Kevin Pietersen has copped a lot of flak in the past from South Africans angry at his decision to represent England, but it’s time they stopped their whining and applaud the man for making the right move.
I first saw Kevin Pietersen play in a domestic 50-over match during the 1998/99 season and oh boy was he rubbish - he looked like a part-time bowler marauding as a genuine spinner. And for the most part that is what Pietersen’s career in South African cricket was about; trying to fit into a role that wasn’t his strength. Whether he or the selectors knew that at the time is debatable.
In Pietersen’s final season playing top-tier domestic cricket in South Africa he represented his province, the Kwa-Zulu Natal Dolphins, three times in the 50-over competition and four times in the four-day competition. In the one-day form of the game he came in to bat at either seven or eight in the order, and in the longer version of the game he came in at ten - not exactly supreme utilization of a talent that would go on to become one of the world’s top batsmen.
During the South African off-season Pietersen made his first foray into English cricket with a spell at the Cannock Cricket Club in the Birmingham League, an experience that Pietersen found difficult but that would ultimately shape his cricketing career. Having arrived at the club as a bowler who batted a bit, he found himself up against the captain of the team who was also a slow bowler. The result was that Pietersen didn’t do much bowling and was instead forced to work on his batting.
On his return to South Africa for the coming season he found he no longer had a place in the Natal team. Pietersen has said that it was racial quotas and non-merit selections that limited his opportunities in South Africa, but perhaps the reality is that he simply wasn’t performing well enough to merit a place in the team. A wannabe allrounder with a bowling average of 59 in the 50-over game and 37.50 in the four-day game is not going to get you a place in the starting eleven of too many teams, while his batting average was more Chris Martin than Chris Cairns - 7.66 in 50-over competitions and 10.75 in the four-day game.
As the English would say, he was pants.
Of the three players selected ahead of Pietersen in the Natal team only one was a player of colour, so blaming quotas for his non-selection is perhaps an inaccurate account of events. Pietersen had however felt the sting of racial quotas earlier in his cricket career.
During his time at school Pietersen failed to make the South African schools team; the spinner chosen for that side was a man by the name of Tulani Ngxoweni. Ngxoweni never made it past age group cricket, and it would be fair to assume that Pietersen felt he should have been selected ahead of Ngxoweni (whether Pietersen deserved his place is another matter). This could easily have been viewed as an example of racial quotas and non-merit selections at work, which stood as another hurdle Pietersen would have to negotiate if he was to make it in South African cricket.
As stated, it’s open to conjecture whether Pietersen didn’t make sides due to his ability or whether it was down to quotas, but what’s not in doubt is that he is a self confident and determined individual who never doubted his ability to succeed at the highest level. His non-selection at provincial level and for South African Schools may have seemed to him to be a signal that the cricket hierarchy did not share the same belief in his ability.
In Clive Rice and Nottinghamshire he found people who did believe in him and were willing to put this belief into the tangible form of a three-year contract (in comparison to the one-year contract he had with Natal). And so he left the shores of the nation of his birth to forge a life and a career in greener pastures.
The point to remember is that Kevin Pietersen left South Africa as a mis-used, under-played average cricketer. What he became after his departure is well known, and as much as it may irk South Africans to admit it, one can only congratulate the man for making the best out of the hand that he was dealt.
Source: Cricket356More on:Birmingham League, Cannock Cricket Club, Clive Rice, Kevin Pietersen, Kwa Zulu Natal Dolphins, South Africa
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Monday, July 7th, 2008 and is filed under General.
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