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June 21, 2013
Kevin Pietersen has marked his return to first-class action for the first time in three months by suggesting that his fear of prolonged injury lay-offs was precisely the reason why last summer he wanted to retire from England's one-day side.
There was no angry self-justification, no forceful opinion likely to incur the wrath of the England management, just a gentle acceptance in a chat on Talksport radio with his old England buddy, Darren Gough - billed as his only interview of the summer - that his injury might never have happened if he had been allowed licence to plot his own career.
Pietersen's disgruntlement over England's refusal to let him retire solely from ODIs - he was obliged to give up T20 as well - to an outburst after the Headingley Test against South Africa, a rift with the England dressing room, a stand-off with officialdom, exclusion from England's World Twenty20 squad and finally a triumphant return in the Test series against India as he agreed to continue in all three formats.
Despite being rested for the T20s in India and both limited-overs series against New Zealand, he suffered a badly bruised knee bone in Queenstown, which has caused him to miss both the IPL and Champions Trophy. While England face India in the final of the latter competition at Edgbaston on Sunday, Pietersen will be engaged in the third day of a Championship match against Yorkshire at Headingley. The English media he so mistrusts were out in force to watch him field on the opening day as he made a rare Championship appearance for Surrey.
In the interview, Gough suggested to Pietersen: "Only last year you were talking about looking after your body; you don't want to get injured playing all forms of the game. You went back on that, and ended up playing all forms of the game and got injured. So it highlighted what you were saying, that at some point every individual's body is going to break down."
"Exactly," Pietersen responded. "You can feel it as a player. I probably didn't go about it in the best fashion. You make mistakes, and you get over them, and that's the way you grow as a human being, by learning from things that you don't do well. So I take it on the chin, no dramas, it's just a case of looking forward and making sure that you do the right things now."
Pietersen's relationship with the English media has never been more strained. His disenchantment with the ridicule he received during his power struggle with England was deepened when it was erroneously suggested in New Zealand that his knee injury was not serious and that he was just trying to pick up an insurance payout from IPL.
"It was really bad," he said. "In New Zealand I couldn't duck a bounce, I couldn't sweep, I was in all sorts of trouble. I was on the strongest painkillers and eventually my stomach just gave up with me in the second Test match. I probably did it a lot of damage by playing, but I just tried to get through and played for as long as I could because I hate missing Test matches.
"A bruising on your bone is a lot worse than breaking it. You know with a break it'll be back. I've broken my arm, I've broken collar bones, I've broken my leg. I've broken plenty of bones and you know that within six, seven, eight weeks you're firing again. The bruising has been really frustrating but over the last three weeks I turned a real positive corner.
"I'm just going up to Yorkshire this week to get through four days. If I get runs, I get runs. If I don't get runs, I don't get runs. I just need to wake up on Tuesday morning or the day after being on the field knowing that my knee's not an issue.
"The professional in me will want to score as many runs as possible and that never stops, never fades, but the most important thing from this four-day game is to wake up every morning with no knee issue and to know that I've turned a good corner and I can handle a day in the field - because that's the only thing that hasn't been tested yet. I can bat in the nets, I've done all the fielding drills you can do but it's not the same as fielding for 96 overs.
Pietersen also dwelt upon the problems at Surrey which have seen Chris Adams sacked as team director and Alec Stewart, the former England captain, take temporary charge. He revealed for the first time - doubtless unintentionally - that Steve Davies' need to take a break from the game after the death of his team-mate, Tom Maynard, in a tube accident, led him to turn down offers of at least one England tour last winter.
If this was the case, it has never officially been made public.
Pietersen said the tragedy had "moulded the dressing room". He added: "The guys are really super-tight as they looked after each other so well last year. A lot of them took a big hit last year, but in terms of their performances, some of the guys have come back really well.
"I mean Steve Davies for one. He was hit by the Tom Maynard incident really hard last year. He went away all winter, turned down a few England tours and he said 'I need to go away, sort my head out' and I've never seen Steve Davies play as well as he has this summer. I mean, he's back and I think he's back a better player."
Pietersen was in affable enough mood to express his love for county cricket, even if it is a love from afar. "It serves a great purpose, it's a great learning facility. I learnt to be the cricketer I was through county cricket and the more you play it, the better you become. The more you do anything the better you become, so I love county cricket, it's a great form of the game, and it looks like it's still flourishing."
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