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'I don't look back with regrets': Kevin Pietersen

The former England cricketer talks about his playing days, controversies, wearing his heart on his sleeve, and saving rhinos

Kunal Purandare
Published: Oct 26, 2019 09:16:13 AM IST
Updated: Oct 29, 2019 01:40:36 PM IST

'I don't look back with regrets': Kevin PietersenImage: Hublot

In a cricketing career spanning nine years, Kevin Pietersen, 39, often made headlines for his exploits on the field and controversies off it. The South Africa-born batsman played 104 Tests for England and scored over 8,000 runs. He also represented the country in 136 one-day internationals with an average of 40.

Despite having 32 international hundreds against his name, Pietersen became a tabloid favourite because of his run-ins with the team management. He had a fractured relationship with coach Peter Moores when he was captain and was later accused of sending text messages to South African cricketers on a tour with unsavoury references to teammate Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.

Since his career came to an abrupt end in 2014, Pietersen has been dabbling in commentary and creating awareness about animal conservation through Saving Our Rhinos Africa & India (Sorai), a charity that he established in 2018. He was in India in early October to inaugurate Hublot’s first boutique in the country, at Mumbai’s Palladium Mall. The Swiss luxury watchmaker has partnered with Sorai to protect rhinoceroses, which face varying degrees of threats in Africa and India. Excerpts from an interview: 

Q. Do you regret the way your career ended? Could it have been handled better?
Everybody looks for the fairytale ending, but I don’t look back at situations and wish it any other way. I am in Mumbai now, talking about a collaboration between a platform that I founded and a hugely successful watch brand like Hublot. So I must have done something right. I am a positive kind of guy. I don’t look back with any regrets. I live for today and love my life.

Q. Did the controversies surrounding you have a bearing on your shelf life as a cricketer?
Potentially… but also the amount of cricket I played and how my body was feeling. I literally played that last Ashes series [in 2014] with one knee. My right knee was absolutely finished. I needed a complete break from the game. You talk about the good stuff that I did in my career… and I can talk for a lot longer than the controversies. I had so much fun in my career.

'I don't look back with regrets': Kevin PietersenPietersen  and then foreign secretary Boris Johnson survey seized ivory and rhino horns at London’s Heathrow airport last year
Image: Andrew Matthews / Reuters

Q. Did your outspokenness go against you? 
Yes, I am outspoken. I say what I feel. I can’t keep something inside me. I’ve just got that personality. It’s who I am as a person. I like expressing emotion.

Q. Were you misunderstood?
I am not so sure. Since I finished playing, people have put two and two together and certainly got four. When I was finishing my career, there was so much briefing against me from the England and Wales Cricket Board that people were like, ‘What the hell is going on?’. But since everything that has flowed after my cricketing career—I did my documentary and wrote a book—everyone’s realised maybe I had a point.

Q. Former England captain Michael Vaughan once said someone had to put an arm around you… do some cricketers need mentoring outside the field?
A lot of people are insecure about their jobs, the workplace they are in, and about their future. It takes a good captain to understand that you treat [different] players and people differently.

Q. Your views on English cricket. England won the 2019 World Cup…
For an English cricket fan, they had a great summer. It’s something to be proud of.

Q. How do you see the team progressing?
They have a lot of talent. But they need to try and get their Test cricket where it used to be. The focus needs to change to Test cricket. 

Q. The Indian Premier League (IPL) has completed 12 years. What has it done for the game?
It’s transformed the game. It’s made it more difficult for India to beat touring teams because a lot of foreign players feel at home in the environment. It’s been quite instrumental in some of our careers, in making us achieve some fantastic stuff in the Indian subcontinent. For the Indian team, players learn how to be more professional, how to practise well, how to be better in the world of sports science. You look at what Virat Kohli is doing with the Indian team… they are so fit, so athletic. When I played against India in 2005-06, you could run three to extra cover, now you even think before taking a single there. So it’s changed cricket for the globe, it’s transformed this country as well. 

Q. How has the game changed?
The game’s got faster. You don’t see long Test matches anymore. The mental psyche of the batsmen is to go after the bowlers, giving them a lot of opportunities to get wickets. That boring draw is not something you see too much of.

Q. Do you think Test cricket will survive?

It will survive among the bigger nations: India, South Africa, England and Australia. How can you expect a newcomer to watch a game for five days unless it’s the Ashes, or India versus Pakistan… those big rivalries will always last.

Q. What does this partnership with Hublot mean to you?
It means a hell of a lot to me that a luxury brand is dedicated and committed to saving a rhino as much as I am.

Q. How did you take up this cause?
In 2013, I went on a rhino relocation experience in South Africa. When I learnt what was happening to the animal, why they were being killed and how many, I was like, ‘I can do something good here... I can start raising awareness’. I started campaigning and have now raised a significant amount of money for the animals.

Q. What next?
To continue to try to save the species. To continue working with a brand like Hublot for it to generate that awareness, and create that identity within the market place to be a leader in helping in conservation. It’s only the start, we are doing good things with great people.

(This story appears in the 08 November, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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