Kevin Pietersen is currently one of the hottest players around after his spectacular success in the one-day series in his birthplace of South Africa.
Kevin Pietersen is currently one of the hottest players around after his spectacular success in the one-day series in his birthplace of South Africa last season and now his brilliant innings against Australia in the NatWest series.
But the man who is being talked about as England's Great White Hope for the Ashes first made a name for himself while touring India early last year with the ECB National Academy team.
The side played a series of one-day matches against India A and also appeared in the domestic Duleep Trophy tournament as England A. They were thoroughly outclassed on tour, winning just one and losing seven of their matches.
Pietersen though was outstanding with twin centuries in the defeat to South Zone in the Duleep match at Gurgaon, a rapid century in the one-day match at Bangalore, another against Tamil Nadu in Chennai and 94 in the final loss to East Zone at Amritsar.
The South African-born batsman was in the throes of his contract crisis with Nottinghamshire and was under strict orders from coach Rod Marsh to avoid the press. The team management subsequently threw a protective blanket round him and the other young players as well.
That however did not prevent the gregarious middle-order batsman from thoroughly enjoying the sights and sounds of India on his first visit, exploring the bazaars, tasting the food and asking loads of questions about the local history and culture of the cities he played in.
At the team's hotel in Amristar in Punjab he created something of a stir when he noticed a hotel employee with a 'Durban' badge on his coat. "That's the place where I come from. Are you from Durban?" he asked the befuddled staffer before a quick bit translation cleared up the air.
'Durban' (pronounced 'Durr-baan' or 'durr-waan') is the Hindi and Punjabi word for security guard! He was also a huge hit with the young net bowlers in Amristar. "Moojhe lottery jeet gaya" ("I have won the lottery") one excited lad gushed to his coach. Pietersen had just presented him with his sparkling new fibre glass leg-guards while another boy received a pair of batting gloves.
At Gurgaon even as his teammates were floundering towards a shocking defeat-South Zone chased 500-plus to win in the second innings-Pietersen was in imperious form.
His centuries in both innings were remarkable in their composure and his brimming self-confidence convinced all who were watching that it would only be a matter of time before he donned full English colours.
First impressions were that he was strikingly similar to another South African-born English cricketer, former captain Tony Greig in looks, technique and his positive attitude. The rest of the visiting team frankly looked like schoolboys in comparison.