India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 3rd day November 25, 2012

Brilliant Pietersen banishes the darkness

There must have been days during his exile from England's dressing room that Kevin Pietersen feared he would never play again a Test innings as magnificent as the one he produced in Mumbai.

There must have been days when he feared he would never play another Test innings at all.

His response to that suggestion, a strikingly downbeat response for someone who had just produced one of the most memorable innings in Test history, was to shrug that he never looked as far ahead as the next day.

"I never know what is going to happen tomorrow," he said. "I don't take myself that seriously. I do everything on a day-to-day basis. What will be, will be. I live my life day to day."

It sounded a cop out until one reflected that a lack of forethought had been evident the moment he embarked upon his rebellion against the ECB and ultimately became estranged from much of the England dressing room in the process.

Day-to-day living looked the way to go as Pietersen turned 180 degrees on the boundary edge at the Wankhede Stadium to acknowledge the applause of the crowd. India loves his star quality, his individuality and his capacity to entertain.

No Englishman, one would wager, comes anywhere near to his popularity. Boris Johnson, in Delhi to drum up trade with India as Mayor of London, could take back billions in trade deals if he was seen out for dinner with Pietersen.

Pietersen produces great moments, and revels in them, but he rarely cares to assess them. "It will mean a lot more if we win tomorrow but it was a pretty difficult wicket," he said. "You knew at some stage a ball had your name on it so to play as well as that was pretty satisfying."

"We have come here to learn, we have come here to try to win, and we want to front up to the challenge. The captain asked that of us before the Test."

Along with that captain, Alastair Cook, he reached 22 Test hundreds, equalling the best by any England batsman. The sweep shot - often derided during England's troubled year - had been well executed by both batsmen during a third-wicket stand of 206 that began to turn the Test in England's favour.

"I think some of the greatest batsmen who have come to India and been successful have been very good sweepers - our coach for one," he said, recalling Andy Flower's unbeaten double hundred for Zimbabwe in Nagpur.

"It messes around with the lengths that the spinners bowl and it messes around with the fields. It negates that little leg gully that can cause issues if the spinners bowl straight to you. As long as you play it well and pick the right ball it's fine. If you play it sixth or seventh ball and miss it like I did in Ahmedabad you look like a clown.

"I wasn't playing well at all in Ahmedabad. I didn't trust my defence as much as I trusted my defence in this Test match and as a batter if you don't trust your defence you try too many things, you try to force the issue.

"So I went and did a lot of hard work as I always do and luckily it had paid off. I like to keep things simple. I just didn't go into that Test match trusting my defence. I don't think the warm-up matches going into that Test match tested my defence. It is just about keeping things simple and doing the basics right."

It was not a day for him to celebrate, certainly not in the company of an English media that, in some cases, had been critical of him in a personal way not seen to such an extent since Geoffrey Boycott began his own self-imposed exile from England nearly 40 years earlier. The hurt is not easily forgotten.

The much-vaunted reintegration process with the England dressing room has been completed. Perhaps he needs another one with the media.

He spoke in more relaxed fashion on ESPN Star Sports to Sourav Ganguly, a former India captain who also had his detractors and who saw him at his lowest moments when they worked alongside each other in a studio in Colombo during World Twenty20 after England refused to pick him.

How did it feel to be back? "It feels really good, thanks Sourav," he said. "I was with you for two weeks through the turmoil but, no, this is great. I'm back playing cricket for England, it's amazing to get back into the Test scene and to get some runs on a wicket like this and hopefully help us win a Test match, would be magnificent."

Not that he was prepared to claim that the game was already won, with the memory still fresh of England's collapse to 72 all out against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in January.

"It's definitely a cliffhanger, for sure," he said. "You've seen the wicket now, it's spinning, bouncing, from straight, from off-straight. It's going to be a tough time to go out there and hopefully we don't have to face too many. We don't want to have to chase a 100 or 120 on there; we tried that once this year and failed in Abu Dhabi."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo