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  1. The rebel outsider

The rebel outsider

KP: The Autobiography carves Pietersen’s story with great detail, chronicling his career’s highs and lows, his trials and tribulations, and the deep-rooted fear of an ‘outsider’ trying to fit into the regimented English cricket fraternity

Published: November 9, 2014 12:27 AM

KP: The Autobiography
Kevin Pietersen
Hachette
Rs 899
Pp 320

HE is larger than life, free-spirited, headstrong and a rebel not always with a cause. South Africa-born Kevin Pietersen is perhaps England’s most talented cricketer in a quarter of a century. And KP: The Autobiography is a reflection of his personality and, in many ways, the manner in which he has played his cricket—free-flowing, audacious and without a care for consequences.

Pietersen’s autobiography, ghost-written by prolific author David Walsh, chronicles the highs and lows of this Peitermaritzburg native’s career, his trials and tribulations and his deep-rooted fears as an ‘outsider’ trying to fit into the regimented English cricket fraternity. KP: The Autobiography carves Pietersen’s story with great detail—some of the details are so startling that at times you are left wondering if he is indeed trying too hard to push his side of the story to get even with the ‘tyrannical’ England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

At the core, Pietersen is a non-conformist. An impact player, who invented the switch-hit to good effect, his book, too, does not stick to the traditional autobiographical style. Instead, it takes a very non-linear approach to weave a compelling story, which begins when he was at his nadir—the day he got dropped from the England team after the disastrous Ashes campaign in Australia in March this year.
The intricate detailing about the manner of his exit is evident when he describes his meeting with captain Alastair Cook on that fateful day. “Cooky shakes my hand, but doesn’t look at me. He looks at the floor. I feel sorry for him…it is one of the most uncomfortable experiences of his career,” he says. The Ashes debacle had kicked off a blame game of sorts, where, as per Pietersen, he was made the scapegoat. The politics that followed ultimately led to his exit from the England team.

Throughout his playing days, Pietersen’s frequent run-ins with two coaches—Peter Moores and Andy Flower—are well-known. The problems, he says, arose due to their regimented style of functioning, which was ‘suffocating’. He dismisses Flower, calling him ‘contagiously sour, infectiously dour’. As far as Moores was concerned, his ‘bizarre’ style of training left the prolific run-getter frustrated to the core.

Pietersen narrates an instance when Moores had his players photographed in their underwear to monitor the shape of their bodies. Pietersen wonders in the book if that’s a common practice among other teams.

Sticking to intricate details, the book also delves into the controversial ‘Tweetgate’ and ‘Textgate’ scandals, which rocked English cricket in 2012, with Pietersen caught right in the middle of both storms. Although he fends off both allegations masterfully in his book, none can forget him being dropped from the side for the Lord’s Test against South Africa that summer.

That episode left him alienated from his teammates and the ECB. There are numerous other instances in the book, which spell out Pietersen’s feeling of inherent alienation from his teammates, most significant of them being his all-out support for the Indian Premier League (IPL). Pietersen loved the concept of the IPL and the way the tournament functioned. The ECB and his teammates became suspicious of his new-found love and, in turn, questioned his commitment to the England team.

The England number four also reckons much of his alienation is due to Flower’s inability to quell the rising clique that developed during this time, which promoted a culture of bullying and developed fractionalism within the squad.

The man at the receiving end of Pietersen’s ire is wicket-keeper Matt Prior. Devoting an entire chapter on him, Pietersen calls him ‘The Grand Cheese’. His description of Prior is humourous and his vivid description about the leader of the clique only elaborates the rift he describes in the squad.

If he is humourous in his take on Prior, he is also brutally honest about his inadequacies as a player. It is incredible to note that a man of such talent had severe doubts and went to great lengths to iron out the flaws he observed in his game.

“I’ve fought more with myself in my head than with any bowler,” he writes. “I can be destroyed before I hit a single ball.” The book also has beautiful anecdotes about friends Pietersen made in the most unlikeliest of quarters. He goes to great lengths to explain the detailed email exchanges he had in 2012 with Rahul Dravid on playing spin bowling in the subcontinent. Describing his battles with Australian pacer Peter Siddle, he explains that he always found a way to get out to his nemesis because he bowls with the ‘patience of a robot’. He also admits to being a ‘nervous wreck’ when he faced a rampaging Mitchell Johnson in the first Ashes Test last winter at the Gabba in Brisbane.

Pietersen reveals that his trademark reverse sweep was nurtured and developed after playing hockey in school and cricket in the backyard with his brothers.

KP: The Autobiography is a bold and scathing attack on the ECB’s style of functioning observed through the prism of an ‘outsider’. It showcases a talented player’s dreams and aspirations, and how he goes to great lengths to attain it through hard work and discipline. Pietersen’s career may be at the crossroads, but his book will ensure he stays relevant in the times to come.

Vishal Menon

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