Pietersen's talent camouflages the controversy over him
With his match-winning knock in the second Test against India Kevin Pietersen, says Bikash Mohapatra, reaffirmed that his off-field shenanigans cannot undermine the flair and flamboyance that define his batting.
Pietersen made all the wrong moves in 2012
From surprisingly announcing his retirement from the shorter versions – he scored successive hundreds in Dubai while leading England to a series win against Pakistan -- to supposedly sending text messages to South African players regarding his captain's (Andrew Strauss) lack of leadership, Pietersen made all the wrong moves.
The latter storm saw him being dropped from England's Test squad despite scoring a spectacular 149 and helping the team draw the second Test in Headingley.
Pietersen also went back on his retirement, but was overlooked for the squad for the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka. In fact, he had to suffer the ignominy of watching the tournament while doubling up as a television expert.
It was a gargantuan failure by England -- they failed to defend their crown or even come close to it -- that made the selectors sit up and realize the worth of the player who had single-handedly made them World champions a couple of years back.
It also made them realize that England would not be a good enough squad ahead of the much-hyped tour of India if KP wasn't included.
Then started the process of 're-integration'
Thus started the process of re-integration.
Pietersen, despite not being offered a central contract and not being part of the initial squad, was eventually included to the touring party.
Strauss had called it quits after England ceded top spot to South Africa. And new captain Alastair Cook was more than happy to have Pietersen in the team.
'As a captain it is nice to have KP back,' admitted Cook, ahead of the opener at Motera, adding, 'the reintegration process in my eyes is finished. We are moving on.
'What I don't want him to change is his confidence. That's what makes him such a tough player.'
That he would be part of the Test squad was a foregone conclusion.
Pietersen's 186 was flamboyance personified
However, Pietersen did have a point to prove.
His first attempt at it ended in dual failure (read scores of 17 and 2 in Motera) even as England was comprehensively beaten.
His fallibility against left-arm spin -- Pragyan Ojha got the better of him in both the innings -- was the topic of discussion and many questioned his match fitness.
'Kevin has to trust his abilities. If he does that he will get scoring options,' opined England batting coach Graham Gooch.
It was a point well-made; it was point well-taken!
The Pietersen that joined his captain at the crease in Wankhede was his good own self. He and Cook put on 206 for the third wicket, thereby giving the visitors the upper hand.
Cook's century (122) was workmanlike, as is usually the case. But Pietersen's (186) was flamboyance personified.
Controversy cannot undermine KP's talent
The 32-year-old made a mockery of the turning track and the three Indian spinners, hitting 20 boundaries and four huge sixes en route. The doubt on display in Motera had made way for motivation. The opposite bowlers were clobbered all over the park. And it was advantage England, thanks to one man's domination.
By the time MS Dhoni's team got over the shock, the damage was done.
It wasn't as if India was witnessing the KP spectacle for the first time.
In the opening Test at Lord's last July, they failed to account for him on Day One – when he looked increasingly ill at ease when at the crease.
The batsman returned to score a mammoth 202 not out, ensuring England a comprehensive win. There was an encore in the fourth Test at The Oval, KP's 175 playing a part in England's completion of a 4-0 whitewash and earning him the man-of-the-series honours.
His magnificent 186 at Wankhede was also a defining innings. It also earned him, and, deservedly so, the man-of-the-match award.
More importantly, it reiterated the fact that controversy cannot undermine talent and flamboyance, qualities that KP possesses in abundance.