Kevin Pietersen, the 35-year-old England discard, has been playing as a freelance cricketer since the last year and a half, setting the cricket field ablaze in T20 leagues all over the world.
English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) sacked KP following the disastrous 2013/14 Ashes campaign, where he could manage only 294 runs from 5 tests but finished as the highest run scorer for England. He resisted omission, rebelled against the board, but could not manage to earn a call back to the national squad.
With the release of his controversial Autobiography in October 2014, KP burnt the bridges with ECB, spilling out some of the most shocking and darkest truths of England cricket. The South African-born champion then set his sights on T20 cricket and announced his arrival in the BBL with an eye-catching half-century against Adelaide Strikers in his first game.
Pietersen excelled in his first Big Bash League season, ending as the second highest run scorer with 293 runs, almost equalling his Ashes tally in the same country earlier, at an average of 41. One thing was clear; the start was still shining. He then went on to play a couple of dazzling knocks in CPL 2015 also representing the St Lucia Zouks, and almost led them to the knockouts.
Pietersen was having a gala time playing across the globe being loved by the fans more and more, but the international player within him who could tear apart the world’s best bowling attacks wanted more.
Kevin, once a pillar of English batting, expressed his desire to return to the national team time and again but to no avail. After an ignominious exit from the 2015 World Cup, critics called for Pietersen’s inclusion in the squad to avoid another Ashes humiliation, this time at home. A return to the national team suddenly looked hopeful as KP received hints from the ECB that he would have to perform in England’s domestic cricket to prove that he can still gut it out in the 5-day format.
Much to the heartbreak of his Indian fans, Pietersen immediately took a hiatus from IPL 2015 and joined Surrey in pursuit of a comeback. He scored a massive 355* against Leicestershire (326 of which were amassed in one day!), just a day before he was to meet Andrew Strauss, the newly appointed Director of Cricket for England cricket team, an old comrade he had wronged once. Strauss refused to give KP another chance citing “trust issues”, soon England crushed Australia 3-2 unexpectedly in the Ashes, and Pietersen was all but forgotten by the fans and the media.
He returned to his country of birth, South Africa, to feature for the Dolphins, terrorising anyone and everyone who crossed paths with him. Pietersen was in scintillating form in the Ram Slam T20 challenge and piled up 401 runs from just seven matches at a staggering average of 80. The rebel was on song and smashed two consecutive hundreds followed by two successive fifties. He also played an important cameo to help Dolphins overcome the Cobras in the semifinal. It was the final, where the Titans managed to halt this unstoppable force that was punishing bowlers day in and day out.
Now Pietersen comes back to Australia, a nation he has turned in his favour, riding on a series of big scores, can he help the Melbourne Stars get over their habit of choking in the knockouts?
David Hussey, who had a poor run last year, will be leading the side with help from vice-captain and all-rounder James Faulkner, whose friendship with KP is very well known and well documented. After losing first three matches of the 2014-15 season, the Melbourne Stars resurrected their campaign by winning the next five games and rising above from bottom 0f the points table. The perennial under-achievers have managed to reach semifinals of all four seasons of the Big Bash League but haven’t featured in a final yet. To break the streak of knockout losses depends primarily on key players such as Faulkner and Pietersen along with the formidable bowling line-up led by the experienced John Hastings.
Surely, Kevin Pietersen can set ant any cricket field ablaze with his Can the controversial match winner help the Stars to lift silverware this time? We’ll find out soon when the season begins!