Rich irony in KP's return

2010-09-17 07:51

Rob Houwing

So the sky didn’t cave in on South Africa or its cricket after the departure for permanent English pastures of one Kevin Peter Pietersen … 10 years on, I think we are entitled to pretty confidently draw that conclusion.

Pietersen, of course, abandoned the local game around a decade ago, pledging new loyalty to Nottinghamshire and later embarking on a successful England career which also turned him into immeasurably more of a celebrity than many might have imagined when he plied his SuperSport Series trade modestly as a 19-year-old with the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins.

His suggestion, in his exit slipstream, that affirmative action considerations had impeded his South African development certainly ruffled feathers.

So there is a strong sense of irony that, rightly or wrongly, an unusually out-of-touch Pietersen will play two early-season SuperSport Series matches for his old province next month as he seeks to recapture his mojo in time for the Ashes defence in Australia.

Understandably, there may be those who contend that “KP” effectively bit a hand that once fed him by the relatively stormy manner in which he quit Kingsmead, and that it is a bit rich having him suddenly come home to nibble on a few, personally useful further crumbs.

Then again, audacity and swagger in the man has never in short supply, he is reportedly not being paid for his mini-sojourn, and Dolphins bosses have clearly taken a view that his larger-than-life presence – hats off, he has certainly evolved into a particularly thrilling player -- will act as a spur for a youthful-looking side.

(The possibility of extra bums on seats presumably did not really enter the equation for a competition where you are frequently able to saunter in through wide open stadium gates unchallenged.)

Pietersen’s first appearance is scheduled for the secondary Dolphins home venue of Maritzburg anyway (against the Warriors, October 7-10) and only the second one at Kingsmead (versus Titans, October 14-17).

But any irony for these occasions will not end there. For all his protests at the time, you see, the KwaZulu-Natal team Pietersen bade farewell too after the 1999/2000 summer remained notably “untransformed”.

By my calculation, his final SuperSport Series appearance that season came in a truly damp-squib Super Eight match (the competition was played on a more cumbersome basis then, featuring 11 teams in the initial phase) against Northerns in Durban in mid-January.

Only 54 overs were possible in the entire match, with no play at all on any of days two, three and four.

An all-white Northerns side duly compiled 139 for two, with Pietersen getting in just five overs (0/15) with his then supposedly main-trade off-spin.

There were precious few signs of a major “quotas” (as some like to term it) push in the KZN ranks, either – the only home-grown player of colour was Ahmed Amla, although the team did include West Indian stalwart Eldine Baptiste.

For interest’s sake, this was the home team, in likely batting order at the time, though they never did take to the crease: Mark Bruyns, Doug Watson, Ahmed Amla, Andrew Hudson, Dale Benkenstein (capt), Errol Stewart, Jon Kent, Ross Veenstra, Eldine Baptiste, Kevin Pietersen, Gary Gilder.

Yes, KP was the No 10: that had certainly been his batting station in the previous game, against Gauteng, where he registered a less-than-regal four and four, although that berth, in fairness, tends not to be one from which you build or even rebuild a team’s innings.

The Dolphins team Pietersen “guests” for pretty shortly will be light years more representative, when you consider that a 20-man squad announced for the campaign recently contains at least a dozen black players and Imraan Khan as captain.

Few truly familiar faces will greet Pietersen when he enters the dressing room, although Amla -- whom we also now know has a certain, indisputably world-class younger brother! – and Kent are still on the scene.

There is a forceful and encouraging emphasis on home-grown talent, which should soon bear good fruit, although long-time cynical observers of KZN cricket could argue with some conviction that the Dolphins are rather in the doldrums: they ended bottom of the SuperSport Series last summer, 55 points adrift of the title-winning Cape Cobras.

Mind you, KZN weren’t notably better during KP’s initial experiences for them: they ended a ho-hum fourth that year and had been second-last the year earlier (1998/99) – and that in a more expanded list of first-class teams.

Just as tellingly, though, the South African national landscape, certainly as far as Tests are concerned, was arguably less promising then than it is now: Australia remained very imperiously atop the pile a decade back, whereas the situation is altogether more fluid these days, with the Proteas potentially poised to seize top spot if they beat current leaders India at home this season and also prosper in the lead-up to that series.

Pietersen will briefly return to a cricketing environment featuring an ever-burgeoning crop of domestic talent nationwide, black and white alike, and resolutely not visited yet by any apocalypse.

If there is, indeed, some sort of lingering plot to thwart young white talent, then Pietersen is unlikely to receive any special thumbs-up on that from, for instance, David Miller, the hard-hitting Dolphins 21-year-old who has already earned four ODI caps and is being groomed for considerably more national appearances than that.

Warts ‘n all, welcome home, Kev …

Rob Houwing is Sport24’s chief writer and winner of the New Media category at the 2010 SAB Sports Journalist of the Year awards.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


  • Zolile - 2010-09-17 12:38

    Lucas Radebe and others also did a similar thing. When their careers in the UK were starting to wane, they would declare their undying love for RSA and be chosen to play for Bafana just to pick form and be noticed. So KP is simply following the rest. As RSA, we must accept that we are a springboard for sport prima donnas.

  • war - whites against racism - 2010-09-17 15:54

    Interesting facts and stats there. Somehow one still has to accept that he did the correct thing. (notice my avoidance of the word "right"). He became a real success there, which I doubt would have happened here. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and he was right up there with top test averages, was a 20 20 success etc, even briefly England captain. Trott is another success. And there will be more. Talent spotting is a key thing, and very few people and provinces actually have it. The Bulls seem to have it in rugby, perhaps someone needs to provide a platform to spread this obviously limited skill. Go Kev, make lots of runs in Ozz, there are still some of us who looks at you and your achievements objectively. Well done on the world stage

  • Protea - 2010-09-17 17:12

    KP has changed a lot in recent times (for the better) but the reasons he gave for leaving SA is ludicrous!!! There is still more white than black players in the SA team. I for one am tired of this racial debate CSA should choose players based on skill and not skin colour I am FOREVER PROTEAS and I just want them to be successful…..

  • Stepehen - 2010-09-18 09:27

    KP made a success in the UK due to the lack of any local talent there, anyone that is half decent looks good and is poached, He is not that great and is a Legend in his own lifetime. that is why so many lazy, intelectually challenged South Africans can get jobs there.

  • Ricky - 2010-09-18 11:14

    @Protea. I find your comments very contradictory! You say that the reasons given by KP for leaving the country are ludicrous and then go on to say that you want players chosen on skill only. Is this not what KP has been saying all along?

  • wd3 - 2010-09-18 16:57

    @ Stepenhen. If you think a player that can achieve an average of 50+ in test cricket”is not that great” then I suggest your knowledge of the game is suspect. Perhaps you should consider getting professional help for your inferior complex with the English.

  • Not an ABSA Banker anymore - 2010-09-18 17:57

    Watch out! Happy from ABSA is going to go for cricket after his rugby comments. Super Sport might just follow in UN-Happy's footsteps/words? KP go old boy go kick some Ausie ass and hope you come home permanently - just don't give us grief with arrogant and unfounded statements as against SA at Lords!!

  • ouklip - 2010-09-18 18:45

    Irony, I see a great loss. KP, Kallis, Smith and Gibbs would have been such a great line up

  • Gerald - 2010-09-18 21:08

    Well done to Mr Pietersen. He took his opportuities and became one of the greats of the game.

  • Rodders - 2010-09-20 12:40

    @ Zolile: while your sentiment is not wrong, your accusations against Bafana's greatest captain are terribly unfounded. Lucas ALWAYS gave his all for his country and never one chose 'only to play for us' when his UK career was on the wane! Now Benni McCarthy, on the other hand.....

  • Riaan - 2010-09-20 14:13

    KP is the greatest player in his own mind. It is ridiculous to suggest that he would not have made it in SA. He demanded to be in the SA team and was told to prove himself, which he was not willing to do. Just look at his ego demolishing England cricket. Good riddance.

  • Jim - 2010-09-21 08:31

    You south africans are so pathetic,do you think you are the only ones who lose sports people to other countries.Take note, Gary Tieichmann, Ray Mordt, Bobby Skinstad, Adrian Garvey, Chris Rogers, 'The Beast',Brian Mujati,and who do you think they played for? Stop moaning about what you have lost and be thankful for what you have gained.

  • Jim - 2010-09-21 08:32

    You south africans are so pathetic,do you think you are the only ones who lose sports people to other countries.Take note, Gary Tieichmann, Ray Mordt, Bobby Skinstad, Adrian Garvey, Chris Rogers, 'The Beast',Brian Mujati,and who do you think they played for? Stop moaning about what you have lost and be thankful for what you have gained.

  • Jim - 2010-09-21 08:33

    You south africans are so pathetic,do you think you are the only ones who lose sports people to other countries.Take note, Gary Tieichmann, Ray Mordt, Bobby Skinstad, Adrian Garvey, Chris Rogers, 'The Beast',Brian Mujati,and who do you think they played for? Stop moaning about what you have lost and be thankful for what you have gained.

  • Russel Wolson - 2010-09-22 08:14

    KP will always do what suits KP. He uses any means to further his own interests. He is a master at exploiting a situation for his own benefit. However, he is still one hell of a cricketer. The world would be a duller place without him.

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