Boom! That is a word that the entertaining batsman Kevin Pietersen loves to use to describe special knocks or team victories. As he stands on the cusp of becoming only the 10th England player to figure in 100 Tests, he can allow himself the privilege of using that word one more time. Boom!
For someone who moved base from Durban in South Africa and made England his home, KP – as he is popularly known – has done remarkably well to become the first ‘import’ to turn up in so many Tests for England. He has contributed significantly with an average exceeding 48 runs with his immensely entertaining and, often, dominating, methods at the crease.
Then again, KP is not just about aggression. It may seem completely out of place to bring up his only T20 century – an unbeaten 103 for Delhi Daredevils against Deccan Chargers at the Ferozshah Kotla in 2012 – in a piece that celebrates his 100th Test match. The format really doesn’t matter when you look at the devotion with which he crafted his innings and helped his team win. His character and intensity came through tellingly during that innings.
The spectacular 186 he made in the second Test at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai later that year will remain fresh in the memory of anyone who watched him gain mastery over the Indian attack. At the end of his knock, having stoked England’s 2-1 series win, he walked back to rousing applause from the spectators who clearly loved his ability to entertain them. His ‘reintegration’ with the England team was complete.
To me the biggest KP story, however, does not concern his batsmanship. It relates to the return of the England team to India in the wake of the terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008. The tour was disrupted in the wake of the attack and two one-day internationals were abandoned as England returned home but, as captain, Pietersen led the squad back to India to play the two-Test series.
“I am a winner and I am a positive person and that’s what I want to do. We haven’t won anything yet but there’s something inside me that says you can’t really leave here with unfinished business,” Pietersen said as the team came back to play Tests in Chennai and Mohali. Clearly, he was a diplomatic success, making the right moves after some initial apprehension about playing in India in the aftermath of the attack.
What’s more he convinced all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and pace bowler Steve Harmison to be with the team on its journey back to India. Against such a backdrop, it seems a pity that his roller-coaster relationship with his team-mates and coaching staff led him to be removed as captain almost as soon as the team returned home after that series. Captain or not, KP is a leader in his own right and is recognised as such by the younger players.
During my stint with the Delhi Daredevils, I have seen him play mentor to Unmukt Chand, spending time with the India under-19 captain at nets at Centurion during the Champions League T20 and then, despite wearing a brace for his knee, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai during IPL 2013. It is this endearing quality, this recognition that knowledge can be shared beyond a boundary that makes KP such a likeable personality in India, no matter what the British media thinks of him.
When KP is done playing cricket, he can look back at his career with satisfaction and pride. He will be seen, even if grudgingly by some, as someone who always put his best foot forward. But there is still some time before all that and, for now, he must focus on playing his part in England’s newest bid to tame Australia in its own den.