Former England star Kevin Pietersen hasn’t given up hope of again playing Test cricket, admitting he’s eyeing a return to the international arena with South Africa.
Pietersen hasn’t been selected by England since the 2013-14 Ashes series whitewash in Australia and despite continually expressing his willingness to re-join Alistair Cook’s men, his chances of a recall appear dashed.
Now a freelance Twenty20 gun for hire, the South African born-and-raised batsman will be eligible to play for his country of birth in early 2018, an idea Pietersen is entertaining.
“Yes, it is a thought in my head,” he admitted. “If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Obviously, playing international is something I have done for a very long time.
“Do I miss playing international cricket? Do I miss batting in international cricket? Yes I do very much so you never know.”
Over the past year, Pietersen has starred in a number of domestic T20 leagues; he played for the Melbourne Stars during the KFC Big Bash League as well as the inaugural Pakistan Super League, South Africa’s Ram Slam, the Caribbean Premier League and the T20 Blast in England all in the past 12 months.
And on Sunday, Pietersen struck an unbeaten 14-ball 21 to help new franchise Rising Pune Supergiants claim victory in the opening match of the Indian Premier League, a competition he eschewed last year in an attempt to win back his Test spot.
He instead turned out for Surrey in the less-glamourous setting of Division Two of the County Championship and in his third match, Pietersen seemingly proved his red ball wares once again with a magnificient triple-century against Leicestershire at The Oval.
But shortly after, he was informed by newly-installed England director of cricket Andrew Strauss that he wouldn’t be considered for national recall.
Almost a year on, Pietersen’s chances of a return to Test cricket appear slim – England have all but ruled out selecting him again and he will be 37 when he qualifies to play for South Africa – but the polarising figure hasn’t given up hope of playing for either nation.
“The eligibility for South Africa is still (over) a year away. So we will have to wait and see but it (an English call-up) is definitely still an option,” he said.
“I am in a great frame of mind now. I enjoy myself and don’t take life too seriously.
“I still train hard and love batting, I love practicing my batting, I love the art of batting. It may not guarantee me getting runs, but it gives me a good chance to get runs.
“I am very lucky that I have played international cricket for 10 years and over 100 Test matches.”
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With 8000 Test runs to his name, Pietersen was a key plank in England’s middle order for close to a decade but his strained relationship with his former captain Strauss, now at the helm of the ECB, will almost certainly count against him.
In the 2012 series home series against South Africa, Pietersen was suspended after a scandal erupted over messages sent by him to a South African player.
In his autobiography, Pietersen explained that he had been talking to the unnamed Protea after his 149 in the second Test, when Strauss walked past and ignored the pair. The South Africa player later texted Pietersen, asking him why the England captain had given them the cold shoulder, calling Strauss a “doos” – an Afrikaans term meaning ‘d**k’ or ‘idiot’.
“In his message he used the word doos to describe how Straussy had behaved,” Pietersen wrote.
“Anyway I didn't disagree with that sentiment. It was a private message between mates letting off steam. It was just chatter. He said that Strauss was carrying on like an idiot and that was it. It was nothing I would not say to Strauss myself, at the time or now.”
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Pietersen made no secret of the fact that he counted some of the South African players among his “closest friends”. In the furore over the messages, Pietersen was also accused of suggesting South Africa’s bowlers should bowl around the wicket to the left-handed Strauss, a claim Pietersen denies.
“I would never give any tactical information about one of my England team-mates to anyone on the opposing side,” he wrote. “It goes right to the heart of me as a human being.”
“As for bringing news of Straussy’s weakness to the best bowling attack on the planet? They wouldn’t have known if I was being funny or plain pathetic.”
Strauss was forced to apologise to Pietersen in 2014, after calling him an “absolute c***” when he thought he was off-air during a live broadcast of the 2014 MCC v the Rest of the World exhibition match at Lord’s.