Pietersen insists he is England's lionheart
Ex-captain takes on critics with passionate avowal of dedication to the cause
Wednesday 01 April 2009
With the three lions tattoo and his emotions on show, Kevin Pietersen confronted his doubters yesterday. It was not the first time, it will not be the last but it made for riveting theatre, a one-man show of boldness and spirit.
"There are no traumas at all, I am 100 per cent committed to England as much as when I was captain, as much as before I was captain," he said. "I knew that there was never going to be a problem on this trip because I love playing for England and I am so committed to playing for England."
If he said it once, he said it a dozen times over the course of 15 minutes. Kevin Pietersen wants to play for England. Anywhere, anytime. It had been another tumultuous three days in his England career.
During an interview last week he had used the unfortunate phrase that he was at the "end of his tether" on this England tour of the Caribbean after which it emerged that he had requested to go home for two days. When he pulled up with a back spasm in the fourth one-day international on Sunday – in which England pulled level in the series – there were many who doubted he would play in the deciding match on Friday. But that is to underestimate his strength of character.
"Maybe I was a bit too honest with stuff, but the honesty came from frustration on two parts," he said. "I was captain in the first half of the winter and that didn't go according to plan. Coming into last week, the only game we'd won on tour was because of that little mathematical error on the West Indies' part. To have gone through since the end of last August last winter without winning a game really, really is frustrating.
"The second point is that it's the longest time I've ever gone without seeing my wife. That's playing on me. I will not be without her for 11 weeks ever again, we've decided that."
His wife, Jessica, was unable to come to the West Indies because she was taking part in the television show Dancing On Ice.
"What never came out is how desperate I am to win, and win games for England. Me saying at the end of my tether last week was not a case of me wanting to leave the shores. I love playing for England, it's a dream come true to play for England and I realise that every day. I cherish it and love pulling those three lions on every time."
If it was not a mea culpa it was a majestic performance of illegitimi non carborundum. Nothing was quite his fault and he was not going to let the bastards grind him down. He denied still being affected by the loss of the captaincy in January, when he and the coach Peter Moores were both deposed because of the irretrievable breakdown in their relationship, but conceded that his South African background would continue to sway opinions about him.
"My relationship with the players is absolutely 100 per cent fine," he said. "I haven't even had a hint of an argument, everything has been perfect. I am going to have to live with the South African thing for my whole career. I lived with that on Friday when we played a poor game of cricket and I got some comments about South Africa, South Africa, South Africa. I deal with that on a daily basis and that's just the way it is, unfortunately."
Pietersen wants to be loved and maybe, given all the runs he has scored for England, he deserves more affection than he is given. If there was general astonishment among his colleagues yesterday that he had agreed to bare his soul publicly, it was typical of the man.
But only a few days after arriving at the home he has missed so much, Pietersen will be off again to play for Bangalore Royals in the Indian Premier League in South Africa. He could not quite see that this might cause some to suggest that home did not count so much when money (perhaps £350,000) is at stake. "It's not a case of playing cricket for money. Everyone has this money tag attached to it, quite rightly so, but I am going to South Africa to learn. The reason why India have taken cricket to a new level is because of how they played Twenty20 and how the IPL has improved so many of their players. I want to improve, be the best player I possibly can be."
After scans on his back in Barbados, Pietersen will be fit for the match on Friday. That is two days away and two days is a long time in the life of Kevin Pietersen. Anything can happen and probably will.
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