Pietersen facing decision of a lifetime

Neil Manthorp – 03/10/2000

Following last week’s revelations about the predicament facing young KwaZulu Natal all rounder Kevin Pietersen, I can confirm that the massively talented 21-year-old is facing, possibly, the toughest decision of his life.

For those who missed last week’s column, allow me to re-cap briefly. Pietersen, most definitely a potential international, spent the SA winter playing cricket in England and was selected for several Warwickshire 2nd XI matches in which he performed well.

Manager of near-neighbours Nottinghamshire, Clive Rice, offered Pietersen a hugely tempting contract that would require the Maritzburg-born cricketer to renounce the land of his birth (at least as far as cricket is concerned) to play in England as a local player. He would, incidentally, qualify to play for England after four years.

The only way he could have carried on his duel-nationality career was by playing for KwaZulu Natal as an overseas professional. That option would take a gigantic leap of faith for the province; and how would the UCB feel about a province nurturing a young talent in order for him to play for a rival nation?

“What would you do?” said KZN CEO Cassim Docrat when asked whether the union would keep the right-handed batsman and off-break bowler. “We’d love to keep him but it’s his choice. You can’t have the best of both worlds.”

Pietersen has been withdrawn from the KZN squad while he makes his mind up, and my sympathies are with him as he ponders the choices available to him.

Take the offer, make a new life in England, make good money. Leave the land of your birth, your friends, your family. What about injury? What if it doesn’t work out in the UK? What about the weather, the people…and what about the money?

If it is any consolation to Pietersen, he is not alone. To the best of my knowledge, there are approximately 20 regular first-team provincial cricketers currently playing in South Africa and many of them have been approached by English counties. Greg Smith (Northerns) has said ‘yes’ and there are many more who could do the same.

“It’s a worrying situation, I’ll be honest,” admitted national coach Graham Ford. “It would weaken our whole system if they started leaving. It’s not something any of us would want to see.”


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