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KP among the beasts

No matter where you stand on the various controversies surrounding him, there's no denying Pietersen was a photographer's delight

Philip Brown
Philip Brown
Kevin Pietersen poses in front of one of the lions in Trafalgar Square, London, 2006

Philip Brown

Well, that was basically like living in a house with a couple who are going through a horrendous divorce. Kevin Pietersen is no longer an England player, and nearly everyone believes that he will never play for the country again.
There are two sides to every story and I suspect there may be at least 73 sides to this particular tale. Kevin, of course, has his side, coach Andy Flower has his. So do Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Giles Clarke, the ECB media team, journalists, broadcasters etc.
I first photographed Kevin at Loughborough early in 2005, before he played his first Test match. We got on well at the time and have got on pretty well ever since. I must have taken thousands of photographs of him over these ten years, and he is particularly photogenic in cricketing terms. For me there have been three cricketers who have almost demanded that the lens be pointed their way since I started clicking away on the boundary in the late '80s: Flintoff, Warne and Pietersen. I've mentioned this before, I know.
It's been my experience that once cricketers realise that you are going to be pointing a lens at them most days and that you're not trying to catch them out in any way, they accept you and begin to trust you. KP was friendly from day one, and he seemed to take an interest in me and what was happening in my life. I managed to photograph him in Colombo when he was a pundit for Star Sports, and during a break he had a game of cricket in the studio with the studio crew. I wouldn't have been invited if I didn't have a good relationship with him.
One of the good things about photographing KP playing was that you knew there would be reasonable photographs of him after he lost his wicket. He was a creature of habit. Kevin would start to leave the field and the helmet would be off in a jiffy. Then the right hand would wipe his face and probably ruffle the hair. Photographs that may not sound stunning but, believe me, are far better than those of a batsman who walks off with his head down, still wearing a helmet. He also, of course, played some great and unusual shots that would make great photographs if the photographer was sitting in the right position and ready. The reverse sweep, the Dilscoop and the flamingo are three that spring to mind.
Pietersen could be a bit prickly at times, and during the tour of the UAE in 2012 the three snappers present were told to move back as we were "in his bubble". If things were not going well for KP, you knew it by looking at his face and his body language, and again there were good photographs to be had during these times.
Usually he was friendly and professional. I supplied many of the photographs in both of his books and was invited along to his first book launch, in 2006. The party moved on to a club under Oxford circus and Kevin sat on a sofa having soft drinks and being very sensible. I wish I could say the same for myself. I was handed a tumbler full of vodka with a tiny dash of Red Bull and was told that the plan was to "skull" these drinks, in other words down the drink in one go.
This I did (why?) and 20 minutes later I thought I would head home, which was about 28 miles away from Oxford circus. No, I was not driving a car - I wasn't that stupid. Dressed in my finest suit, I must have walked and walked like a drunk (non-flying) homing pigeon. Eventually I kind of "came to" and realised that all was not well as I was walking along the elevated section of the Westway (one of London's busiest roads) at about 2am, towards a blue flashing light. I quickly turned about and got off at the slip road. The Westway is a very busy road and designed for cars only, and spotting a hairy man staggering along is not something that the police would have been impressed with at all.
I've been present for nearly all of Pietersen's Test match centuries. I might have missed one in Pakistan and one in New Zealand. I was there for those absolutely amazing innings in Mumbai and Colombo, as well as many others. The celebrations when he reached a century were often explosive, the hair was sometimes outrageous, and the smile could be contagious.
The photo here is from 2006 and was taken after Kevin was handed his leather-bound Wisden Almanack at a breakfast meeting in the West End by the then-Wisden editor Matthew Engel. Kevin said to me that he didn't want to go outside for a photo and would rather have it taken there and then.
Somehow an hour later I had persuaded him to meet me in Trafalgar Square, and I had him climb up and sit under one of the four gigantic lions under Nelson's column. I'm still not sure how I convinced him to do this but I'm grateful that Kevin made the effort and let me take the shot I wanted. I'd much rather have this one than a photo of Kevin munching on some marmalade toast or eating warm porridge.
Canon EOS-1D Mark II; Lens 300mm, ISO: 200; Aperture: 4 1/1000th

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world