At the latest edition of Express Adda, presented by Yes Bank in association with India Infoline Finance Limited (IIFL), held at Olive Beach, New Delhi last week, Delhi Daredevils captain and the prolific England batsman Kevin Pietersen showed why he is rated as one of the most captivating international cricketers.
During a conversation with a select audience, moderated by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group and Sandeep Dwivedi, National Sports Editor, Pietersen recalled some of his gritty Test knocks in grim situations and looked forward to the fresh challenge of changing the fortunes of Delhi, last year’s bottom-placed IPL team. Excerpts from an enriching Adda with a cricketer who calls pressure a privilege.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Kevin, welcome here. I will start with you coming to Delhi. I think with Delhi you had the most runs when you were playing IPL in 2012. Is it coming back home? Is it working with familiar people? How’s the team this time? How do you see the season ahead
Kevin Pietersen: It (Delhi) is probably my second home in terms of travel because I do come to Delhi a hell of a lot. I really enjoy Delhi. I built such good relationships in 2012 and we had such good time, both on the field and off the field, that I feel indebted to Delhi to contribute as much as possible. I enjoy helping the youngsters. I think as a senior player you’ve got to pass on the knowledge that you’ve acquired over the years. I like Delhi as a city, probably my favourite city.
It’s just a good good place to come. It’s not as crazy as the rest of India in terms of the traffic and the madness. I mean, occasionally when you drive to an 8 o clock game at 6 o clock the traffic is real bad, but generally it’s pretty good. It has some wonderful restaurants, the hotels. We get looked after really well here. The people are fantastic. The hospitality in India, not just in Delhi, is something that every international cricketer loves. So when you get the opportunity to come here and travel here, it’s something we thoroughly enjoy.
Beside, this year is a blend of youth and experience. I think the gentlemen who went to the auction have done a fantastic job in acquiring some really solid Indian players. I like how we used the retention of keeping some uncapped players. And, I think the key to success in the IPL is clearly, I mean if you can have five or six or seven superstars in your side then great, but if you can’t, you got to have young Indians and Indians who want to achieve greatness in the IPL as a platform to play for India. And I think we have got some fantastic Indians in our side who want to perform. I have met a couple of them today and there is a great little buzz. Sometimes with superstars you don’t get that buzz. It’s like Ok I’m playing another game of cricket. So it’s actually quite nice to get that buzz of youngsters who want to play Test cricket for India. Who wan’t to impress. Who wan’t the big stage. And I think we have got a real good mixture.
Sandeep: Kevin, other important signing this season has been your coach Gary Kirsten. And, Gary has got this huge respect in India the way he things for the Indian cricket team. And his kind of coaching was more to do with managing players and when you were the captain of the English team, you also were seen as one of the boys as a father figure to the youngsters. You think this combination will gel perfectly? You guys will be on the same page when it comes to coaching on and off the field?
Kevin: I flew to South Africa a couple of weeks ago to plan the schedule and sit down with Gary. We spent a day in Cape Town together. I left Cape Town thinking wow! I wish this guy had coached me last six-seven years. He is calm, he has got a lot of insight into cricket, he has got a lot of energy, he is a great man in terms of knowing how to do it when the game is tough. He has got loads of knowledge, load of experience. He has been very successful as a coach, both in South Africa and here in India. And he has got a lot of respect.
When you sit down and speak to him and you go through his ideas and you understand him, it’s a fascinating time that I had with him because it was remarkable.
Some of the stuff that he said, some of the stuff that I said and we both think of similar hemsheets. I mean that doesn’t guarantee we are going to win every game in the IPL or win the IPL, but it does mean that we have got a great starting block.
Shekhar Gupta: How is he different from Duncan Fletcher?
Kevin: I don’t think there is too much difference. I love Duncan. Duncan gave me the first opportunity to play for England and I seem as a father figure to me in the coaching world. They are sort of similar. Very similar people.
At the end of a session of Test match or a one-day , you’ll never know whether you have done well or you have done badly. They sort of plateau out and I think that’s the recipe for success.
If you have got coaches who are too up and too down, players don’t know where they stand. But if you have got guys who genually understand that you can’t be good every single day, and they give you the time and they are there to help you, they don’t have en ego, and they really just wan’t to make sure that you can perform to the best of the ability. I think that’s good. They are very similar people.
Shekhar: It’s a very important point. Coaches should not have an ego. And that’s the trouble we had with Greg Chapell.
Kevin: I believe so
Shekhar: Tell us something about how T20 has changed the game of cricket. Now we get scores of 350 routinely in Test cricket. Sides can score 600 and lose the match. All kinds of new things are happening.
Kevin: I think T20 cricket has helped all of us, me included as cricket fans enjoy the longer format of the game. It’s not very often that you get five days of Test cricket. I mean, Test matches are now over by Day 4 and the only way they go into Day 5 is if it is raining in England somewhere. So it’s good to actually see that T20 cricket is having some influence. A lot of us were very cynical about T20 cricket when it started. Me for one said this is just a slog. But it has become such a key important part that they are now playing world cups with it. So you have to take it a lot more seriously. Players are starting to play incredible cricket shots. The knock that AB played, the way Virat Kohli is playing at the moment. I mean some the things that these guys are doing, it’s because of the invention of T20 cricket. You have to get as many runs as possible in the shorter form. And the guys are not scared to play it in Test cricket as well. Which means the entertainment level in Test cricket goes through the roof too. So the bowlers are hating it, but the batters are certainly enjoying into making cricket a lot more entertaining. It also gives the bowlers the opportunities to get the batters out.
Shekhar: Frontline batsmen…you started the switch hit in Test cricket right? Reverse sweep everybody plays, Sehwag started the upper-cut, now it’s a standard shot. In old days, the coach would have shot you for doing this.
Kevin: Some coaches still do if you try it.
Sandeep: Kevin there is daredevilry about your batting even in Test matches. The way you play. I was talking to you about your innings in Mumbai.
Shekhar: Which we wish you hadn’t played against us (India). You could have done that against Australia.
Sandeep: It defied everything. You were suppose to go there and stick around and see the ball how it turns and nick the ball and go back to the pavillion.
Shekhar: It was turning square. There was a left-arm spinner. You are not suppose to last more than two overs in front of them.
Kevin: They were spinning it too much. I couldn’t hit it. I was trying to, but I couldn’t hit it.
Sandeep: You are born in South Africa, you play for England. You are not suppose to play spin. How did you do it and why did you do it?
Kevin: Why I did it is because we had to it. How I did it? I still don’t know. I look at the innings and people say it’s one of the greatest innings played by a foreigner in India and I certainly don’t understand it. I think when the ball spins so much, it actually is a lot easier to play because if the ball is spinning a little bit, it will get your edge. If it is spinning too much, you play the line, I mean you are going to miss it. It looks good to the viewers. Everybody on TV goes wow it’s spinning, it’s bouncing and me standing there batting and knowing that Harbhajan, Ashwin and Ojha were spinning it miles, I was absolutely fine with it.
When you get a spinner, who comes in and he bowls a ball and it turns and grips a little bit, it misses the outside edge and the odd one rolls on to your pads, that’s when you start to worry. But when it spins so much, if you play the line of the ball, you are going to miss it.
So when everybody else thinks it’s fantastic, me as the batter, I’m going this is brilliant. You keep spinning it that much.
Sandeep: Kevin the way…like you are seen as this gifted player and people talk about you being so talented and stuff like that. Do you think that they overside the fact that how hard you try in the nets. People don’t tend to think about the hours you spend. What is the kind of routine you go through before a Test match to play an inning like that and how much hours will it need for a youngster to be so perfect in his art.
Kevin: If we go back to that series, (England tour of India) I got out to Ojha in both innings. The first innings he bowled me defending, the second innings he bowled me sweeping. And I walked straight off the field and I went into the nets and I practiced and practiced and practiced because my defence wasn’t right. It’s those hourse that nobody sees that a lot of players go about and do their business. And, you got to look at a guy like Cristiano Ronaldo. Everybody says he is an absolute freak on the field. But if you see the way he trains, if you see the way he warms up. I was in Paris last week watching Chelsea vs PSG and these guys were saying to me come let’s have a drink and I was like no no no, I don’t want to have a drink right now before the game. I just want to go and watch guys warm up. And you got to see how Ibrahimovic warms up. You have to look how guys like Lampard warm up. And it’s no surprise Eden Hazard. You have a look at the guys who are special players and you have a look and see what they do and they do things differently at those times than the normal guy who’ll be stretching his hamstring. Ronaldo will be balancing the ball, playing with it on his shoulders and it’s those little hours, hours in those sessions behind the scenes that I think definitely assist.
Shekhar: I think you have a lot of personal friends in Chelsea?
Kevin: Yeah! I’m very close to Lampard, Ahley Cole, John Terry. I mean they are real good guys. I do my training there, I live there.
Shekhar: When you guys meet do you talk cricket and football. Do you give them advice on football and they give you advice on cricket?
Kevin: I try and talk football and they want to talk cricket. So we sit there and go like you ask me something, I ask you something. You are on that level that it’s easy to communicate. Those guys are fantastic at what they do. I hope we score two goals tonight. We just need two goals.
Shekhar: Because there is something about sportsmen that brings them together, right? Irrespective of what they play
Kevin: There is. It’s fascinating. If another sportsmen comes in, there is immediately stuff that you can talk. Maybe like bankers or journalist. You can see another journalist and you can start talking about how shit he was, how shit he is. We got to nail him today
Shekhar: Journalists try to poison each others drink.
Kevin: We have something in common. We talk about journalists. Why did he say that and why did he say that. That’s what we have in common.
Shekhar: How has IPL helped? Has IPL helped international cricketers friendlier. Has it brought down bad behaviour on the field?
Kevin: It has definitely brought down bad behaviour on the field. I think the IPL has been brilliant in terms of allowing international players to give advice to youngsters. I think it’s an academy for young Indians. As soon as the concept came out, I was talking to Rahul Dravid about it and we talked about how this is an incredible academy for youngsters in this country because for six weeks now you have got an opportunity to, whoever is in your side, to, whoever long you want spend time with them. Speaking to them, talking to them. For seniors players as well it’s great. I was just telling you about my issue with left-arm spinners. I was playing at Bangalore and Dravid was my teammate. Dravid’s one of the greatest players of the game and I love him as a man and I love the way he played. I was able to spend lots of time with him, talking to him on the phone, he gave me a few pointers and ever since I have spoken to him, I have actually been okay at dealing with that kind of stuff. It doesn’t matter what level you are on, you bring people together, you can all help each other because in this game you can never stop learning.
Shekhar: There was a time when Dravid was having trouble with Daniel Vettori. But tell us this. You and Rahul Dravid. There couldn’t be two more different people.
Kevin: And that’s exactly why it’s good. He has asked me questions and when we have been batting together, he said I want to hit in this are, how do I hit it in this area and I told blah blah blah blah.
Shekhar: Just hit with your left hand.
Kevin: Just whack it. See the ball, hit the ball. And, then for me to go and speak to him about technique on facing left-arm spin was brilliant. So it’s actually good. When you got two similar players, what do you talk about?
Mukul Mudgal: If it’s not a trade secret, can you tell us what kind of bowling makes you uncomfortable?
Kevin: There is no type of bowling, it’s conditions. I think it’s more conditions. I think in Test match cricket. T20 and one-day cricket doesn’t really come into this because it is short. But in terms of Test cricket, it’s like Sri Lanka, the heat in Sri Lanka or playing a Test match in Chennai, playing a Test match in Mumbai, I have played a Test match in Jamaica too. It was 40 degrees and humidity. Humidity is something I just can’t handle. If the ball is spinning, it’s ok. You adjust and play. Do what you need to accordingly. Fast wickets, seaming wickets you get used to it. So it’s conditions which play a huge role.
Shekhar: There is heat of various kinds. There is also Mitchell Johnson kind of heat.
Kevin: Yeah he is fast. He is very fast.
Shekhar: When he pitches it in the right areas
Kevin: But the problem is he has been doing a lot of good bowling. It’s when he bowls it all over the place is when you’re okay. But when he is on the money and he is at your helmet every ball. It’s tough. We played the Test series in Australia and I was on four from 40 balls. My strike rate was ten. When I looked up at the screen and I thought about it for the brief second between balls and I think 36 of them were bouncers. So that wasn’t fun.
Sandeep: Hemant I want to ask you about the way you guys went to the auctions and how important it was for you guys to have KP in your team.
Hemant: KP was always an integral part of the team. We knew we will not retain him, and he knew about it. We hard the card and wanted to use it intelligently because we were building a new team. So I think we believe in him, he is the leader and that’s why he is made the captain. Can’t say more than that.
Sandeep: You were not influenced by what you were reading in the English papers?
Hemant: We know him better than those papers.
What do you think about technology in cricket? Do you think it is good? Do you think there should be more of it? How do you think the game will evolve with technology?
Kevin: I think what there is now is brilliant. The only addition I would add to technology, because I don’t think umpires have a fair crack at it when bowlers are bowling as fast as they are, I would have the full fault. Like in tennis, if you bowl a foot fault, the sound goes off. Because of the number of times, especially in the last Ashes, and because of the wasting of time now as they check for the no-ball as soon as the batsman gets out. So you are walking off the field and you are then called back because they are checking the no-ball. It sort of takes away that guilt, that anger, because you are thinking to yourself shit! can I get away with this, may be I’m going to get away with this. And then when you see it, you lost that feeling of awkwardness, that dressing room awkwardness. So if they got that right and immediately, as soon as they bowl the no-ball, it came up, it will be a much better system. I don’t know how they would do it, that would be a great addition. Umpires can just concentrate what’s happening at the other end.
Anirudh: What were the changes you have gone through in your preparations when you were a 16-year-old, a 20-year-old, a 25-year-old?
Kevin: I haven’t changed anything. Have just worked as hard as I possibly can every single time. Every single time I leave the nets I make sure that I have done every single thing I can possiby do in order to be successful the next day. I never ever leave a net session unhappy by the way I have trained. I never ever leave a net session having tried different things. I always ask myself different questions.
Anirudh: At what age did you play your first multi-day game?
Shekhar: Let me ask you question which I asked Anil Kumble once and I will tell you his answer later. What gets batsmen out? Is it swing, spin, length, the area where the ball pitches, the guile of the bowler, what gets batsmen out?
Kevin: A loads of different things. It can be the batter getting himself out, it can be the wicket, it can be the bowler. There are loads of different things. What you got to understand is that you are picked as a batter and that guy is picked as a bowler. And, batters have got it pretty tough. I know people say it is a batters’ game but you only get one chance. Bowlers can bowl an absolute bunch of filth and still end up with five wickets on a day of Test match. Conditions can get you out. Swinging, seaming, spinning. Great bowling.
Shekhar: When you are a captain, how do you set things up to get a good batsmen out?
Kevin: It totally depends on the batter. Totally depends on his weaknesses. Sometimes you bowl to his strengths.
Shekhar: How will you get Sachin out?
Kevin: Bowl Jimmy Anderson.
Shekhar: How will you get Dravid out?
Kevin: With Dravid you have to play your patience game. He’s a type of guy that you’ll bowl channel, then you’ll bowl to his strengths, you’ll set fielders, you’ll set catching positions to where he is strong. Because batsmen like it when you go to their strength zones. They think they can score. And that’s where they lose a bit of concentration and basically think yep, that’s me, four. And potentially give some good catches. Dravid is a superstar, Sachin is a superstar and these guys on their day will finish you. But, clearly you got to have plans
Shekhar: And how do you get your former teammate Virat Kohli out?
Kevin: Virat’s a star. At the moment, the way he is playing, fast bowling, spin, only he can get himself out. Consolidating his innings. He’s a star.
Sandeep: How is he off the field? He has spoken a lot about his interactions with you. The things which he learnt from you. Is he always full of questions, asking you things?
Kevin: Just before I came here, he asked me about restaurants in Dubai actually. I am yet to answer it. As soo as I’m going to finish, I’m going to tell him. I forged a real good relationship when I was at Bangalore. He is always inquisitive and he is the kind of person you want in the team. He wears the heart on his sleeve. He trains bloody hard and enjoys his success.
Shekhar: He is even competing with you on tattoos now
Kevin: I see he has gone down his arm. He is a lot braver than me.
Sandeep: We saw one run-out mix-up of Virat with you and you got out and you told him something. You never ever see Virat Kohli in that expression?
Kevin: I was upset. I am never happy getting out. We were about to finish the match and he ran me out. I told him you ran me out, just like that. No swearing!
Sandeep: Did you discuss it after the match?
Kevin: Of course, friends can talk to each other. Friends can help each other. Friends can advice each other. I would have done the same thing to him, he would have sworn at me. Which is fine.
Sandeep: In IPL, there is Shane Warne template of captaincy which everybody talks about. For DD, do you have a template? Who is your role model as a captain?
Kevin: Hemant is my role model. I am going to embarrass him. Captaining the side is very exciting and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do this. I think key to captaincy is understanding every player. Making sure that every player plays the way they want to play and be the person they want to be. You don’t end up in an IPL side not because you are not very good, but because you have achieved things as an international player. As domestic players, you have achieved things on the domestic scene. Encourage the good stuff and understand that they are going to be players who are going to play well and play badly. You accept it, you encourage them when they are not playing well and you encourage them when they are playing well. That’s what Gary and I are going to do this season. We will make a very welcoming environment. We expect a good work ethic. We expect the players to prepare the way they normally do for a Test match or one-day or big domestic fixtures. And, we’ll back them 100% in any decision they make because we believe that they are in our squad because they are good enough to be in our squad. We have picked a squad knowing each and every one of those guys can potentially win us a game in the IPL.
Manish Taneja, IIFL Private Wealth: Why cricket. What really got you into cricket?
Kevin: I actually bust my arm. I have got a real big scar along my arm. I was into rugby. I really enjoyed my rugby, but I couldn’t play it anymore. And, I was a very late developer. I was a really late developer into England. I came to England as a spin bowler. So in 2000 I signed my contract at Nottingham as a spin bowler who is going to bat 6, 7, 8. And, then I realised that in big boys cricket, spin bowlers get hit miles and I rather do the hitting than watching.
Shekhar: Name three finest bowlers in world cricket at the moment
Kevin: Mitchell Johnson, Saeed Ajmal and Dale Steyn.
Shekhar: Ajmal is an interesting choice. What makes him different from other spin bowlers?
Kevin: Clearly his doosra. And the pace at which he bowls. It’s ok if you have a spinner who bowls it above your eye line, you can get rotations in the air. Ajmal bowls it real fast into the wicket and spins the ball both ways. So you have to make decisions very very soon and if you mess it up, you are out.
Shekhar: And batsmen? Your favourite
Shekhar: We didn’t quite love it last week.
Kevin: That’s why I said it.
Shekhar: There are certain batsmen who are India specialist. India is not designed to get them out. Sangakkara, him, Chanderpaul and now we can’t get his son out. Our U-19 team can’t get Chanderpaul’s son out.
Siddhartha, Yes Bank: Since T20 has come in, we see a lot of players playing T20 cricket in different countries and a lot of money has come into the game. Do you think it’s good for the game in general? This whole transition which has taken place? You see Chris Gayle playing in four-five different leagues?
Kevin: Chris Gayle has played 99 Test matches and he’ll play his 100th in Jamaica soon. So, I think he is a fairly unfair example of that. Look I think as an international cricketer, you know when you to go to bed at night and you also know amongst your peers that you are going to be judged on your Test statistics. So you want your Test statistics to be as good as possible and I think you can only get commercial value for yourself if your Test numbers are good and if you have achieved real good things in Test match cricket. Look at commentators, you don’t get average players. You get some guys who haven’t played for sure because they are very articulate and they understand the game and they express things well and they actually host shows well, but majority of them have earned their seat in the commentary box because of performing really well as international cricketers.
Shekhar: Is Test cricket the gold standard still or is it over?
Kevin: For us. I mean you have a look at the way the world. Everybody loves things very fast and everybody wants things yesterday, they don’t want to wait ten minutes. I mean you can’t get off an aeroplane quick enough to phone somebody, you see everybody, as soon as the plane lands, they turn their phone on. In terms of an entertainment package, you are going to get a large part of the population who want to watch the shorter format of the game, but cricket is, and I speak for myself, we all want to be, and we know will be, judged on our Test numbers.
Shekhar: And those are the one you value most of all?
Kevin: Absolutely! I could tell you my Test numbers, I could tell you my Test centuries and number of Tests. T20s, I honestly couldn’t tell you now.
Sandeep: You would have loved to get 10, 000 Test runs. Do you regret that?
Kevin: Yes, may be I’ll still get to 10,000.
Shekhar: You got to many of those faster than anybody else. 2000, 4000, 5000
Kevin: Lucky. Very lucky.
Shekhar: All games are becoming very fast, you were telling me.
Kevin: Yes I think it is because of the advent of T20 cricket. Batsmen are playing a lot more shots and because in T20 cricket batsmen are now getting away with the slog sweep or the reverse sweep or the switch hit. Even taking fielders on. The mid-on and mid-off on the boundary, they can take them on because they know they can hit the ball for six. So in Test match cricket the spinner is going to come on and they are going to whack him out of the park. You gonna put a man at mid-on or long-on, they are still going to try to hit you over the head. Test matches are speeding up now because players are taking on the men on the boundary because they know they can with the confidence in T20 cricket.
Shekhar: Do you see the trend in other games also? Are they also producing shorter and faster games for TV and impatient crowd?
Kevin: Absolutely. We were earlier talking about tennis and there’s plan to play tiebreak tennis. So you get all the best tennis players from the world and play tiebreaks. So you are all under one roof and in a day or two days you can have a full competition in a capital of a country and they just play tiebreaks. You just get the best of tiebreaks. Like in football, everybody watches penalties.
Amrit Mathur: Kevin, there is much talk about team culture and everybody complying with so called team culture. Do you think too much is made of this and is this at the cost of individual flair?
Kevin: Like I said earlier, when I talked about leading this Delhi side. You are individuals to be individuals, you don’t want to clone people that they are not going to be. How do you get the best out of somebody when you try to make him somebody he’s not. You want, especially in a IPL set up, you want guys from Australia, South Africa, India, West Indies, Sri Lanka, everywhere, all coming together playing for the team but playing the way they play. You don’t want them to come here and say, I have got a coach and a captain who say I have to go and do this. You want guys to be encouraged to play the way they play. At the end of the day it’s their career. Cricket is a team sport made up of individuals. It’s not like football – if you miss a kick somebody else can look after it. If you miss the ball as a batter, you are out.
Amrit: Does this lead to too much regimentation? Strict compliance with what the team is to do and individual doesn’t get full expression in terms of talent.
Kevin: It totally depends on the coaching structure.
Radhakrishnan: I have been sharing this discussion about how globalised cricket has become and the way things have changed. How important is county cricket now? Does it still set the global standards for the classical form of cricket? Do international cricketers still feel that they can do a rehab and come out better? Or is county cricket going to fade?
Kevin: I don’t think you are going to get the quality of county cricket now. Just purely because of the competitions the players can play. I mean, you are going to get your Test cricketer who is going to churn out into county cricket, if he wants too. But if you have a good Test career, you have got the opportunity to come to IPL and earn a lot of money. Why would you put pressure on yourself in county cricket when you can earn the money and the opportunity for rest. Why would you go play cricket somewhere else? So I think county cricket is definitely going to get hurt because I don’t think you are going to get the star quality of international players like we used to have. I remember at the start we had Stuart MacGill, Shane Warne was there. We’ve had Waqar Younis, we’ve had Wasim Akram. We’ve had all the greatest players. They’ve all gone and played stints in county cricket. Sachin Tendulkar at Yorkshire. You just won’t get that now I think.
Anant, Architect working on Delhi 2050: I was wondering, in the coming ten years. who do you see as an emerging country in cricket?
Kevin: You want me to say Holland? Honestly, I don’t know. We don’t play against the emerging nations as much as we possibly should and as much as we possibly shouldn’t, considering England got beaten by Holland the other day. So I don’t know, I can’t answer that question. I know that they have a competition where they play amongst themselves in order to qualify but I have never really paid too much attention to it. Sorry!
Shekhar: Well I think the most arrogant statement which came out of this T20 World Cup was the Bangladeshi captain when they lost to Hong Kong. He said,” We are a Test playing nation it’s very difficult to motivate yourself against associate countries”.
Kevin: He said that?
Shekhar: And, you’ve been called the Ego?
Shekhar: Now, I’ll tell you what Anil Kumble said on what gets batsmen out. First of all he endorsed what you said. When I asked him you don’t spin the ball, he said If I spun the ball, I wouldn’t have got so many wickets because it would have missed the edge. But he also said pressure gets batsmen out. Do you feel the pressure and how do you deal with it? And if you can give some examples on when you had pressure and got out to pressure.
Kevin: There’s an old quote,”pressure is a privilege”. You can accept or you don’t have to accept. I enjoy pressure, have always enjoyed it. I think if you set yourself high standards and you want to be really critical of yourself, you have to set yourself against the best players and you have to test yourself in the hardest conditions. So when the pressure is on, the key to dealing with pressure is to make sure that you try and take pressure right out of the game. And you keep things as simple as possible. I think that’s what I have done. As soon as everybody says this is the high pressure environment, I go this an environment in order to do well. This is somewhere to do well because this is where you will get your recognition in terms of being able to deal with it. I have never created mountains out of mole hills, I have always enjoyed the opportunity to go in when it’s tough and test yourself. Because not many people are expecting you to do well when it’s tough, and if you do well people give you kudos!
Shekhar: Have you known players that handle pressure particularly well and those who don’t ?
Kevin: I’ll prefer not to take names of players who can’t handle pressure, but yeah there are players that can handle pressure.
Shekhar: Name some of those who can?
Kevin: Michael Clarke at the moment is doing a fantastic job at Australia, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Sangakkara, Jayawardene. I mean they’ve carried their batting for however many years. Just basically been on their shoulders. So there is a number of players, who you know, when it gets tough, these are the wickets you need. You identify them. When you play against a certain nation, you know these are the two guys we need to get out early.
Anirudh: Have you played any competitive cricket with the pink ball and do you think the day-night Test matches is the way forward?
Kevin: Very good question. I have never played with the pink ball. And if they start playing day-night Test cricket, then they have to start new statistics because it’s totally different. You’ve got Brett Lee running in at quarter to ten at night with the second new ball I mean it’s just stupid.
Anirudh: Will it work or it wouldn’t work?
Kevin: I don’t if it’ll work but I am not a fan of it at all. If they want to play it then it can be a new form of cricket but they have to use new statistics for it for sure. If you are going to play day-night Test cricket in Durban, I can’t see a ball spinning when the sun goes down and the light comes on. I can see the ball seaming. On Day 5, spinners win you Test matches. But with the lights coming on, it will be seamers who will win you matches on Day 5. So I am not a fan of it at all.
Anirudh: So you’ll probably have spinners coming in the first session?
Kevin: Absolutely, that’s when they’ll have to bowl.
Mansoor Ahmed Khan, Pakistan High Commission: In your view, is T20 cricket having any negative affect on the technique of the bowlers or the batsmen? Because in the limited space of 20 overs, batsmen have to go for slogging. Is it, in your view, negatively affecting the technique and since this shorter format is now successful, would we see 10-10 now?
Kevin: If we can play 10-10 in Chennai or Kolkatta or Mumbai in May, I am very much up for that. I mean it’s 10 overs of fielding that’s it. In terms of techniques, I think they have definitely changed because you have to get on with it in the shorter format of the game. I also think the most successful players in T20 cricket are generally guys who have had fairly decent international Test careers. In order to be a positive player or to be a striker, you’ve got the rare, you’ve got the Pollard or the Raina, who haven’t had illustrious Test careers, who have incredible eyes and play well in T20s, but the majority of real good T20 players will probably play Test cricket as well. And I think in order as a batter to have the ability to attack, you have to have a solid defence. And when you have the solid defence, you have the luxury or the comfort of knowing I can go on the attack. In terms of bowlers, bowlers are having to come up with new ideas. Not with new deliveries, but with ideas. I think the way Malinga bowled the other day to Dhoni. Wide yorkers and very good yorkers I think was fantastic. Bowlers are having to invent new things. I think bowlers will have to run with plan A and plan B. Because plan A, if you see running up bowling a yorker and you see the guy kneel down to sweep you, plan B must be to go wider of the crease or to bowl length or to bowl a bouncer or a slower ball. I mean, probably got plan C, plan D, plan E and plan F. But you know what I mean. So bowlers will have to run up with a lot more going on in their head.
Vikram, CWG Sports Announcer: My one question very sensitive. Before I ask that question, I would like to ask you one thing. We have lot of favouritism and red tapism in our country. What about your country?
Kevin: Yes, I think there is enough red tape and favouritism knocking about in the UK.
Vikram: I have seen a lot of corruption in CWG. What about corruption in cricket?
Kevin: I am a cricketer. I love my game of cricket. I wake up every morning and I go to bed every evening sleeping, breathing cricket. What happens away from the game of cricket is for other people to sort out. For me, it’s about batting, bowling and fielding, planning and preparing. But I also take a firm stance that if anybody is caught, they should never play our great game again.
Vikram: There is a lot of talent in our country. Our country is loaded with talent but rind kind of people don’t get the opportunity. Thank you.
MS Prakash, Whirlpool: Do you support DRS because our board doesn’t support DRS?
Kevin: I hate fielding. So anything that can get me off the field quick, I support it. So I am fully happy with DRS. If an umpire gives you a shocker and it ends up being out, I’m off the field quicker. So I’m very happy with the DRS. And it saves me lives as well when I am batting.
Saksham, Robotics Firm: In future do you see players will segregate and specialise to one form of cricket. So we have eleven players playing T20 cricket for India and a whole different eleven or will it always be the same? Eight-nine across ODIs, T20s and Tests?
Kevin: Good question. I think the core of the players will play all three formats because if you can play Test cricket, you can play all forms. So people are going to excel in Test cricket which means they’ll be able to play ODIs, T20s no problem. But you will have three or four players in the squad that will come in and out for sure.
Sailesh Aggarwal, Asahi India: What is your advice to the youngsters. The young cricketers who are coming up. Which form of cricket should they adapt to? Whether it should be T20, 50 overs or our Test cricket?
Kevin: My simple answer is to play everything. Don’t try and just say I want to be T20, I want to be Tests, I want to be one-dayers because you might actually be a Test player trying to be a good at T20s or you might be a good T20 player when actually you could have a fantastic Test career. So play everything. Just enjoy. Have fun. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Be the best player you can possibly be. If you work hard, you’ll be the best player you can be. No body can ask any more from you.
Karan Thakur, Fast Bowler: In a Test match, what’s the ball hard to hit for you? Outswing or inswing?
Kevin: Beamer! Very hard to hit a beamer. No beamers please. Length, length is generally. The hardest thing to do is to hit your best ball. So if you are running in bowling your best ball, every single ball, then the batsmen will have to make a play on you. If you are giving him width, if you are bowling too full, if you are bowling it too short, then it gives me the advantage. If you run in hard and hit the top of off-stump, the famous top of off-stump from bowling coach. Shaun Pollock, Glenn McGrath two fantastic examples. They weren’t the fastest bowlers in the world but let me tell you, just on length they dug a trench. They bowled delivery after delivery.
Shekhar: What was your experience playing Zaheer Khan. Somebody who again doesn’t have much pace, but some of us think he’s the cleverest fast bowlers.
Kevin: Absolutely. I think he is a fantastic bowler. The way that he covers the ball when it starts reverse swinging. He runs in covering the ball. He is the only bowler in the world that I have ever faced where, when he is bowling reverse swing, I can’t pick in his run-up which way he’s going to be bowling the ball. I think he’s a fantastic bowler, great competitor as well. I hope that he tours England this year because he will have fantastic five Test matches.
Shekhar: I saw him two weeks back, he looks in very good shape. I confused him for, just for a split second, John Abrahim – who’s a film star.
Kevin, what do you think has been your biggest achievement and what do you think has been your biggest regret?
Achievement: When we won the Ashes in 2005. I was going to say when we beat India two years ago but I think I have given Indians enough stick. When we won the Ashes in 2005, that sort of changed the face of cricket in the UK. In terms of team stuff, that was a very special time to be part of England and the sort of transformation in cricket, from the grassroots level actually .
Regret: I think the whole text scandal two years ago. Andrew Strauss is a great friend. I was just in a bad space, we were not having a great relationship at that time. It should never have come out, all that non sense. That wasn’t a special time, at all.
Himanshu Chaturvedi: Cricket is really marred with controversies for a while. Do you think the ACSU unit did enough to keep the controversies out or they didn’t do enough?
Kevin: Look, those are the kinds of question you gotta ask them. We are just players. At the end of the day I am just a player playing a game that I love and that’s all I do.
Durjay Puri: India tour England this year for five Test matches. Last time we were there, we lost 4-0. What should the Indian team do differently this time to compete?
Kevin: I think for India to win away from home, they’ve got to start playing and practicing their domestic games on wickets that are bit more conducive to seam and swing. Conditions probably don’t encourage swing but in terms of seam movement, Indians have got to play fast bowling better. And if they do that, and I have spoken to players in the Indian side, I have spoken to ex-players. Until Indians start to play seam and swing a lot better, they are going to struggle away from home. It’s all good and well playing spin, but how much spinners are going to be bowled in the series in England? Not much at all. In a day’s play what 15 overs? Majority is going to be swing and if it’s going to be overcast at Lord’s or overcast at Trent Bridge, the ball swings back to you. So unless you practice it and play in those sort of conditions, you are going to struggle. That’s why we won two years ago.
Back in 2008, when Virender Sehwag was going after Harmison in Chennai, a) what were you thinking, what were you telling Harmison and typically as a captain how do you motivate your team when somebody like Sehwag is going hammer and tongs?
Kevin: First of all, Sehwag is a freak. I love Viru. And when he is in that sort of form, what can you do. Like I said earlier, there are certain batsmen that on their day, they are going to destroy you. No matter what you do, they are going to destroy you because they are superstars. So when you stand there as a captain you just gotta try to limit the damage. But unfortunately, can’t put fielders in the crowd and he was just cutting and driving so well and he was just on his one of his Sehwag days. When Viru plays like that, you just gotta stand there and on those kind of days I actually really enjoy it. I know we are getting hammered but i just feel privileged as a cricket lover to be standing not so far away from him playing the way he was playing. You admire it, you think about it and you just, when people talk about it, you say yeah I was there. Pretty cool!
Shekhar: Do you sledge?
Kevin: Not anymore. I used to, but not anymore. There is no point.
Shekhar: You used to until when?
Kevin: Until you grow up and you actually realise there is no point. What is the point? Sometimes you might say something but I tell you what. In terms of the friendships around the world, you are always playing in a team or against a team where you have got real good mates because of the IPL. So it’s actually quite hard to sledge because somebody in the opposition says shut up Kevin, what do you say because he is your mate. You are in a bit of a tricky situation.
Shekhar: Have you been sledged routinely?
Kevin: I was at the start of my career, but for the last six-seven years nobody has said anything to me.
Shekhar: Australians or South Africans? Who were the worst?
Kevin: I started my career in 2004 against South Africa and they had a fair bit to say and then my first Test series was against the great Australian side. They said a reasonable amount until they realised it actually motivated me and they didn’t intimidate me at all. So I don’t get much. I just go out there and bat and have fun.
In India, we always produce good batsmen but for last several years we haven’t had a dependable battery of pace bowlers. Do you think there is some traditional emphasis on batting in coaching?
Kevin: It’s not the batting, it’s the wickets. Why the hell would you want to be a fast bowler when you see the wickets that they prepare here.
It’s like a vicious circle?
Kevin: I don’t think it’s a vicious circle, I think it’s fairly simple. If I wake up, would I want to be a fast bowler in India? Not a chance. I will be a spinner or a batsmen.
How do we get out of that?
Kevin: I was having lunch with two of our players today and they said in the domestic scene they are preparing very green wickets at the moment. Which I don’t think is the way to go because if you prepare over green wickets, like Nadeem was telling me today that they played a game where they got bowled out for 85, the other team made 40, they made 80 again and they chased 50 to win or something. And I mean that’s no good. But if they prepare wickets that are 50-50, then that’s fine. I have played in India for the last…I played my first game for England A in the Ranji Trophy or the Duleep Trophy in 2002 and the wickets here are so flat. Unless you get the ball to reverse swing, there is no point being a bowler.
Shekhar: Pakistan used to have wickets like that and Faisalabad was the worst. Dennis Lillee went to Pakistan and I said I want my Mausoleum built right here. And when our team went there, Bishan Singh Bedi said can I be laid to rest next to Dennis Lillee because nothing happened on that pitch, spin or pace.
Shekhar: Will you name us your favourite World XI?
Kevin: World XI: David Warner, Chris Gayle, Hashim Amla, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Michael Clarke (c), Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Mitchell Johnson, Dale Steyn, Saeed Ajmal, Jimmy Anderson
Dhoni more for his keeping and batting skills or more for his captaincy?
Sandeep: Is he the captain?
Kevin: Michael Clarke captain
Shekhar: Why Michael Clarke captain not Dhoni in a Test match?
Kevin: Just because I played against Clarke recently and his captaincy was fantastic. Just the positioning, the way he used the bowlers, he was fantastic. It really was fantastic. And, they went to South Africa and beat South Africa. And the way he captained, brilliant.
Shekhar: And he has handled personal stress and pressure well
Kevin: He has managed pressure really well. He struggled in the last Ashes against us.
Aditya Iyer: I am not sure whether it is a question or it will lead to one. I wanted to know whether you listen to a certain kind of music called Grunge.
Aditya: Because there were these musicians in the Seattle in the 90s who had your open mindedness to accepting different art forms, the way you do in your batting. These guys mixed everything and came out with something original. Is that how you would describe you went about your cricket? Of just acceptance from where your versatility comes from.
Kevin: I just go out there and train my brain to be the best person I could possibly be on the field. I never ever feel that I can’t do anything and try anything to achieve great things because that’s just my personality. I don’t settle for mediocrity at all. I would rather fail having tried something than not try something at all.
Shekhar: You are the most psycho analysed players of our times. Have people generally got it right or no? I mean Shane Warne calling you the ego.
Kevin: Look there’s a difference between having an ego and having confidence in what you do. When I go out and bat, I am supremely confident. Purely because I train well and I believe that I can do anything and that’s why sometimes I get out in silly ways because I am over confident because I have trained so well. I try to do so many different things. And like I said, I fail trying to do something brilliant than not try it all. Ego is an easy word to throw at somebody.
Shekhar: Because Shane Warne didn’t have any
Kevin: No he is none.
Shekhar: Embodiment of Dalai Lama
Sandeep: Is it tough to be Kevin Pietersen?
Kevin: I’m just confident in what I do because of the way that I train and because of the results that I have got from the way that I have trained. That’s the way it is. It is clearly the stuff which comes through the English news channels you can’t help. Certain agendas you can’t help. But it is what it is. I don’t settle for mediocrity at all. I always want people to be the best they can possibly be.
Sandeep: The fan connect which you have, despite the fact what people write about you, is it the biggest assurance for you whenever you go on the field?
Kevin: Absolutely. On the field and off the field. Just walking around the UK or wherever, it’s fantastic. Arriving here in Delhi this morning, everything has just been brilliant. You feed off that and you actually wake up wanting to improve even more because you want to give it back to so many fantastic people.
Sandeep: It doesn’t matter what people write?
Kevin: I don’t read the media, I have got no interest in what the media have got to say. Especially in England. No interest. I’ll have a look at it and stuff. I will obviously see it through twitter. You sort of gauge what’s going on. But I have got no interest in what those….gentlemen….have got to say. No interest.
Shekhar: Do you have a favourite commentator? On TV, Radio?
Kevin: Mark Nicholas is an incredible commentator. Shane Warne is fantastic. I love the way Warney just puts it as it is. He is very real, very current. The Channel 9 commentary team is fantastic, I absolutely love that. Whenever I go to Australia, I love listening to the Channel 9 commentators.
Shekhar: Any Indian commentator?
Kevin: I have done a lot of work with Sourav Ganguly, with Harsha Bhogle, Rahul Dravnd and they are very good because they have achieved greatness in their job.
Shekhar: Can you decode Sidhu and his jokes?
Kevin: Sidhu is fascinating for ten minutes. Then we mute him.
Taking a leaf from your last comment about media. Media has completely written off Yuvraj Singh after his last performance, what’s your take on one of your contemporaries and you think your former employees have made a mistake?
Kevin: It is easy to pick somebody out and target somebody. And it’s also easy to talk about somebody when you finish playing. You become the greatest player in the world when you finish playing and if you have never played at that level, you always think that you could possibly play at that level. My philosophy in life is fairly simple. I call it the circle of life. You good, you good, you bad, you bad you bad, you good, you good, you good. You always can’t be good in everything you do in life. There is a time when you are going to be bad. There is a time you are going to be average.
If you keep doing the right things, who can blame you and pass judgement on you. So I think it’s very unfair for anybody to be passing judgement on Yuvi. If people know that Yuvi hasn’t done the right things in order to prepare himself then he can ask questions to himself and he can put that right, but it’s very easy to sit on the other side of the fence and start hammering players because we all have been through it. I have been through it. I played 18 months and didn’t get a Test century. So who am I to say that somebody is out of form or somebody is not good. You can give constructive criticism but the kind of criticism that he is getting at the moment is totally unwanted.
Do you think India need Yuvraj come the next World Cup?
Kevin: I would say yes just because of his bowling. The pie chucker knocks me over every time. He is a very good friend of mine so I always want him doing well playing for India.
Anirudh: In 2011 Lord’s Test, we were essentially out of the game once Zaheer Khan got injured. How was it facing MS Dhoni in a Test match?
Kevin: Horrendous! I hated it. Especially I got given out as well, lbw when I hit it. Not good. I would rather face the best bowler in the world than the worst. Because I don’t know for some strange reason I lose concentration.
(Transcribed by Sahil Malhotra)