Kevin Pietersonindia Updated: Oct 23, 2006 17:00 IST
Expansive with the bat and explosive with the bombast, the South African-born Kevin Pietersen is not one for the quiet life. Pietersen, an enthusiastic, bold-minded and big-hitting No 5, first ruffled feathers by shunning South Africa - he was disenchanted with the quota system - in favour of England; his eligibility coming courtesy of an English mother.
He never doubted he would play for England: he has self-confidence in spades but, fortunately, he has sackfuls of talent too. Sure enough, as soon as he qualified in September 2004, he was invited to tour Zimbabwe for that winter's one-dayers, where he averaged 104 in three innings. Success here earned him a late call into England's team against none other than South Africa in early 2005.
Undeterred by hostile receptions from the home crowds, he announced his arrival - loudly, of course - with a robust, unbeaten century in the second ODI at Bloemfontein, and in doing so demonstrated his peerless eye for the ball and for making headlines, too. On reaching his ton, he kissed his badge with unreserved fervour and afterwards announced his next ambition: getting a tattoo of three lions and his England number. Playing at Test level was next on the Pietersen to-do list, and, as a man who puts his money, if not always his mind, where his mouth is, it was only a matter of time.
Overlooked for two Tests against Bangladesh, he made his debut against Australia at Lord's of all places, and responded with a pair of hard-hitting fifties in a losing cause. Six dropped catches in the series appeared to have dented his brash confidence, but with the series at stake, he once again showed his unswerving eye for the limelight by clubbing a phenomenal 158 on the final day at The Oval, to secure the draw that England needed for a first Ashes triumph in 18 years. First to congratulate him on his feat was Shane Warne, his good friend and captain at Hampshire, whom Pietersen had joined at the start of the season after three eventful and fractuous years at Nottinghamshire.