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THE ASHES: Kevin Pietersen can be a jerk... but it's time we learned to love him

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KP can be a jerk... but he's our jerk and it's time we learned to love him
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By
Martin Samuel
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PUBLISHED:
00:00 GMT, 20 November 2013
|
UPDATED:
02:57 GMT, 20 November 2013

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tiffany The names came readily to Kevin Pietersen’s mind: Sachin Tendulkar, Frank Lampard, Dan Carter. The centurions, the milestone makers, the grandees of modern sport. He was among them now. Part of the club, and yet somehow blackballed. cheap tiffany He is outside, still, Pietersen. No matter what he does, no matter how many Tests he plays, it seems it will never be the same. Even as he drew comparison with the most recent history men, there was a sense he was the odd man out. tiffany outlet locations Tendulkar with his saffron, white and green bat handle; Carter, his family steeped in New Zealand’s rugby history, great uncle Bill a member of the touring Invincibles, winning all 28 matches in the British Isles, 1924-25; Frank Jnr, the England international son of an England international father, Frank Snr.
The God of cricket: After his 200th Test match, 34,357 runs and 100 centuries, Sachin Tendulkar brought the curtain down on his incredible career
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100 club: Dan Carter (left) speaks to Richie McCaw after receiving his 100th cap for New Zealand's scintillating victory over England

Golden wonder: Frank Lampard received a commemorative cap byfather Frank Snr to mark his 100 appearances for his country
And then there is KP, who adopted England as a teenage spin bowler in protest at South Africa’s racial quotas, and somehow became the swashbuckling soul of its middle order. Lampard’s home town is Romford, Essex; Pietersen’s is Pietermaritzburg, near Durban. ‘Half the size of a New York cemetery and twice as dead,’ was how Tom Sharpe described it. Those roots remain. ‘Look, it’s your nation, not mine,’ Pietersen told a British interviewer who was shocked to discover that female admirers sent him intimate photographs. That otherness is how Pietersen is perceived. England till I die, sing the fans. England while it suits, is how many view Pietersen. Is that fair? One hundred Test caps, the total he will reach in Brisbane is, after all, no mere dalliance. Neither are 7,887 Test runs. English cricket is no longer a punchline and Pietersen’s input was vital in killing that joke. Yet there will always be doubts, suspicions about his true nature.
Statement of intent: In 2005 at The Oval Kevin Pietersen hit a majestic, match-saving 158 in his fifth Test match to help seal England's first Ashes win in 16 years

Fist of fury: Pietersen racked up 227 runs in Adelaide in 2010 as England turned the screw on their last trip Down Under

On the outside: An achilles injury forced Pietersen to miss the final three Tests for England's victorious 2009 Ashes series

International relations: Pietersen's relationship with with captain Andrew Strauss came under close scrutiny in 2012

 
 
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In the notorious exchange of text messages with England’s South African opponents in 2012, he referred to his captain, Andrew Strauss, as a doos. It is an Afrikaan word meaning box, or a vulgar alternative. Had Pietersen been English the word would have begun with a T. Maybe even a C. Yet Strauss and Pietersen had lunch here on Monday. He says it went well. If Strauss can put the past to one side, shouldn’t we? Asked whether his circumstances meant he was treated differently to men like Tendulkar, Carter or  Lampard, whose nationality is not in question, Pietersen’s uncertainty was plain. ‘I’m not sure, not 100 per cent sure,’ he replied. ‘I could not go either way on that. Some days I feel yes, some days I feel no. So, no, not sure.’ It is a remarkable position, a brilliant sportsman, on the verge of a historic landmark for his country, yet still unconvinced that he is accepted. Maybe the famous Pietersen bravado is a result of this inner crisis. He was mocked for saying it wasn’t easy to be him in the England dressing room, but he was right. Pietersen has spent his life over-compensating for the choice he made in rejecting South Africa. He permanently has a point to prove. There is a story of him returning to his old club, Natal, after his first successful season in English county cricket. He rented a car from Avis and plastered branding down one side, like a sponsor’s slogan, but completely home-made. ‘Kevin Pietersen — Nottinghamshire Professional Cricketer’, it read. On a hired car. The boast belied the trouble he was having in his adopted country. The Notts players mocked him and regularly made him sing God Save The Queen . Jason Gallian, the captain, threw Pietersen’s kit over the balcony into the members’ seating area and even broke one of his bats.
Fresh-faced: Pietersen joined Notts in 2004 from his native Natal

Foreign legion: Jason Gallian (left) welcomes Australian Stuart MacGill to Trent Brige that year - but relations with Pietersen were less than cordial
Having attempted contact to resolve their differences, a restraining order was placed on Gallian. It must have been phenomenally hard for Pietersen to persevere as an aspiring Englishman in such conditions. The opportunistic changing of nationality is a major issue in modern sport. There is very real fear that as countries play the rules to recruit the best talent available, so international competition will lose its meaning. Pietersen has an English mother, one of the purer forms of additional qualification — certainly when compared to the tricks the Football Association are trying to pull over Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United — yet so does Tiffany Porter, whose change of allegiance from the United States before the London 2012 Olympics stands among the greatest examples of unashamed self-interest overtaking principle. Porter could not make the US team, but handily filled a void in Britain. The deal suited both sides and damn the message sent to young British athletes. Strangely, while it transpires he would have walked into South Africa’s team — any team, in fact — once his talent had been nurtured, initially Pietersen’s motives were not that different to Porter’s. He feared his career would be hurt by South Africa’s quota system and thought he would stand a greater chance of progress as an Englishman.
National interest: Adnan Januzaj (centre) is entitled to play for Kosovo, England, Belgium, Albania and Turkey

Self-interest: Tiffany Porter, who has an English mother, competed in the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain, despite being born and raised in Michigan
He now insists the lines were always blurred, but it is a hard sell. ‘You won’t believe this, but I had an England rugby jersey when we used to play on the front lawn,’ he said. ‘Ask my brothers: one was South Africa, one Australia, me in an England shirt, and we had a French one as well because their stuff was cool.’ He didn’t add this detail, but his versions of God Save The Queen at Nottinghamshire were apparently word perfect from the start, too. So the antipathy towards him in his  homeland is that of a lover scorned. Pietersen’s mother was reduced to tears when he played for England at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg the first time. ‘My parents were in shock,’ he recalled. ‘People were hysterical.’
All change: John Barnes, pictured training in Sardinia during the 1990 World Cup, represented England 79 times
Yet of course there is resentment. Pietersen, the switch-hitting batsman, is arguably the most  successful switcher of nationalities in modern sport, also. John Barnes made 79 appearances for England having been born in Jamaica, but at the time no truly significant footballer of Caribbean extraction chose the islands. Equally, Eusebio was in his late teens when he came from Mozambique to Portugal, but Mozambique did not play an international football match until 1977 — 16 years after he made his Portuguese debut. Marcel Desailly was born in Ghana, but emigrated at the age of four. He was raised and schooled in the French system and is as much a product of France as Mo Farah is of Britain. Lennox Lewis won Olympic gold for Canada, but became world heavyweight champion as a British fighter. Lewis, though, was born in West Ham and moved to Canada at the age of 12. Alex Rodriguez comes from Washington Heights, New York, yet represented the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. As international baseball is about as significant globally as domestic cricket is in Manhattan, however, the choice of the sport’s most expensive player is largely irrelevant. 
On top of the world: Marcel Desailly (right) helped France to win the World Cup in 1998

Great Briton: Mo Farah celebrates winning the 5,000m during the World Athletics Championships in summer
Leaving Pietersen, and his 99 Test caps at an average of 48.3, as the best return any country has received on what was basically a random acquisition. The English system may have honed Pietersen, but it did not shape him. The end-of-season report from Maritzburg College in 1997 describes a teenage batsman who would respond to intimidating, angry bowlers by telling them to get ready to look in the trees for the ball. The belief he will take to the Gabba was already there. ‘Clearly as a South African coming into England I had to really fight some tough battles and I had to be single-minded in achieving what I was trying to achieve,’ Pietersen said. ‘So I can’t help it if people think I’m arrogant. ‘A lot of great sportsmen have that little bit of something that makes them try to be the best and wake up every single day wanting to improve. I call it confidence; confidence in my ability; wanting to perform, starting with the training field. ‘It doesn’t get documented how much I train away from the game where no-one sees what I do. ‘It builds confidence; and then you guys call it arrogance because it makes a better headline.’ And there have been plenty of those out here, so far.
In the zone: Pietersen prepares to bat in the Gabba nets
This week Pietersen got into a spat on Twitter with a journalist who had claimed even the England team didn’t like him. Pietersen responded with some disparaging remarks about Brisbane. On Tuesday, the pair came face to face. Pietersen had already offered thanks for the free publicity. Was it a nice boost for the ego? ‘Well, it was for the journalist,’ he replied, drily. ‘I hope I’ve got him a few more Twitter followers.’ He looked around the room. ‘I don’t know where he is.’ The chap identified himself. ‘Well done,’ said Pietersen. Short pause. ‘I’ve forgotten your name.’ It was a put-down as exquisitely timed as any shot he will play this week. And then he had to spoil it. Sensing a banter victory by an innings and plenty, Pietersen could not resist acknowledging the fact. He added the ultimate naff pay-off. The drum roll, cymbal crash. Bu-dum, ching! Oh Kev, why? It was right there, you didn’t have to prove it any more. You didn’t have to prove a thing. But maybe that’s part of it. Maybe a decision Kevin Pietersen made 15 years ago means he feels he does have to prove himself over again. Each day, every day. So sometimes he acts like a doos. But he’s our doos. And maybe it’s time we accepted that, too.  
What about solidarity, folks? Roy Keane handled the Ferguson question beautifully last week. He said just enough to make his point but not so much that it overshadowed his duties with the Republic of Ireland. One imagines he will speak in greater detail when the time is right. Certainly, he is entitled to respond. It is an irony that having supported a six-year, long-term contract for David Moyes and regularly bemoaned the fact that managers are given so little time these days, Sir Alex Ferguson should talk of Keane as a management failure. He was at Sunderland for two years, Ipswich Town for less. The second post did not end well, but given a longer tenure or less trying circumstances, who knows? To describe Keane as inadequate would seem to go against Ferguson’s principles. At the very least, it shows little worker solidarity for such a staunch union man.
Former comrades: Roy Keane (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson at Old trafford after Manchester United beat Sunderland 1-0 in September 2007
 
And while we're at it
Hoist by his own petard: John McCririck
John McCririck’s dismissal at Channel 4 is a lesson for all public figures not to dance to the celebrity tune. As a racing pundit, McCririck was informed and passionate. He knew his stuff and cared for the rights of punters and racegoers. Seduced by fame, however, he allowed television executives to mine his most venal traits on the reality circuit. Sexist and crude, McCririck admitted playing the pantomime villain on shows such as Celebrity Big Brother. The image brought in more hack work. And then, when the public had tired of this clown, McCririck’s alter ego was used to shaft him. His persona was no longer playing well with audiences, the bosses said, and he was gone. Channel 4 painted a picture of McCririck (below) as arrogant and confrontational. Maybe he was. Yet executives were more than happy to put up with those flaws for ratings and may even have encouraged McCririck down this path. If they had wanted to hide the worst aspects of his personality, he surely would not have been let loose so frequently beyond racing’s ghetto. From Jade Goody to Jim Davidson, television creates these little trolls and then feigns outrage when their shtick has run its course. The moral to the story is be yourself, not the studio’s performing monkey. At least then, when it goes wrong, there is only one person to blame.  
Dyke's ducking the diving Domestic football reconvenes again this weekend, no doubt with the standard controversies around a fresh wave of dives and simulation. It was rather pathetic, then, that the Football Association should expect sympathy for its failure to address the problem through video evidence. The Football Regulatory Authority was all for introducing the retrospective action that exists in Scotland and had the backing of the FA but not the Premier League nor Football League, so the plan was scrapped. Diddums. When will the FA realise that they are the disciplinary conscience of the game and can act autonomously? If Greg Dyke, as chairman, wanted to use video technology to catch the cheats, he could. He would have the support of the fans, the general public and the media. It doesn’t need a committee, either. Just a pair.
In a corner: Greg Dyke and the Football Association have failed to address diving and video evidence
 
It wasn't as if they didn’t have enough chances. If the US PGA now steal a march on the R&A by making Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland the location for their first Championship held beyond American shores, The Open’s organisers have only themselves to blame.
 
More...
Text row nearly ruined my career but team spirit is perfect now, says rejuvenated KP on eve of his 100th Test for England
I saw a shrink over Barmy Army jibes, reveals Johnson as pantomime villain prepares for fresh battle
Make them eat their words! Forget the Aussies' attempt at trash talking, England in mood to make history Down Under
Hussain's three key Ashes clashes that could decide which team wins the series

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