Kevin Pietersen calling the shots as Twenty20 gun for hire
Lucrative offers will pour in from around the world after former England star's central contract is terminated
Wednesday 05 February 2014
Amid all the inquests and Twitter storms, Kevin Pietersen's career as a freelance cricketer began when his central contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board was ended eight months prematurely. He originally signed his deal with the ECB in October, and it is believed that Pietersen will now be paid the majority of his £500,000 salary as part of the severance package determined by the ECB, his agent Adam Wheatley and the Professional Cricketers' Association.
It means the most prolific batsman in England's history is effectively now a Twenty20 "gun for hire", with the prospect of boosting his salary above the £3m mark. West Indian Kieron Pollard has amassed a fortune by playing only in Twenty20 competitions but, given his marketability, Pietersen could now be set to take that to new levels.
Several prospective suitors wasted no time in coming forward to express an interest in signing him up and first on that list are Surrey, where Pietersen moved from Hampshire in 2010, though he has rarely appeared owing to his England commitments.
Chief executive Richard Gould confirmed that the cutting of his ties with the ECB also means Pietersen is no longer contracted to the county, although they are understandably keen to include him in their squad for the revamped T20 Blast when it begins in mid-May.
"He's got a good relationship both with [director of cricket] Alec Stewart and with our new coach, Graham Ford," Gould said. "I am sure his phone has been ringing red hot with offers from around the world and we may have to see what his motivations and priorities are. But we would love him to play any form of the game for us."
With his mentor Ford – who first coached Pietersen as a teenager in their native KwaZulu Natal in South Africa – at the helm and the chance to show the England selectors exactly what they are missing at close quarters, it could be a tempting prospect.
Pietersen also lives locally in Chelsea and his wife Jessica Taylor opened a luxury children's hair salon called Bella and Beau in Notting Hill – a project the couple hope to expand beyond the capital if it is successful.
Given the extraordinary situation, Surrey are expected to be given dispensation by the ECB to go beyond the usual salary cap of £2m per county, although it remains to be seen if they can compete with some of the riches on offer around the globe.
With the news that Pietersen will for the first time be available for the entire IPL season from 3 April to 16 May, franchises are already scrambling for position. He will go into next week's auction with a base price of £194,000, having earned £1.3m a year from his previous contract with the Delhi Daredevils, but Kings XI Punjab's head of cricket operations Anant Sarkaria admitted that the swashbuckling batsman will now be the most sought-after signature on the planet.
"Kevin Pietersen is such an awesome player that every franchise would like to have him in the team. A lot of teams would be looking for him and we are one of them," he said.
"The availability of English players for the whole duration of the IPL has always been a problem for most of the franchises. Pietersen's retirement changes the dynamics of auction. Now he will be available for a full season."
Having already missed the opportunity to play in the Ram Slam T20 in South Africa, Pietersen faces the prospect of being inactive until the IPL begins. But with the T20 Blast beginning in the same week that the IPL ends and with the increasingly lucrative Caribbean Premier League due to start on 10 July, he could find himself occupied until the middle of August.
After a successful inaugural tournament in 2013, the CPL has plans to expand its budget to attract global stars with Mark Wahlberg and Sir Richard Branson among the team owners. Pietersen could be paid in the region of £75,000 for five weeks' work.
With no major T20 competitions scheduled between then and the start of the Big Bash in Australia in early January, the end of the year could be quiet for cricket's most in-demand freelancer. But with top players earning around £130,000 Down Under he can afford a few months off.
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