An English drummer called it one of the best innings, an Indian player called it one of the best innings at the overseas tryouts.
Kevin Pietersen’s brilliant 186 during the second Test in Mumbai in 2012 helped turn things around after England were defeated in the first Test, and set the tourists on their way to victory in their first series in India in 27 years. It was the last time India lost at home.
It happened after his “reintegration” into the England squad after he texted the South African team last summer about then-captain Andrew Strauss.
In an in-depth interview for a special podcast on the Test matches, Pietersen talks about how he dealt with Mumbai.
“This will be our biggest test.
After a series of text messages, Pietersen was dropped from the World T20 team for the final test against South Africa in Sri Lanka and was denied a main contract. A month before the start of the Indy series, it was announced that he would be reinstated in the team of new captain Alastair Cook.
Pietersen: It was a great tour where we needed all our great players to play well. We had a strong and very confident team. Everyone knew what to do and understood their role.
We raised the bar higher than any other English test team I’ve ever played for. That was our biggest test. We would have beaten Australia at home, we would have beaten Australia away, but beating India away would have been incredibly difficult.
England performed well in the warm-up matches, with five different batsmen, including Pietersen, scoring 100 goals. However, in the first Test in Ahmedabad, they were hit by a 117 ball from Virender Sehwag and a double century from Cheteshwar Pujara before they were knocked out for 191.
The opponents India made us play in the warm-up matches were like the ninth in a row. All the batsmen were batting all over him. We all thought we were the best players that had ever traveled to India and then we arrived in Ahmedabad on a gantry that was just a flat road and the ball didn’t bounce halfway off the stump.
Virender] Sehwag us “sehwags” and at the end we were completely wiped out. After experiencing these conditions during the test, we knew we had to play much better with the effects.
Pietersen did 17 and two, throwing bad shots to left-handed spinner Pragyan Ojha in both sets.
I got criticized, but that was nothing new to me. Every time I made a point, I was good, every time I didn’t make a point, I was bad, so it wasn’t something that excited me too much.
At the time, I worried about my technique and wondered why I was making stupid mistakes. Why weren’t my feet moving as much as they should? Why wasn’t I hitting the ball where I had practiced?
After I came out in the second set, I went to the net with [coach] Andy Flower and [bowling coach] Mushtaq Ahmed and I fought with them for an hour while the match was still going on.
I hit balls for an hour and made sure I was in the right frame of mind to know that what I had done five minutes earlier in the Test was not what I was going to do in the next match.
Sometimes you can enter the big arena and become a rabbit in the headlights. This has happened to me many times. You can be defeated by excitement, by intoxication. It can happen so fast and then you are out. I wanted to slow down the whole process, let the emotions come alive.
The only way to do that is to focus on defense and make sure my spinners have a solid defense. I went around and practiced my defense, on my feet, made sure I chose my length, worked on where and how I would hit the ball and that’s what I did during the three days before the test in Mumbai.
“I knew I would be running errands.”
England showed some encouraging signs towards the end of the first Test. Cook did 176, and they followed before beating the tourists by nine wickets. In the second Test in Mumbai, England put India on 327 with Pietersen answering with Cook on 68-2.
The last days of training in Mumbai were among the best I’ve ever spent under an English shirt. The way I handled the footwork, the way I hit the ball, the way I trusted my defense…., I knew I had a chance to score a goal.
There were days when I went to the batting cages and I knew I was going to get groceries. It was as simple as putting the bat down, standing guard and saying, “There you go, good luck.”
Like the days I was on watch, there were others when I asked the referee for a punch to the leg, looked around and thought, “Oh no, my God, it’s chaos. I’ll have to fight like nothing happened to get to ten”.
I felt exactly the same in Bombay as I did in training when I played in the net. That day, I knew I was going to run. I didn’t know how much I would get, but it was just one of those days.
Pietersen (left) played in 95 of his 104 tests alongside Alastair Cook.
In the heat of Mumbai, the city where Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar learned to play, Pietersen shone in the packed Wankhede Stadium, taking the third wicket with Cook at stand 206.
I don’t remember the conversations I had with Cookie – we always just said “good job, keep up the good work”, the general conversation you have. The one thing we always said was to pick a good length and run at full speed. That’s what we did.
He manipulated the field and irritated everyone. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but in a very positive way. He could get incredible mileage while I was fighting to beat Harry at the other end. The partnership could be built that way because the bowlers played differently from us.
Pietersen’s movements were impeccable. A big step forward or back, the occasional slide down the pitch. The return to the three-figure range was a harbinger of things to come and led Pietersen to 22 Test hundreds, a record England shared at the time with Cook, Colin Cowdrey, Wally Hammond and Geoffrey Boycott.
When they start to offend, I feel pretty weird being a part of it. Looking at my grades, looking at the files, it doesn’t seem real.
Hearing things like that makes me happy, and it’s great to think about it. The world I live in now is so different from the one that was tested hundreds of times. It feels like it was invented, like it belongs to someone else.
Pietersen marked his century by raising his bat and kissing Cook, then firing a series of bold shots – six over the ground and with the sweep, including one high on an extra blanket. When he reached 150 shots, his assists were described as a “Statue of Liberty” by TMS commentator Henry Blofeld.
I don’t know if that sounded like reassignment. Everything that’s happened has been very emotional. Did it just cover a lot of cracks? It turned out that way.
I just wanted to be a ball player, score goals and win games for England. I think as of today I’m either out or on top of the most manly games for England. It’s incredibly satisfying, because when you look back on it, you think: these are the achievements of the game.
I am often in India and many broadcasters say it is the best cover ever played by a foreigner on Indian soil. It doesn’t feel right or comparable to what I did. I was able to do fun things, cool things.
“Not my best sleeves.
When Pietersen came to the helm at Auger, he set England on their way to a 10-match victory, followed by a seven-match win in Calcutta and a draw in Nagpur to seal the series. He does not consider the 186th set his best, preferring the 151st he scored against Sri Lanka in Colombo in early 2012.
Mentally, I didn’t think I could get more than 40 or 50 points in Sri Lanka. I have air conditioning in our house in the middle of winter because I sweat a lot. Coming from Durban, it’s strange to say I can’t stand the heat, but I can’t. I can’t do it. The humidity is killing me.
I thought it would be physically and emotionally impossible to score such points, that it would never happen. I knew the only way to do it was to swing me. “When it’s over, it’s over.” That’s the approach I used in Sri Lanka. Scoring points in India was never a problem. I always scored points in India.
Just over a year later, Pietersen was dismissed from England for failing the Ashes in Australia. Now, seven years after he last played international cricket, he counts the victory in India among his three best moments with the England team.
The 2005 Ashes were great, the 2010 World T20 win was great. They are in the top three with India 2012.
Every time I went to bat, if I knew I was controlling the best defense in the bowling, that was the day I scored.
There were times when I was in my twenties or thirties recording and people would say, “Why are you doing this? It’s because I was playing so well in my head that I could do anything.
I have often felt this way. I have been criticized for my stupid, reckless or reckless shooting, but I did it because I thought I could. I was a free spirit when I wanted to kill.
Last summer against South Africa, Morne Morkel kicked me in the stumps at the Oval. I thought, “Oh, my God, how am I going to score a point now? My legs weren’t going anywhere, I was completely out of it. I didn’t have my technique. I couldn’t defend their best ball.
On the next test, when I got a hundred points at Headingley, I picked up the goalie, smiled and said, “You’re going to get him today, because anything you give me, I can protect.”
It’s strange. I wish I knew how to explain it. I wish I could talk to every executioner in the world and tell them how to do it.
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