An ode to England's maverick, Kevin Pietersen
'Boots up! Thank you!' - the four words on his twitter handle confirmed the curtains on the career of a supremely talented yet equally controversial English Cricketer - Kevin Pietersen.
The match between Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United on March 15 in the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) was Pietersen's final appearance. His team, Quetta Gladiators, qualified for the playoffs, but as the remaining fixtures of the league are being moved to Pakistan, KP, as he is fondly known, opted out quoting security reasons.
His International career was already over when he was unceremoniously dumped from England's set-up after the Ashes debacle early in 2014. After making his final appearance in first-class cricket in 2015, he had confined himself to the T20 leagues played across the world.
Pietersen made his international debut in an ODI against Zimbabwe in 2004. He shot to fame in his next assignment, which was a 50-over series against his country of birth, South Africa. Sporting a coloured hairstyle, KP scored three quick-fire centuries in the seven-match series in front of the hostile Proteas crowd.
The heroics in the African nation earned KP a place for Ashes 2005. He made an impressive start to his Test career, with 50+ scores in his first three innings. His swashbuckling 158 in the final match at the Oval kept the Aussies at bay, denying them a chance to level the series. England won the series 2-1 and got a chance to claim the coveted Urn after 18 years.
After that historic Ashes win, the stakes of both Pietersen and England started growing. With him as a mainstay in the batting line up, England dominated Australia further in holding the Urn three consecutive times in the period 2009-2013, including the away series of 2010-11. KP's defying knocks at crucial junctures helped England climb the ICC Test rankings as well, rising to the No. 1 Test team in 2011.
Though the Englishman thrived on swing and bouncy pitches at home and down under, he was equally comfortable on the slow and spin conditions offered in the sub-continent. His whirlwind 151 in the second test at Colombo helped his team level the series against Sri Lanka in 2012. Later that year, a mammoth 186 at Mumbai in the second Test against India set the tone for a rare series victory for England in India.
Though he revered playing in the highest format of the game, he enjoyed playing in shorter formats as well. In the third edition of ICC World Twenty20 in West Indies, his back to back half-centuries in the Super 8 stage, helped British reach semi-finals. An unbeaten 42 in the last four stage against Sri Lanka and a 31-ball-47 in the final against Australia ensured the first and the only ICC title till date for England.
As KP's batting kept on scaling new levels, he started attracting controversies as well. One of the most infamous among them came in early 2009. During his brief tenure as England Captain, he made open disagreements with coach Peter Moores on several issues, including the team's training regime and the selections of key players. As a result, a fallout between the two led to Moores being removed as coach by the ECB, shortly after which Pietersen unexpectedly resigned as captain.
Next, in the summer of 2012, he received a suspension and was kept out of the third Test against South Africa, after it emerged that he had sent messages to rival team members with demeaning text about his own captain, Andrew Strauss. England lost the series, after which, the beleaguered Strauss announced his retirement. After being kept out for the rest of English summer, Pietersen was recalled later that year for the series in India.
However, the episode involving Strauss proved very costly for KP in later years as the former got elevated to the position of England team director in 2015. With that, the South African born Englishman's hope of making a comeback into the England side started fading out.
KP in numbers
As he retires, he leaves the cricketing world with very impressive numbers in Tests. In just eight and half years, he featured in 104 tests scoring 8181 runs at an average of 47.28. He is second on the list of English batsmen scoring most hundreds, with 23 centuries to his credit.
For a normal cricketer, these numbers are enough to call him an accomplished batsman, but for a talented batsman like Pietersen, it gives the feeling of a great movie screenplay written only till the interval.
KP's statistics in the shorter format is good as well, considering the relatively limited number of matches he played. He featured in 136 ODI matches accumulating 4440 runs at 40 runs per each completed innings. In the shortest format too, he scored 1176 runs in 37 matches with seven half-centuries to his credit.
As KP leaves the arena, the fans and cricketing world will definitely remember him as a great batsman. However, if he had he stayed away from those controversies and if he got another chance after 2014, he would have definitely found a place among the legends.