Cricket Expert & Columnist
'KP: Story of a Genius' - Nasser Hussain charts Pietersen's incredible England career
"When you are 20-2 and staring down the barrel you don't want Mr Nice Guy striding out into the middle for you. You want Pietersen"
Last Updated: 31/07/19 4:34pm
Nasser Hussain reveals the story behind 'KP: Story of a Genius' - a Sky Originals documentary…
You can watch the full series ON DEMAND from Thursday, with episodes broadcast during the Ashes Test series on Sky Sports Cricket throughout this summer.
This documentary is a reminder that, in among all the controversy, Kevin Pietersen was a great player.
Given how he burst onto the scene in the famous 2005 Ashes, this is the perfect summer to talk about Kevin.
There is no doubt he still polarises opinion.
Darren Gough is adamant Pietersen is the best player he has played with. Steve Harmison also loved playing with KP.
But there are plenty of people who think of him as out for himself, who pass judgement on 'Textgate' and his clashes with Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.
But even some of those he clashed with - Strauss, in particular - were very warm and complimentary on Pietersen the player when I spoke to them.
At the highest level, you get difficult, unique characters. That's part of what makes them great.
Your job as a captain, a coach or part of the ECB is to manage those people because, when you are 20-2 and staring down the barrel you do not want Mr Nice Guy striding out into the middle for you. You want Pietersen.
Going into our chat, I wondered if he had mellowed at all, if he would back-track on anything he had said or done. But in the same way that many people have not changed their minds about him, Kevin has not changed his mind about certain people.
2012 'Textgate' scandal
Kevin was fairly firm in his stance on most things - on Flower as a coach, on his troubles at Notts - but the one issue I would say he softened on was 'Textgate'.
He and Strauss did get on, for a long period but, after events of the summer of 2012 they did not, and Kevin talks about his regret at how he let him down.
As Strauss says, in his interview, in what sport, what business, what world, when is it ok for someone on your team to be texting the opposition?
If I was captain, I would have had a massive blowout with him, without a doubt, and would have lost all confidence and faith in him.
And I asked Michael Vaughan if it was right KP was dropped after the Ashes debacle, and it surprised me a little bit he said, 'no, he should have been axed after Textgate'.
Strauss resigned as captain that summer and says - in his very thoughtful way - his one mistake with Kevin was moving away from him when he became skipper. That he should have stuck closer to him, have had Kevin on the inner circle but, the more he pushed away from him, the more they clashed.
I wanted a journalistic angle on things for the documentary, and Paul Newman from The Mail says the fact Pietersen got the 2012 London Olympics off the back pages that summer - albeit for the wrong reasons - shows just what a box-office sportsman he was.
A talent ahead of his time
It's why I end the show with the line 'you were very watchable', because that's what he was.
And that's what this game is all about. We forget that sometimes. It's about trying to entice people to put on their TV to watch, people spending their hard-earned cash to come and sit in the crowd. Pietersen got people to do that.
We talk about the 'Dumb-slog Millionaire' moments he had; nobody seemed to polarise opinion more than KP. We would get emails in to Sky saying, 'this is greatest player we've ever had' and then as soon as he would get out to a rash shot, it would be 'get that silly South African out of the side'.
But with the likes of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes dominating English cricket now, Pietersen could argue - and he does in the documentary - he introduced the attacking brand of cricket that has just won a World Cup.
Goughy, says as much: "How many players now are trying to play like KP? All of them." Pietersen was a cricketer way ahead of his time.
IPL turning heads
Whose head would not be turned by a million-dollar IPL deal?
Kevin wanted what this England team are getting now, players going off and playing franchise cricket - improving themselves as cricketers.
Strauss, Flower and the ECB were not convinced. There's always that balancing act, of doing what is best for the team and best for the individual as well, and it was a different era back then.
I would not be surprised if over the last few years, Kevin has seen people being rested for Tests here and there for the IPL, and has a little smirk to himself, saying 'hey, that's what I was trying to do'.
He was playing all three formats for England and being asked to play franchise cricket - the one England player in that era, along with maybe Andrew Flintoff - and so he wanted his schedule looked after.
If you are the only one being offered that, and you are being held back from it, of course it becomes a difficult situation.
It made a player who was already quite hard to handle even more difficult.
'The better he got, the harder to deal with'
I was in a fortunate position, in that I first saw Kev on our tour of South Africa way back in 1999. He was playing for Durban, he came up to me for a chat and said even then how he wanted to come over and play county cricket.
Pietersen did very well out of England. A boy from Pietermaritzburg, playing initially for club side Cannock in the Birmingham league, and then a bit of county cricket, he ended up with 104 Test caps for England and making a lot of money. England also did very well out of him.
But I think it was Mick Newell [then coach of Notts] who said, the better Kevin played, the harder he got to manage. In speaking to various people, that seems to be the pattern his career followed.
Jason Gallian, his former team-mate at Notts, is someone I played with and still see now - a very likeable, calm bloke, who very rarely loses his rag - and for him to pick up Pietersen's cricket gear and throw it off the balcony suggests he was difficult.
The evidence stacks up against him. Not just Gallian, but Newell, Peter Moores, Strauss, Graeme Swann, Matt Prior.
From Kevin's perspective, with England, he felt a bit bullied by the quartet of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Swann and Prior; he says others were too, and that he was really hurt by a fake Twitter account that was set up to mock him. Strauss admits he probably should have clamped down on that.
But where does it end? When do you start to think it's you that is the problem, Kevin? He even acknowledges that in the documentary, reflecting that sometimes it was his fault, but also stands by that being just the way he was.
The ending was very acrimonious. There was a lot of hurt at the end of the 2013/14 Ashes tour.
Some people who we wanted to speak to for the documentary, like Flower, Alastair Cook, Prior, did not want to talk to us. It is still rather raw.
When England were winning, no one ever mentioned Pietersen as an issue, but the moment they were losing, going down 5-0 in the Ashes, it was his fault.
There was no silver bullet, it seems, as to why he was left out after that tour, just talk of whistling and of staring out of windows at team meetings, seeming completely disinterested.
The two parties had just grown apart. There was a lack of trust from Kevin in the team, and the team in Kevin.
Despite all the issues, the documentary is a reminder that KP was a genius with the bat - someone you would pay to watch - and in many ways ahead of his time.
Watch all five episodes of 'KP: Story of a Genius' ON DEMAND from Thursday or catch one episode per Test during this summer's Ashes series.
Watch every ball of the 2019 Ashes live on Sky Sports Cricket. Click here to upgrade now.