Sitting with a South African in a pub having a chat about cricket, can quiet easily turn sour by simply mentioning two letters of the alphabet... K.P
Yes, it's a sore point. And not for the reasons that might appear to be glaringly obvious. We South Africans are not at all bitter that Kevin Pietersen does not play for the Proteas... why would we be?
We are fighting a dog battle with the Australians to claim the number one spot on the ODI rankings (only a few decimal points seperate the two teams), and we go in to the English Test Series ranked number two.
England on the other hand find themselves much lower down the rankings, thanks to embarrassing One Day Series losses to the West Indies and New Zealand, and inconsistent test performances which leaves their die hard Barmy Army fans with dry throats and an even drier sense of self pity.
In a nutshell, South Africa is doing just fine without Kevin, thank you very much.
So, why then I hear you ask, ARE South Africans left with feelings of range and anger whenever the KP issue is brought to light? Well, it's all really simple.
Kevin Pietersen was born and bred in Kwa Zulu Natal, home to the Natal Dolphins, the East Coast franchise responsible for discovering the likes of Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock and a certain Lance Klusner. Kevin went to a very privileged school, had wonderful coaches and facilities at his disposable, and along with his undeniable talent, managed to break into the Dolphins' frame.
However "tragedy" struck when Goolam Bodi was selected ahead of Pietersen. Pietersen himself will tell you it was a race selection, Bodi will naturally say it was nothing of the sort.
So, in a pool of self pity, (and with the help of former South African Test Skipper Clive Rice), Pietersen decided to move to England, citing race discrimination as his main reason for leaving. Brave decision really.
As a player, Pietersen was no where near as developed as he should have been. In fact, he was only slotted in at number seven on his team's batting lineup, and his gentle excuse for offspin would hardly trouble a Brian Lara or a Ricky Ponting.
Yet, like a great cheese, Kevin matured with age and made his debut against the Zimbabweans in 2004. Although not selected to play for England's Test Team during their 2-1 triumph in South Africa, Pietersen managed to force his way into the one day team, smashing three hundreds against his home nation, in what was to be a 4-1 losing cause, with a tie in Bloemfontien and a washout in Durban.
It was safe to say, that Pietersen had arrived, and the following summer, made his test debut at Lord's against the mighty Australians.
It proved to be a wonderful time for England's new "Golden Child". The members at the MCC were no doubt impressed with the fantastic new English batsman scoring runs for England... he has a three lions tattoo after all, surely that MUST mean he is English.
Pietersen scored 158 at the Oval to ensure England regained the Ashes after its 18 year absence from the English mindset, and after the "best Series ever" concluded, he headed down to Australia to play in an ICC World Eleven.
Whilst there, he was named "Best New Cricketer" of the year, and when asked by Mark Nichols what it was like going back home and scoring all those runs against South Africa, he very rudely informed Nichols that South Africa was not his home...
Kevin had now done everything he could to distance himself from his home land.
So, what's your point I hear you ask? He's done well for himself good for him, right? Right... of course. But, why is it that every opportunity he has, he slates South Africa? He has cheap digs at the country and its players.
If South Africa was such a racist country, surely young white players like AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Greame Smith (who is the same age as Pietersen) would also be in the same boat?
Can it be that Pietersen was just not good enough to make the cut? Is that to say that black players like Ashwell Prince, Makhaya Ntini and Hashim Amla are there because they are black?
Why is it that Herchelle Gibbs was dropped, and replaced by a white player? Why can Kevin just not admit that he might not have been a very good player to start with? I think an ego is in the way...
Pietersen was given the honour of captaining the English Team against New Zealand this summer. He said "it has always been my dream to captain England"... Surely then he was dreaming of captaining England whilst still playing in a South African team...
Is that the kind of player you want playing for a professional team? One which knows no loyalties?
Wasn't Andrew Strauss born in Johannesburg? Yeah, but moving to England happened when he was five. He didn't drain our resources, and has never slagged the South Africans off in the press... In fact, FOUR of the current English Eleven were not even born in England...
To be fair, cricket is not the only sport which is facing a drain, South African Rugby fans are equally hostile towards Australia's Clive Rathbone, whilst the Soccer Team is constantly in a battle just to get Lucas Radebe to pitch for their training sessions, let alone an international match.
With the South African rand sitting at around 15 Rand to the British Pound, it is naturally tempting for players to be lured to "greener pastures..."
Darren Pattinson made his debut for England against South Africa in Leeds. And although the English are quick to point out that he was born in Guilford, Australians have much the same qualms as South Africans do about Pietersen... Pattinson's dad has even reminded the world that his son is Australian...
Is England making it too easy for them to snap up "forigen" players... Just because your parents are British, does that give you a divine right to turn your back on the country you have grown up in to enjoy the fruits of playing for England?
Surely Matthew Hoggard feels agrieved? Not to mention Simon Jones...
Imagine an English team without Pietersen, Strauss, Panesar and Ambrose... not to mention past "greats" like Tony Gregg and Robin Smith... or all of the Welshmen who are eligible to play for England... or all of the foreign coaching staff...
Oh, how well English Cricket is doing at the moment... The English fans can be ever so proud.
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