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Pietersen returns to former team in South Africa

Pietersen returns to former team in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: Kevin Pietersen is heading back to where it all started after signing a short-term contract to play Twenty20 cricket for his former team in South Africa.

Pietersen will be available for five games for the Durban-based Dolphins from the start of November, returning to the team he left 15 years ago as a youngster to pursue a career in England.

“It’s wonderful. All my buddies are there, my best mates are there ... it’s going to be fun,” the England batsman, former captain, and record run-scorer said of his return to his hometown team.

Pietersen, now 35 and apparently discarded by England for good, was born in Pietermaritzburg, near Durban, but left his home country claiming affirmative action policies that favoured non-white players were holding him back.

At Tuesday’s announcement, he laughed and joked with South African reporters, saying he’d pay for tickets for fans if crowds didn’t turn up for his return.

Wearing a Dolphins T-shirt and cap, Pietersen was unveiled at a hotel at Johannesburg’s international airport at the end of a vacation in South Africa, where his parents still live. He said he will return late next month ahead of the Ram Slam competition and be available for the Dolphins for around two weeks.

“It’s a great comeback, but its work,” Pietersen said, adding he would “try to leave emotion out of it.”

The move was announced a day after England director of cricket Andrew Strauss said the Ashes-winning team had ‘moved on’ from Pietersen, seemingly closing the door on any return for a talented player with a history of run-ins with England team-mates and management.

“I would love to play cricket for England again but for the moment that’s a no-go,” Pietersen said in South Africa.

Then asked if he had an opinion on England’s tour of South Africa at the end of the year, Pietersen said he wasn’t thinking about English cricket much right now.

“My mind is nowhere near that tour. In all honesty, I couldn’t give you an answer,” he said.

Pietersen was a figure South Africans loved to hate after his criticism of some of the country’s sporting policies, and his desire to play for England ahead of his land of birth.

But the television station that broadcast the Pietersen news conference live called it ‘the prodigal son returns,’ and said ‘KP comes home.’

Pietersen spent part of his holiday on safari with former South African test players Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, and Mark Boucher — former opponents and now friends. Smith’s role as the Ram Slam’s tournament director helped pave the way for Pietersen’s move.

In a statement from the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Cricket Union, Pietersen said: “Having grown up in KZN it is obviously a place that means something quite special to me and to have the opportunity to play there again is something I’m really looking forward to.”

Pietersen will play five games between Oct 29 and Nov 15 for the province where he made his first-class debut aged 17 in 1997, bowling off-spin and batting low down the order.

He was later lured to England with the help of his late mentor Clive Rice and went on to become that country’s highest international run-scorer with 13,779 runs across all formats.

Having been dropped by England in 2014 and told there was no way back, Pietersen has focused on domestic Twenty20 cricket and has played for the Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad (all India), St Lucia Zouks (Caribbean), Melbourne Stars (Australia) and Surrey (England).

Pietersen played two first-class games for the Dolphins in 2010 in a bid to regain form ahead of that year’s Ashes series.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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