England's Pietersen divides and conquers

Updated: 2013-07-09 06:14

By Reuters in London (China Daily)

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England's Pietersen divides and conquers

Love him or loathe him, Kevin Pietersen's return from a knee injury in time to face Australia in the Ashes series will have left England supporters breathing a sigh of relief.

The controversial South Africa-born middle-order batsman, who divides opinion off the field with as much ease has he destroys opposition bowlers on it, is the England player the Australians fear the most.

"There's only certain players that you can fear and they're the Pietersens, the (Brian) Laras and Viv Richards," former Australian batsman Damien Martyn said.

"In Pietersen you can sense he can win a game in a session - he's dangerous."

Pietersen, 33, has played little cricket since returning early from the tour of New Zealand in March due to injury but the right-hander scored a century for Surrey last month in his first innings of the season.

"He is very important to our side. He is a superstar with the bat who can dominate and intimidate opposition," England coach Andy Flower said.

"He is a big physical presence and a big personality, and those people influence sporting contests."

Pietersen has a history of falling out with colleagues and his antics have led to accusations that he is not a team player.

But when he dazzles the crowd and opposition with his flamboyant strokeplay and performances such as the swashbuckling 158 at the Oval in 2005 that helped secure the Ashes and a career-best 227 in Adelaide in 2010, much can be forgiven.

However, the spontaneity Pietersen displays in his batting has had a tendency to show itself as rashness off the field.

He fell out with his captain at his first county side, Nottinghamshire, and threatened legal action in a bid to leave the club.

In 2008, Pietersen was appointed England captain but quit five months later following the breakdown of his relationship with coach Peter Moores, who was sacked.

The advent of social media has only served to bring examples of Pietersen's impetuous nature to the notice of a wider audience.

In 2010, he was fined for a foul-mouthed outburst on Twitter after being left out of the England squad for the one-day and Twenty20 series against Pakistan and was punished again last year for using the social media site to criticize a pundit.

His most recent transgression occurred last year when he was dropped for the final Test against South Africa at Lord's after sending provocative texts to opposing players.

Pietersen underwent a process of reintegration and committed to playing for England in all three forms of the game before being allowed back into the national fold.

He made his comeback in India in November and in characteristic fashion reminded England what it had been missing by blasting 186 in his second Test back.

"When Kevin's got a point to prove he usually proves it with the bat," his former England teammate Andrew Flintoff told the BBC last year.

Aside from his many external conflicts, Pietersen appears to be battling an internal one, considering himself an introvert in stark contrast to the brash persona he presents in public.

"I'm very much an introverted person. I like my own company, my own family. I don't really go out much," Pietersen said in a BBC interview,

"I think the confidence has grown from what I've achieved on the cricket field but I'm not as confident as anybody thinks."

(China Daily 07/09/2013 page22)