Farewell and salutations KP!


Young boys mad for cricket, but born in the wrong decade, will remember a time when an unapologetically flamboyant young man with a crazy streak of white running through the middle of his hair, decided to step out into the dead Faisalabadi pitch in the unusually hot November of 2005, and add perspective to a game not much more than a tiring, cumbersome, piling of runs leading towards an inevitable draw.

Fresh into his international career, Kevin Pietersen had already made a name for himself with his bold stroke play and lofted sixes which had so stylishly saved England from the teeth of a ravenous Australian set-up on debut in the 2005 Ashes.

A 57 on debut may seem impressive, but it does not do justice to the steel Pietersen showed in that first game of his. To score with such cocky grace after Glen McGrath had just bulldozed half the England line up on the sloped Lord’s pitch entrenched him in the hearts of English people then and there, forever.



KP celebrates on his Ashes debut, 2005



Which is why when England arrived in Pakistan in 2005, there was much talk of the arrogant new sensation England had grabbed from under the nose of the stoic South Africans. Yet the crowds were not particularly amused when the prodigy floundered in the first test in Lahore, making a thoroughly unimpressive showing.    

So when Faisalabad was greeted with an Inzi century and a quick 90-odd by Afridi to kick off the second game of the series, nobody must have particularly been thinking about Kevin Pietersen and what he had to offer when he walked in after a frustratingly sensible partnership between Ian Bell and Michael Trescothick.

From the word go Pietersen began to hunt for the ball. Throwing caution to the wind, he would occasionally lean back on his back leg to pull one over the infield with the smoothest heave of his shoulders.



KP hooks one during his century in the second test in Faisalabad, 2005




Even as Ian Bell continued to play sensibly, taking the singles and doing the dirty drudgery that doth make a test batsman, KP wove magic. In 137 deliveries, he piled up exactly 100 runs with the help of 6 boundaries and 3 towering sixes.

Pietersen was never to come play in Pakistan again for the remainder of his career. The rest of the series was unimpressive, with the exception of a fast knock of 56 with 7 fours and 2 sixes in the first ODI in Lahore.       

But that was to be it, KP did not play in Pakistan again. While he may have been one of the biggest stars of the PSL, he has categorically refused to come to Pakistan both this year and the last.

Even outside Pakistan and the PSL, his encounters with the men in green were few and far in between. In his near decade and a half of cricketing stardom, he went up against Pakistan in 8 T20 internationals, 11 ODIs, and only 14 Tests.



KP bats for Quetta against Islamabad in the PSL, 2017


Yet the havoc he did let slip in these few encounters was enough to leave Pakistan reeling every time. While he did not fare particularly well in the longest format of the game, more a consequence of his many run-ins with authority than anything else, he scored 4 T20 50s against Pakistan in just 8 games at an average of nearly 64. It was, of course, painful to watch for the Pakistani fan. But who would dare say that KP was a hack? The ease with which he crafted 73 off 50 against Pakistan in the 2010 T20 World Cup was breathtaking. To watch his flare and easy mobility was to see a thing of great beauty.



KP delivers the final blow to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup, 2010



Then, of course, there were the two centuries on the trot in Dubai circa 2012 that did lose Pakistan both games which were memorable. In the fourth game of that series, England wickets were falling at the unmerciful spin of Saeed Ajmal’s doosras. Yet it was Pietersen who carried the game from the first over, and England over the finish line, scoring 130 off 152 even as his comrades fell around him disoriented by the Pakistan bowling.


KP scores a ton in Dubai, 2012


So much trouble did one man cause one team in so little time, that one fears to see what he did to those he frequented more often. The Australians and South Africans, for sure, must have nightmares about him. The former from memories, the latter from the regret of a lost opportunity. Cricket will of course see more like him. The men with style, bravado, and shear chutzpah. Yet will they see another with a streak of white in his hair and two studs in his ears that shine in the Faisalabad sun as he leans back to dispatch another one into the crowds? Not a chance.

Lahore is the poorer for not having hosted him one final time.