Kevin Pietersen: T20 revamp can help England build stars of tomorrow
The former England batsman had his say on the future of English cricket.
Kevin Pietersen hopes English cricket’s Twenty20 revolution will stop the sport “dying” in its homeland and create household names of the future.
Pietersen played his final professional match in England with Surrey last summer and will bid farewell to the Big Bash – and the big time – when he makes one final outing for Melbourne Stars against Hobart Hurricanes on Saturday.
After honouring lower-profile contracts in the Pakistan Super League and his native South Africa, the 37-year-old will finally ride into the sunset later this year, ending a career that contained authentic sporting brilliance, a fair share of controversy and at times flirted with A-list celebrity.
To those who exist outside the hardcore cricket community, Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff – stars of the 2005 Ashes – probably remain more recognisable than many of their successors in the England side.
Yet rather than wear that as a badge of honour, he wants the sport to once again captivate the mainstream and believes the England and Wales Cricket Board’s revamped T20 tournament, which is launching in 2020 and will be shown in large part on free-to-air television, is the key.
“If you have free-to-air then it is going to be a massive hit. We get 1.2million people watching (Big Bash League) games every night. It is incredible. You are not going to get those numbers on satellite television,” he said.
“Something has to be done to look after our game in the UK because at the moment it is dying. The problem is they do not have any proper heroes.
“They don’t have a Freddie Flintoff, who was born on free-to-air. There were 12million people watching the 2005 Ashes.
“Guys like (Joe) Root, (Ben) Stokes and (Jos) Buttler should be big stars. They should be able to walk down the street and everyone recognise them, but they don’t.
“What I’ve realised is that you think you are a big wig in the cricketing world but when you jump away from it nobody knows who the hell you are. You get so caught up in the cricket bubble.”
Pietersen has attempted to break out of that bubble through his conservation work with rhinos and his own KP24 Foundation, but is eager to put his years of experience to good use too.
He is thrilled to see the success of the current England white-ball team, if not a little envious of tactics which would have suited his own game perfectly, and would welcome the chance to work with them in the future.
“Of course it would be nice to have a connection. I have an incredible amount to offer the game,” he said, though his plans to spend summer in South Africa may prove an obstacle.
“It is wasted that English cricketers do not benefit. They still come to me and ask for help. That is happening and I love that. To be involved with this young one-day set up would be nice. I would like some involvement because I love the way they play.
“It is brilliant to see they are playing the way we should always have been playing. We have always had the players – it was the system.”