Pietersen: 'They said bombings happen every day in India. Well, they don't in Chelsea'

From IPL chaos to the imminent birth of his first child – can nothing distract Kevin Pietersen? Stephen Brenkley finds the struggling England star in typically bullish form
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The Independent Online

These are turbulent, exciting times for Kevin Pietersen. But then, when aren't they?

He is in the Caribbean having come hot-foot from India where he played a game of cricket two hours after bombs exploded outside the ground in Bangalore. The tournament of which it was part, the Indian Premier League, has been besmirched by scandalous allegations of match-fixing and money laundering.

Any day he may have to leave – either from Guyana, or St Lucia, or Barbados – to be present in London with his wife Jessica as she gives birth to their first child. The scenario could unfold whereby Kev bats like a dream in getting England to the final, hears that the baby is on its way, dashes to the airport, arrives in maternity just in time to cut the cord and then hears that his chums have not let all his previous spectacular work go to waste by winning the World Twenty20 final.

And so would conclude another perfectly normal fortnight in the life of KP, our Kev almost by now. Leaving his native South Africa as a teenager, qualifying for England, scoring legendary Ashes-winning hundreds, pioneering the switch hit, being made England captain, being deposed, facing debilitating injury, losing form so badly that questions begin to be asked about his very future – all this has already happened to him. More, much more, you get the feeling, awaits.

"The people who keep the coolest heads are the people who succeed in any walk of life," he said yesterday. He is a different man these days from the swaggering individual who first came to England, a man who defined the meaning of cocksure.

He is mellower, maturer, more reflective but still, of course assertive in his opinions. All that was on show yesterday together with the tattoos on both arms – it is possible to wonder if, at 30 this year, he begins to regret the adornments he had in his early twenties.

The birth of Pietersen junior is much on his mind, as it should be. It is typical of the father-to-be – and there will be no more doting dad anywhere – that he wants to have it all. He is determined to play in this World Twenty20, determined that England will acquit themselves rather better than in the previous two versions of the competition, but also insistent that he will be there at the birth.

"I will be there, definitely," he said. "Well, as quick as I can. It is due towards the end of the tournament. The only worry is that I won't be back in time but I will be back as soon as I can. As soon as Jess thinks it is coming, I'm off, regardless of our situation in the tournament. It is all cleared with the management, done."

Surely, it would have been easier simply to ditch the tournament – they come along every few days – and be at home? This is to miss the point about Pietersen.

"I love playing cricket and we understand that it is my job. And the way I am playing at the moment, I want to continue. It has been difficult being away, but it is my job.

"As long as I'm making the effort to get home and see the kid as soon as possible. We've discussed this and with quite a few of the other players. The problem would be if I didn't go home at all and didn't see the kid until the tournament ended. To make every effort to get back as soon as possible – that's the best I can do. Jess is very comfortable with that. I can't control nature. I'm committed to play as well as I can."

He has, though whisper it in case it does another bunk, rediscovered his form. The Achilles injury which forced him to miss the Ashes last summer took an age to heal after infection set in and when he eventually returned to the England side for the tour of South Africa late last year he was not the same. In Bangladesh, too, he kept getting out to silly bowling. It was worrying and he was worried.

But in the IPL the old imperiousness seemed to be restored ("It was great to feel how I used to feel"). There were a couple of fifties, a couple more decisive interventions and he finished the competition with a six which won Bangalore Royal Challengers third place and qualification for the Champions League.

There was also an explosion outside the M Chinnaswamy Stadium as a match was about to start. Oh, and those allegations about nefarious activity. "The shame about it is that it brings the IPL into a little bit of a cloudy situation which is horrible because the cricket is absolutely amazing, it's the most incredible tournament to play in as a player," he said proving that maturity has not, thankfully, diminished the capacity for a sweeping statement.

No malarkey at all then? "Zero, just boys fighting like international players against each other on a cricket field. The play is incredible, international standard. Did you see who won most of the games for most of the teams, local Indians, blokes you have never even heard of winning games for Mumbai, Chennai. The guy opening the batting for India in this tournament, Murali Vijay, wow."

His opinion may have been influenced by the size of the paycheck. He was signed at $1.5m (£980,000) by the Challengers when he was allowed to make himself available last year. The chances are that for that kind of money he is hardly going to deliver a verdict that it was unmitigated rubbish. He is likely to return next year, though it may not be for the Challengers since his contract is up like those of all other players. It would certainly test the ardour of a family man: the IPL begins six days after the World Cup which starts eight days after England's 10-week tour of Australia.

But his enthusiasm was spontaneous and is a world away from the batsman who appeared in the first World Twenty20 in 2007 and proclaimed that it needed silly shots for a silly game. Nor do his feelings appear to have been curbed by the explosion before the match against Mumbai Indians. It seemed an astounding decision that the match should proceed and he is adamant that there was no real mood to cancel it.

"Not really, we made a decision in the dressing room," he said. "Our argument was that if the match was played somewhere else it would have been called off. But they said it happens every day in India – well, it doesn't happen in Chelsea. It was a helluva loud noise, you don't know how you're going to react in those situations. They found more devices the next day. It's simple – if I wasn't happy with the security I would have come home."

It is clear that he thinks the IPL experience has sharpened up his act and helped other players to improve. He thinks England have a marvellous opportunity but there is the usual T20 caveat: anybody can win a game of Twenty20. Though that should not apply when England play Ireland in their second group match on Tuesday.

"I think anybody can win this tournament especially on these pitches. Mike Yardy has been doing brilliantly, Graeme Swann is world-class, I might chuck in a few overs especially in Guyana. The more you play, the more you learn, the more time you realise you have got, the calmer you are in a situation."

This has particularly affected Paul Collingwood's captaincy. In his first incarnation, he looked like a man with St Vitus' dance on point duty who was ever ready to change his mind. Collingwood now assesses the rhythm of a game, which could be crucial to England's chances.

"You have a look at Colly's captaincy now compared to his captaincy a few years ago. Look at against South Africa [in the warm-up game] how calm he was, a lot less frenetic. As soon as you start playing a lot more of this cricket you realise you have more time, you realise you don't have to rush things and you can see situations because you have seen them develop over the last two months on numerous occasions.

"I don't think we can take anything from the warm-up games, a warm-up game is a warm-up game. The pitches in Guyana don't look as though they're going to be the most beautiful for strokeplay. It's the same for both teams. Spin will probably play a huge part there next week, hopefully our spinners will play better than theirs and our batters score more runs. That's why the IPL was so good, they prepared good wickets and they brought the boundaries in. I don't think people will be turned off Twenty20 cricket but I do think the ICC has an obligation to make it as entertaining as they can."

That was a cute way to sign off, praising his most recent employers while reminding the governing body of its responsibilities. It was KP to a t.

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