KP set to sweep to 100th Test

Kevin Pietersen (Gallo)
Kevin Pietersen (Gallo)

Brisbane - He's "arrogant" and "Mr. Ego", but as he prepares for his 100th Test this week in Brisbane, England's Kevin Pietersen is not just unapologetic, he seems to be loving the attention.

The swaggering, flashy batsman with a mouth to match has been the main target of Australian media in the Ashes build-up, eclipsing even unpopular bowler Stuart Broad.

"He's so arrogant not even his own team likes him," read a headline in Brisbane's Courier-Mail, while another report said he was "widely despised in the cricketing community".

But Pietersen, whose South African accent has marked him out as different for his entire England career, has shown every sign of relishing the exchanges.

Like Broad, who is under attack for failing to give himself out at a key moment in the last Ashes series, Pietersen has happily returned fire.

In mainly good-humoured exchanges on Twitter, Pietersen labelled Australians as "convicts" and suggested nobody outside the country had even heard of Brisbane.

As he approached the 100 Test milestone, Pietersen, who has survived turbulent times to remain a linchpin of the England side, explained why he can come across as brash.

"I've got to be confident in my ability," he said.

"Clearly, as a South African coming into England, I had to really fight some tough battles and had to be single-minded in achieving what I've had to try and achieve.

"I can't help people thinking that I'm arrogant. I think a lot of great sportsmen out there have that little bit of something to them that makes them try and be the best and want to be the best.

"I call it confidence. You guys (media) call it arrogance, it makes for better headlines."

Pietersen, born and raised in South Africa, has been a controversial figure since opting to represent the native country of his mother.

Even his telling contributions with the bat have failed to convince doubters, who still question whether the man with the Three Lions tattoo should be wearing an England shirt.

His maiden Test century was an audacious counter-assault against an attack including Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne that saw England wrest back the Ashes in 2005.

And in Mumbai last year, he made 186 against India on a spinners' pitch where most batsmen were struggling just to stay at the crease.

Pietersen's decision to abandon South Africa was partly motivated by the post-apartheid quota system, which he felt was harming his prospects.

The fact that South Africa, which classed him as an off-spinner who batted, didn't quite realise what they had may have been due to Pietersen's unorthodoxy.

An initial overly-long stride forward, and an ability to whip off-stump deliveries through midwicket, are not in the coaching manual.

And few players as talented as Pietersen can look so nervous and uncertain in the early stages of an innings.

Yet the combination of will, a fantastic eye, skill and a six feet four inches (1.93 metres) frame all allow him to play shots few others can match.

England's desire to have a captain across all three formats saw Pietersen given the job in 2008, and it might have been the making of an outsider trying to fit in.

But after a falling-out with coach Peter Moores, Pietersen's tenure lasted barely five months before both men lost their posts.

Last year's Headingley Test against South Africa encapsulated Pietersen's rollercoaster England career.

Having produced a match-saving century during which Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were treated like club bowlers, Pietersen gave a revealing post-match press conference.

"The saddest part about all this is that the spectators just love watching me play and I love playing for England," he declared.

"But the politics is what I have to deal with personally and it's tough being me in this dressing room. Playing for England is tough. We'll see."

These comments came after Pietersen clashed with England's management over his desire to play more lucrative Twenty20 cricket abroad.

Soon afterwards it emerged he'd sent "provocative" texts allegedly critical of then-England captain Andrew Strauss to South African players.

Pietersen was briefly dropped by England, only to be recalled when Alastair Cook took over following Strauss's retirement.

However, these problems appear in the past and Pietersen now speaks positively about the atmosphere in the England dressing room.

"There has been some real good stuff and I've really enjoyed the journey. Where my career is at now, I don't think I can be any happier," he said.

Despite a troublesome knee he hopes to be around for the 2015 World Cup -- which is also in Australia, giving him another chance to spar with local media.

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