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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Kevin Pietersen is born - a career of calibre and controversy

Rest of the World's Kevin Pietersen sign autographs
©Reuters
 

June 27, 1980 - Love him or hate him, but you cannot ignore him. The expression doesn't fit many better than Kevin Pietersen, who divided opinion sharply, on and off the field.

If you think that Kevin Pietersen's squabbles with Peter Moores, Andy Flower, Andrew Strauss and Graeme Smith were the result of success getting to his head, you are mistaken. Pietersen left his native country of South Africa as a teenager in protest against the racial quota system. He always had that spark in him, the typical arrogance that excellence often seems to accompany.

Just two years into his County career, Pietersen made his displeasure about the quality of pitches at Trent Bridge known to Nottinghamshire captain Jason Gallian in a manner that provoked the captain enough to throw Pietersen's kitbag out of the dressing room.

The Natal-born was unorthodox in his choices and style of play from the outset. Pietersen actually began as an off spinner and used to bat as a tail-end batsman. However, as he played more and more, he found his true calling and shelved his bowling.

Pietersen's anticipated debut came in 2004, in not the most glamorous of fixtures against Zimbabwe. He made the playing XI after Andrew Flintoff was apparently rested after the all-rounder shared a piece of his mind on Zimbabwe President Mugabe's regime.

 

 

Pietersen, ending as the hero of England's 4-0 win, had a dream debut. The batsman averaged 104 in the series and stepped up his game in the following series against South Africa in which he struck three centuries, none more eye-catching than his unbeaten ton off just 69 deliveries as he became the England batsman to score the quickest ODI century.

The batsman raced to 1,000 ODI runs in just 21 innings, equalling the record of the great Sir Vivian Richards. He shone the brightest in the 2005 Ashes after being selected ahead of Graham Thorpe. Pietersen wrapped up the successful series - both on an individual front and for the team - in a bow with an explosive 158 at the Oval in the series decider.

The unconventional cricketer became a national hero after the 2005 Ashes in which he struck a splendid 473 runs at 52.25, ending as the top-scorer of the series. He was awarded with an MBE, like the other members of the team, after the memorable triumph.

 

 

His career best of 227 came against Australia as England won the Ashes Down Under for the first time in 24 years. Pietersen averaged a mind-boggling 106.60 in that series.

Sourness that had been bubbling under the surface came to the fore on the England tour of Australia in 2013-14. Following Pietersen's acrimonious relationship with head coach Andy Flower, the ECB closed the door on Pietersen shortly after Flower's resignation.

Differences with ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss and an explosive tell-all biography meant that he burnt his bridges for an England comeback and ended his professional career playing in the likes of the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash League as a T20 freelancer.

Despite his international career coming to an unceremonious end in an unfortunate manner, there are no two ways about the fact that Pietersen is one of the best batsmen to have ever played for England.

Pietersen still retains a place among England's top five scorers in Test cricket with 8,181 runs from 104 matches at 47.28 that include 23 tons. His flamboyance and unorthodoxy also made him one of the best white-ball players of his time.

 

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