Kevin Pietersen says heartbreaking racial quotas forced him into making the biggest decision of his life, to quit his native South Africa and move to England.
The batsman said his starring role in last summer's Ashes' triumph only happened when racial discrimination resulted in him being left out of the Natal side because of the colour of his skin.
Pietersen made the decision to move to England - his mother's place of birth - and impressed for Nottinghamshire then Hampshire to earn a call-up to the national side of his adopted country.
He told Wednesday's Daily Mail: "I had taken wickets against Nasser Hussain's touring England side in 1999-2000 and I had spoken to him about playing cricket in England.
"Yet there was a huge setback around the corner which forced me into the biggest decision of my life.
"I was dropped from the Natal first team for political reasons. I was dropped because of the quota system brought into South African cricket to positively discriminate in favour of 'players of colour' and to fast-track the racial integration of cricket in the country.
"To me, every single person in this world needs to be treated exactly the same and that should have included me, as a promising 20-year-old cricketer.
"If you do well you should play on merit. That goes for any person of any colour.
"It was heartbreaking," he said.
"I'd always been aware I had other options. England was my mum's birthplace. I had a British passport and I had often thought about playing cricket in England," he added.
"And even though it was very hard for me to take in at the time, it turned out it was the best thing that could have happened.
"If it hadn't, I wouldn't have been standing at The Oval as part of an Ashes-winning England team and I wouldn't have been named one-day player of the year at the ICC awards dinner in 2005, or been standing on a Sydney stage in front of the best cricketers in the world."