October 3, 2000

Nottinghamshire sign young South African

Nottinghamshire have signed a young South African all-rounder on a three-year county contract. Kevin Pietersen is an off-spinner and hard-hitting lower-order batsman and has been playing for Natal.

Pietersen, who has a British passport courtesy of his English mother, told the Natal Witness on Monday that "I'm not turning my back on South African cricket", but Natal coach Phil Russell said he was "disappointed to lose a player of Kevin's potential".

With the Nottinghamshire contract dependent on him not being classified as an overseas player in England, Pietersen could not play domestically for Natal, unless as an overseas professional, and he spent several "chaotic" hours yesterday deciding on his cricketing future.

He eventually decided to throw in his lot with Nottinghamshire and Clive Rice, the former South African captain who is now the county's director of cricket, said the move would be in his best interests and enable him to escape the quota systems and "non-merit selections" that have seen an ever-increasing flow of young white South African cricketers staking their futures overseas.

"I first saw Kevin in the 1997 schools' week in Grahamstown and he missed out on SA Schools selection then due to the quota system," Rice said Monday. "And that is something that will continue to push him sideways in South Africa, whereas in England, merit selection is entrenched in the game."

"It is his best chance of playing Test cricket and I certainly see him possibly getting into the England team once he has done his four years of qualifying," Rice, a national selector as recently as last year, said.

Rice described the 20-year-old Maritzburg College product as a "fantastic talent". "He's a very exciting player and it's wonderful that he has kept on working at his game despite the setbacks he has suffered. There's just something about him and I believe a move to England will be just the thing to bring his real talents to fruition."

Pietersen, who has only a one-year contract with Natal, said the "guarantee of three years of high-quality cricket" with Nottinghamshire was "a career opportunity too good to turn down."

He will join up with Nottinghamshire for their pre-season tour of, ironically, South Africa where he will meet up with Greg Smith, the highly rated Northerns left-arm paceman, who has also signed for Nottinghamshire, joining the ever-increasing flow of talented players being lost by South African cricket.