KP eager to captain against SA-country of b

Published: Saturday, June 28, 2008, 10:54 [IST]
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London: Kevin Pietersen has said he will have no qualms about captaining England against South Africa, the land of his birth.

"That would be great," said Pietersen, who will lead England for the first time in Saturday's fifth and final one-day international against New Zealand here at Lord's.

And the Hampshire batsman, who on Friday celebrated his 28th birthday, could get his wish granted as soon as August.

Pietersen only got the job of leading England's one-day side after a slow over-rate at The Oval on Wednesday during New Zealand's dramatic one-wicket win saw regular skipper Paul Collingwood banned for four games for twice being in charge of a team that had fallen behind the clock in the past 12 months.

Collingwood will still be banned when England play South Africa in the lone Twenty20 international on August 20 at the Riverside and the first ODI of a five-match series at Headingley two days later.

Born in Pietermaritzburg, KP controversially quit South Africa in protest at a racial quota policy he believed was hampering his chances of making it as a professional player.

Some English cricket fans may be uneasy with a South African-born captain of their national side - and plenty of South Africans are not thrilled by the prospect either, even though Pietersen's mother is English.

"I get it at every single ground," Pietersen told reporters at Lord's.

"At The Oval, the other day, fielding on the boundary, there were a lot of South Africans in the crowd, hammering me.

"That's just what I've got to deal with.

"At the end of the day, people can see how passionate I am and how much I want to win for England," added Pietersen, who made his debut for English county Nottinghamshire in 2001 before qualifying for his adopted country three years later.

"That's the only thing I think about, winning games for England. I love playing for England, it's the best thing ever."

However, there are still plenty of doubters and they are unlikely to be re-assured by the pen picture of Pietersen in Saturday's matchday programme.

In it he lists his favourite cricket ground as Cape Town's Newlands with South Africa golfer Ernie Els his all-time sporting hero, while his favourite food is off a braai, a South African barbecue.

Pietersen will not be the first South African-born captain of England. Team-mate Andrew Strauss, born in Johannesburg but educated in England, did the job in the absence of Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff while Allan Lamb led the side in three Tests in the 1990s when Graham Gooch was out injured.

The last full-time captain of England to be born in South Africa was the flamboyant Tony Greig, like Pietersen an immensely self-confident cricketer who knew his commercial worth.

A gifted all-rounder, Greig's background was held against him in when he was stripped of the England captaincy in 1977 after acting as the recruiting sergeant for Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket in Australia.

The Times newspaper described Greig as "English by adoption, which is not the same thing as being English through and through".

However South Africa's cricket isolation because of apartheid had already led to the cancellation of Test series in England and Australia by the time Greig made his England debut in 1972.

By contrast, Pietersen had the option to play international cricket for South Africa.

The fact he chose to move abroad explains much of the reason for the animosity between himself and current Proteas captain Graeme Smith, also a white cricketer, who came through the same system in South Africa.

Pietersen, whose pop singer wife Jessica is English said his attachment to England would surive his cricket career - Greig, who became a television commentator, has lived in Australia for over 30 years.

Asked if he would stay in England for the rest of his life, Pietersen replied: "100 percent. Jess is a very English home girl, very tight with her mum, so I won't be leaving, I promise you."


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