London, June 20 (AFP) Kevin Pietersen has insisted he was happy to have paved the way for current England stars to play in Twenty20 franchise cricket even if it helped curtail his own international career and saw him labelled the ‘bad guy’.
Pietersen, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, has not played for England since being frozen out following the team’s return from a 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia in 2014.
Having once held out some hope of a return to England duty, Pietersen has spent most of the intervening period playing in the growing number of Twenty20 franchises around the world, having been a early overseas star in the Indian Premier League.
Monday saw Pietersen announced as one of eight international marquee players for South Africa’s T20 Global League that is due to start later this year.
The England and Wales Cricket Board once had little time for events such as the IPL but has recently softened its stance, with the likes of all-rounder Ben Stokes named player of the tournament at this year’s edition.
Officials are now even prepared to let players miss England games to take part in the IPL, something once unthinkable, with Pietersen’s desire to play in the lucrative event leading to a major falling out with then England coach Andy Flower.
Pietersen said he was proud of his pioneering role, for all the criticism that came his way at the time.
“I’m lucky to have these T20 tournaments where I can still produce on the big stage,” Pietersen told reporters art the Global League launch in London on Monday. “This is the environment I have been in since 2008.
“It is the environment that got me in trouble with all the big bosses, this is the environment where it is now being applauded and they are willing to risk injuries for players to participate for the experience.
“I came back from that first IPL, that second IPL and I was promoting it, and saying ‘we’ve got to get more English guys into these set-ups’.
“I was painted as the bad guy and I’m totally cool with it because the public can see the picture that is now being rolled out,” the 36-year-old Pietersen added.
“It is nice to see the youngsters, (Chris) Woakes going out there, Stokes going out there. It was absolutely fantastic.”
– ‘Water under the bridge’ –
Former England team-mate Stephen Harmison said in his recently published autobiography that Pietersen had been “hung out to dry” by the ECB.
Pietersen, a former England captain, was grateful for the support of the one-time fast bowler.
“I spoke to him after and said ‘that is really kind, thank you’ and he said it was just a pity no one else has come out and said it.
“But it is water under the bridge, it was a long time ago,” said Pietersen, who reckoned he was now “fitter than I ever was when I played for England”.
South Africa-born Pietersen, asked if England had missed out on a few years of international cricket from him replied: “I don’t want to go over old stories and old stuff because it’s gone, it’s done and dusted.
“But I’ve enjoyed some of my best batting days in Australia at the Big Bash, playing in the PSL (Pakistan Super League), playing for Surrey. I got that triple-hundred for Surrey, I’ve had some of my real good days of batting. But it is what it is.”
Pietersen revealed this could be his last season in the English game as he looks to life away from cricket.
“Next year I’m building a house in the Kruger national park so all of next summer I will be at my house in South Africa — so I won’t be playing in England. I think this will be my last stint in England.”
Meanwhile Pietersen backed Joe Root to succeed as England’s new Test captain ahead of the upcoming home series with South Africa.
“He is the only man to take England forward,” he said.
“I don’t see anyone else doing it. Everything Joe has done so far in his career has been A-grade, absolutely A- grade.” (AFP)
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.