New Delhi: England’s star batsman Kevin Pietersen marked his IPL 5 debut for Delhi Daredevils with a match-winning knock, and in this exclusive interview to CNN-IBN he opens up on the lucrative tournament, playing for a vibrant franchise like Delhi, batting with Mahela Jayawardene, how he loves the switch-hit and why more England players should be in the IPL.
Gaurav Kalra: Thank you very much, Kevin Pietersen, for joining us.
Kevin Pietersen: Pleasure.
Gaurav Kalra: I want to begin by actually welcoming you to Delhi. I hope it's been fun these few days you have been here.
Kevin Pietersen: Quick trip over from Colombo, but Delhi has been one of my favourite cities in India. So, yeah, I was lucky enough to be transferred to Delhi. I was very happy boy that day.
Gaurav Kalra: Now, you do like to make an entry and you did make one in the first game that you played. That was quite a cracking start to just get going in this IPL. That was the perfect start …
Kevin Pietersen: Yeah, look, when you are in good form you like to continue your good form. And there was quite a lot of pressure because everybody was talking about Mahela [Jayawardene] and I joining the team. How to boost the team and how the team would be benefited from it. So there was actually quite a lot of pressure going until last night's game on the pair of us. But I think with experience you learn to simplify things and you learn to just go back to what you know. I think the pair of us did all right last night but it was a great team performance. Don't worry about what Mahela and I did. Viru [Virender Sehwag] and Naman [Ojha] started beautifully at the top of the order [and] our bowlers were brilliant. Little [Shahbaz] Nadeem bowled fantastic left-arm spin, Roelof [van der Merwe] was good. Yeah, all the guys just really put in well and Morne Morkel got the Man of the Match. I mean, I could name everybody in the team who was brilliant.
Gaurav Kalra: It was a game not against an ordinary team in the IPL. It was a game against two-time defending champions. They know how to play this format of cricket and you didn't just beat them - lets be honest - you absolutely decimated them.
Kevin Pietersen: Look, it's the start of the tournament so people are trying to find their right combinations. It doesn’t really matter how you go now as long as you try and get a couple of wins in the first six or seven games and then you can get your combinations right and then you can start nailing how you want to do once you get your combinations right. And that’s when you start winning the games. There’s no point playing good cricket in the beginning of April, it’s the end of May you need to be playing your best cricket.
Gaurav Kalra: The IPL is in the fifth season. You have had a prior IPL experience but I am sure you have been told that Delhi had a terrible IPL season last time around. They were at the bottom of the table. There was a lot of talk here about how the team had the wrong auction strategy and things of that nature but clearly now do you feel there's a sort of 'bounce back' in the team? Two wins in three games …
Kevin Pietersen: Yeah, for a team like Delhi, a city like Delhi which has got such an amazing fan following, a fantastic stadium, great owners, a real good coach and staff, it is disappointing to hear that the team didn't play so well last year but that happens in sports. I mean you can't pick up your bat or bowl a ball or catch every delivery perfectly every single time you go and play. I mean, teams are going to have a rocky road at some stage. So its difficult to say where they were last year because I don't really know, I didn't participate in IPL because of surgery last year but one thing I can say about this year is that the guys are determined, the coaching staff are doing all they can, the players are nice and relaxed.
There have been some good buys for us this season. Some good youth, some good experience. The young Indians, the experienced Indians. We got some real good cricketers, some real talented cricketers. And I’ve always said about the IPL that your overseas players can do a job, they can give a lot of experience, but if your young Indian players can turn games, change games, win games, then you’re going to be a very successful team.
Gaurav Kalra: You mentioned the overseas players and there's been so much talk now of the top four or five of Delhi Daredevils now, especially when all of then are available. Unfortunately, David Warner and you don’t play together this season or probably one or two games if at all. However, Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardene in the top four of any Twenty20 team is one heck of a top order.
Kevin Pietersen: Well, you say that but you’ve still got to score your runs so that’s the pressure I was talking about. Me and Mahela joining the team the other day; Mahela has got 40-odd international hundreds and I’ve got 29 or 30 or whatever it is, but that doesn't mean anything when you play the game. You starting on naught and you've got the weight of expectation; you've got 45,000 Delhi fans wanting you to do well. We want to do well for the fans, we want to win the game but experience simplifies things for us. I think we did a good job yesterday but that's only one game. We've got a long way to go. I think I've only got to play seven or eight games unfortunately this season which is a big, big pity; I would love to play a full season of the IPL. But unfortunately I’ve got other commitments.
Gaurav Kalra: Let’s talk a little about your innings from the first game. It wasn't a big total but you did make 40-odd and you looked extremely strong and comfortable in the middle, taking your time to get in and all of that. Did it help that you had just played in the subcontinent?
Kevin Pietersen: Very much so, I've been playing in the subcontinent since the start of January. I have done a hell of a lot of hard work. It took me a while to get into the tour in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I was then fortunate enough to hit some good form, hit back to back hundreds, and then got a hundred on the weekend in Colombo. So it’s really nice to be in form and when you are in form, I think you’ve got cash in as well. You've got to really simplify things when you are in form because sometimes you can just carried away and you can get yourself out but the wicket, I thought last night was fantastic – unfortunately for Chennai but fortunately for us - that it didn't come off. Their running between the wickets wasn't the best but It was the pressure that was created by some very good bowling and some very good fielding.
Gaurav Kalra: You mentioned batting with Mahela but you cleverly did not mention that when you were with Mahela, you played a couple of switch-hits or reverse-sweeps, I am not sure which. But there were a couple of switch-hits. One week ago, I think he was an angry captain when you were attempting to play this. What did he say when you played these two ... and be honest!
Kevin Pietersen: Look, it was very complimentary. When you are playing together, when you are playing to win, we are both very competitive sportsmen. So when you are on the same team, you play to win and he doesn't care what I was doing last night. It was just great to bat with Mahela, great to bat with Viru and get a win under the belt. It doesn’t matter, I play my way, Mahela plays his way and we complemented each other quite nicely.
Gaurav Kalra: Can I take one more question on the switch-hit, because you know that it has made an enormous number of headlines around the cricket world? What’s your view on it? Obviously it's a very difficult shot to play and execute. You have even hit sixes with it. But do you worry about the talk around switch-hit? There’s a legality issue.
Kevin Pietersen: Look, it's a shot that's extremely hard to play. I just didn't play it all of a sudden; I’ve put a hell lot of a practice into it. And if the legalities [are] infringed in the stroke in any particular way, it's not going to stop me playing it because I am taking a hell lot of a high risk anyway playing it at the moment. So you can bring in whatever rules you want to bring in but if there is no field as like last night, [Ravichandran] Ashwin bowling around the wicket, he has packed the leg-side wicket, he's only got four off-side fielders. I think it's a pretty easy shot with the amount of time I have worked on the shot.
Gaurav Kalra: Would you be OK to be given out lbw as a left-handed batsman if that were the rule? That you be judged as a left-hander playing a switch hit?
Kevin Pietersen: I think it would be very, very unfair to do that, to bring in those rules because there are not many batsmen that play it around the world. So I think it would be particularly unfair, especially seen as I’m giving the opportunity to the bowler to get me out any way by batting left-handed. I just think it gives the media an angle to go at something and gives them a couple of days' headlines. It's not going to stop me form playing the shot. But I think it'll be a great shame if some rules do come in to try and stop us from playing the shot because I think it’s great for the shot. I mean, I see myself playing the shot last night. On the big screen comes up SWITCH HIT, SWITCH HIT, and the crowd goes crazy. So why do you want to kill a shot from the game of cricket?
Gaurav Kalra: And don't kill the media headlines, you know it's nice for us ...
Kevin Pietersen: Yeah of course it is. That’s your job. My job is to play it. We create the headlines - good headlines, bad headlines. But at the end of the day, I am talking from my point of view - an entertainer, somebody who wants to score runs. Look, you don’t want to kill that shot out of the game. Come on, it adds so much excitement.
Gaurav Kalra: There's a huge amount of venom and I'm sure you have read this and heard this on television about the IPL, especially from where you come from. That involves of course the English media, former England players as well. Do you believe that the IPL is as damaging to the world cricket as it's made out to be?
Kevin Pietersen: Not at all. No. I thing there should be a window for the IPL to take place because it's a magnificent tournament. There's lot of money issues, that I think is what dampens it in England. People think that it's just a money-making racket for individuals but so what? That’s just the way it is. Sportsmen get paid. What are you going to do about it?
And actually, to come over here and play against a guy like Mahela on a Saturday and to bat with somebody like Mahela on a Tuesday and bat with a Virender Sehwag ... I mean, come on, it's a great experience, even for me and for the youngsters of India. It's a great Indian academy as well for the young Indians. For the international players, we love it as well. It's actually quite a release from our international hectic, pressurized schedule. To come here, have lot of option of training, have lot of optional duties, play Twenty20 cricket, have some fun and enjoyment, it's brilliant. I think it's a fantastic contest. It saddens me when I read negative publicity of the IPL in England.
Gaurav Kalra: There are Twenty20 leagues now based on the IPL which have been started around the world, I'm sure you are aware, the Big Bash in Australia, in England you are playing a huge amount of Twenty20 cricket. Bangladesh has started its own league, Sri Lanka is planning one. Are you with the view that Twenty20 cricket could ultimately just be this monster that consumes the traditional forms of the game?
Kevin Pietersen: I don’t think it will take Test cricket up and I have voiced it before a million times. It won’t take over Test match cricket. I thing Twenty20 cricket's helping Test cricket in a way that people are playing the game faster therefore you are getting more results in test match cricket and results are what fans wants, spectators want, Television wants because the more results the more people watch, the more ratings you get, etc.
One day cricket ... I think it will eventually knock one-day cricket over. From the player's perspective and from the spectator's perspective, that the entertainment package is there for three hours. So one day that will happen. But I don’t think it has a damaging effect on Test cricket.
Gaurav Kalra: Would you like to see more English players involved in the IPL? There were a few up for auction. They weren’t purchased because team owners were not convinced about their availability. Because guys like [James] Anderson and [Graeme] Swann. [Stuart] Broad was purchased but he's not going to play because of injury. But not a huge amount of interest in them - not because of the quality of players that they are, that's undisputed - it's because of the availability.
Kevin Pietersen: Yeah, there are availability issues but I mean, I am available for a decent amount of time, Broad was available, [Eoin] Morgan was available. I'd love to see more English players available for... well not only available, I would love to see them picked up because I also see some of the games being played at the moment and I just think ... man, up here would have been lot better if Andersons, Bresnans, Boparas guys like these were involved in the IPL.
I mean [Ravi] Bopara wore the Orange Cap for a while when he was at Kings XI. The guys like [Ian] Bell, you’ve got world class players who are sitting in England now wanting to play the IPL when you’ve got some second rate Australians getting gigs here. So for me, its sad that I don’t have fellow team-mates playing in the IPL and embarking on a magnificent journey here in the subcontinent and it'll help English cricket as well. We've got four Test matches, seven one-day internationals in November, December, January here in the subcontinent. So for the England team, it would be magnificent but I can't do anything about it, I have just got to enjoy it.
Gaurav Kalra: I want to ask you about your personal Twenty20 record. Now, you played a season for Bangalore, not a lot of games but you did play few games and I think you did get a couple of half-centuries in the IPL. But overall, do you feel that you are still not the finished product as a Twenty20 cricketer. Do you believe there's something about your game that needs to be … because looking at your Test career you're among the greats of the modern game.
Kevin Pietersen: Look, Twenty20 is a lottery. You’ve got to be aggressive, you've got to go out there and attack the ball. It's one of those where it's difficult to predict where you want to be and how you want to go. I think ranked up in the ICC ratings somewhere at the top, I think in Twenty20 cricket. I mean that can just fluctuate day in day out. You've got to be aggressive; you've got to attack the ball so you're giving bowlers the opportunity to knock you over. Look, I just do the best I can do, I train as hard as I can train and I am a great believer in 'what would be would be', so I am happy at the moment.
Gaurav Kalra: The Twenty20 World Cup is actually in Sri Lanka this time and that’s the tournament, again, which England has won before. In fact lots of people believe that the start of the revival of English cricket in a sense was in that world cup. Do you see this (IPL) as an opportunity to prepare for that big challenge?
Kevin Pietersen: Definitely. Yes, one hundred per cent. We beat Pakistan in three Twenty20s in Dubai and Abu Dhabi a month ago, so that was brilliant for the England team. We have got a magnificent record and we have been rated No.1 in the world and we win a lot more than we lose in the Twenty20 form. We have got some real good combinations; we have got some real good tactics. So there is no reason why we can't do well in Sri Lanka.
Gaurav Kalra: You did touch upon the Test series that's coming up later here in India. There’s one-dayers also scheduled. But you do know that people here are thirsting for 'revenge' after what happened with India in England. How do you see that series going?
Kevin Pietersen: I think we have made big strides in our play, especially here in the subcontinent. The boys have been practicing a hell of a lot on their techniques against spin and I think that [was] proved in Colombo, how we managed to dominate Sri Lanka, beat them convincingly in Colombo. Tough we totally messed that test up by batting like plonkers in the first innings. Went to Colombo, did the hard yards and managed to beat Sri Lanka in Colombo on a very, very good wicket. So I think it has been a brilliant Test series. I have played a couple of Test series here [in India]. One Test in Mumbai, 2006, or whenever it was. So, it's something to look forward to. I love coming to India. It's a magnificent place to play cricket. So spending that time at the end of the year here's going to be great fun.
Gaurav Kalra: You mentioned the Test series against Sri Lanka, that was the last game, the one in which you got your 20th Test century. Now that's the kind of record that takes you into a league of very, very special cricketers. You must be very proud of already what you have accomplished?
Kevin Pietersen: Look, it was a really proud day. It's something that ... when I finish my career, I will know that I have got best out of my talent. I have been lucky enough to be given the talent to play international cricket. I've been given a wonderful opportunity to play in England. So I just want to make the best of my talent, train as hard as I can and just enjoy myself. What will be will be. Today I've got 20 Test hundreds and nine or somewhere around there one-day hundreds, sp for me it's a dream come true. I’ve got a lot more than I though that I would have ever got. So I just want to enjoy myself. Have a nice three-four more years playing international cricket and see where we get to.
Gaurav Kalra: Final question: you have met the pie-chucker, he's back in India now. He has had a difficult time of late and I'm sure you have kept a track. I know you guys are active with each other on twitter. Some thoughts on Yuvraj ... you are hoping that he'll be back playing cricket soon?
Kevin Pietersen: Yuvraj is a fighter. He's undoubtedly a fighter - on the field, off the field. A superstar guy. I've really got close to Yuvraj in the last 12 months. I'm going to go and see him tomorrow. I spoke to him on Monday before he flew back to India I spoke to him yesterday. Lovely guy. Man, he's been through some real difficult times but there are certain people that can be tested in certain way in life and he is one of those people that is able to take on a challenge, conquer the challenge, come out the other end in a magnificent way. Yuvraj Singh will be winning games for India very, very soon. He has been through some tough, tough times but the man's a superstar.
Gaurav Kalra: Thank you.