might be my last season playing in England,” he said.
“Next year I’m building a house in the Kruger National Park so all of next [northern] summer I will be at my house in South Africa, so I won’t be playing in England.”
Having called time on other aspects of his career, what made the Global T20 so special?
“This will mean a hell of a lot to me,” he said.
“It’s a brilliant country; I love South Africa.
“So for me it’s an opportunity to go back and spend time with family, to hang out with all my mates, to be in the sunshine and to just enjoy home.”
That doesn’t sound like someone who has gone sour on South Africa.
Perhaps enough money to prise Pietersen away from commentating on the Ashes sweetened the deal.
“When they called me I was supposed to be doing [commentary on] the Ashes but luckily this call came in before I signed any contracts so I just had to bail on those,” he said.
Then there was the bigger picture.
“I’m playing some of the best cricket of my career.
“As long as I can do that, I’ll play.
“I’m 36 and I’m fitter than I ever was when I played for England.
“As long as I’m fit and I’m enjoying batting, I’ll play.
“In South Africa, especially, I get six weeks now.
“I can take my family — we’ll have the most amazing winter.
“And then I go to the Big Bash.”
South Africa, where Pietersen started his career, could well be where it ends.
Barring an unlikely England recall, he could qualify to play for South Africa next year.
And there’s a World Cup looming in 2019 that, in the wake of a disastrous Champions Trophy campaign, could do with a shot of ego — even if it is a 39-year-old’s ego.
Kevin Pietersen in South Africa’s team?
It’s a scary thought, not least for their opponents.