He took his long-awaited place at the microphone at the start of the 32nd over. Jonathan Agnew welcomed him like an old chum. They took off in that cosily familiar way that old chums do, where it might be years since you saw each other but it seems like yesterday.
Mayhem ensued. On his debut as a summariser on Test Match Special, Kevin Pietersen witnessed the fall of five Sri Lankan wickets, including a hat-trick, the first by a South African in the World Cup, and a streaker. It could only happen to Pietersen.
He took the whole lot in his stride, guided gently by the avuncular Agnew, though between them they initially missed the hat-trick by J P Duminy, which spanned two overs, largely because there had been another wicket in between.
Kevin and Aggers have a bit of previous, as, it has to be said, do most observers of the English cricketing scene with the game’s most spectacular performer of the last decade. To ensure that they did not come to this occasion with anything festering, they went for a cup of coffee this morning.
Aggers went to Kevin’s hotel, it was Kevin’s treat. They talked about how they would approach their much- anticipated opening stint, to be timed for the second drinks break. Mutually, it was simple to agree that 2014 had been a hell of a year.
In its early part, Pietersen was sacked by England and in its later part published an incendiary autobiography in which he unloaded venom on those who had crossed him and unburdened his soul. He was not happy with Agnew’s reportage of proceedings, although Agnew, like most of us at the less sensational end of the reporting art, tried to offer a balanced view of unprecedented events.
It is true that not all of that went in Pietersen’s favour but nor did it all go against him. The England and Wales Cricket Board has handled his case with shocking insensitivity, happy to let him take the rap without ever revealing his supposed catalogue of sins, but then never quite letting him go entirely. Their silence continued in another day of hapless public relations.
Pietersen is combining his duties for TMS, the only channel through which British cricket followers can hear him, with work for the television host broadcaster. He was dressed for the telly, dandy suit, crisp white shirt, tournament grey tie, sharp hair cut, plenty on top, shorn close at the sides.
He knew that radio demanded different skills from TV and while his research might not have been exactly copious he listened in for a session before he went on.
Just before he took his seat at the back we bumped into each other in the corridor outside. Things have not been cordial between Kevin and the Press for a while. I find myself blocked from his Twitter site although I must be one of the few reporters who have never actually followed him.
He might have had a point, but nor would he recognise that the critical notes have usually been matched by those celebrating his unquestionable gifts. Anyway, we met, shook hands firmly and we chatted amiably for a couple of minutes.
Pietersen has let it be known that things have to start afresh, that there is no use in allowing old disputes to rumble on. He is right about that. The chances of his playing for England again are close to none but for all the ghastly rough and tumble there is at the core a desire to please now.
As soon as he spoke to TMS listeners he was charming and informative. In his first television appearance an hour or so previously he had given a cheesy smile to the camera, and he was in good spirits.
Kevin had his first wicket on the wireless when Angelo Mathews slogged to mid-wicket. He said it was probably time for Kumar Sangakkara to take risks. Sangakkara, said Kevin, seemed to be thinking whether he should be playing shots or consolidating and when you got caught between those two worlds you almost always messed it up.
This performance was closely monitored. Somebody soon said that the tension between Aggers and KP was non-existent, it was like an old romance. All the time, Agnew was probably looking for an opening to ask Pietersen about matters of the moment, his return to play in the County Championship, his international aspirations, his state of mind.
Wickets clattered, four of them in nine balls. Pietersen said he would leave his definitive judgement on the Sri Lanka innings until Sangakkara was out. There was no opening for Agnew to ask about the nitty gritty.
Suddenly, a streaker appeared, a hopeless one, still sporting trousers for a little of the way. Aggers gave a quick summation of that and then asked Pietersen about his return to the fold. He was ready for it.
It was something he wanted to do, he was sorry it had not been finalised last week but there was no rush. He wanted to make the right decision. But he did not know how it was going to happen.
Then Sangakkara slashed to third man. Nine wickets down. Aggers was preparing to expand the conversation into more delicate territory. They had reached an agreement on what was worth talking about, what people wanted to hear and Pietersen is smart enough to know what they want to hear.
First, the Big Bash. Pietersen liked it, thought the standard was high. And then it rained. It was Pietersen who spotted it first. The players ran off. There was a tap on Pietersen’s shoulder. He was wanted by the television. He had been on for 32 balls. The action never stopped.Reuse content