Kevin Pietersen might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he played innings for England that very few could

Kevin Pietersen played some of the great innings of the modern era in an England shirt. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Kevin Pietersen might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he played innings for England that very few could

BANGLAORE: Years from now, if someone asks you how good Kevin Pietersen the batsman was, you need only show them a 30-second clip as your answer. It is from the fractious summer of 2012, and a series against South Africa that would cast a long shadow over the rest of his international career.
The visitors won by an innings at The Oval, with Dale Steyn taking five for 56 in the second innings. At Headingley, facing a South Africa total of 419, Pietersen played one of the finest innings of his career, 149 off just 214 balls. One stroke exemplified his dominance. Steyn, then in his prime, dropped one short. Pietersen barely moved from his stance while swatting the ball through midwicket for four.
Contemptuous doesn’t even begin to describe it. Imperious. Regal. Dismissive. But the highlight of the footage is not the shot itself. It’s the sight of an incredulous Steyn walking back to his bowling mark, muttering. The body language is telling. It is like he is asking himself: “How do I bowl to this bloke?”
Three of the hundreds Pietersen made that year, including the Headingley one, may never be bettered by an England batsman. At the P Sara Oval in Colombo that April, on a pitch where the average run rate was well below three, he smashed 151 off 165 balls, with 16 fours and six sixes. Then, with England chasing 94 for a series-leveling win, he came out and thumped 42 off 28.
At the end of the year, England were in India. They lost the first Test in Ahmedabad, and Cheteshwar Pujara’s doughty century then took India to 327 on a raging turner in Mumbai. Expert commentators and veteran journalists alike reckoned England would struggle to get anywhere close to that total, with R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha having the ball on a string.
When Pietersen arrived at the crease, England had eked out 68 for two in 34 overs. By the time, he was sixth out for 186 (233 balls), they had added a further 314 at four an over. Pietersen’s drives, cuts, flicks, sweeps and reverse sweeps utterly destroyed the bowlers’ confidence, and England went on to win both the Test and the series.
Yet, less than 14 months later, he had played his last Test for England, tallying three and six in Sydney as England lost the Ashes 5-0 for the second time in seven years. He was a convenient scapegoat, especially given his behavior during the series loss against South Africa in 2012. His description of Andrew Strauss, his then captain, as a "doos" [an extremely unflattering Afrikaans word] in a text message sent to the South African camp ensured that his relationship with the rest of the dressing room was a tenuous one. Though a few players stuck up for him after he was axed, there was no mutinous mood over the jettisoning of England’s most captivating batsman.

That tended to be a theme wherever he played. When he left South Africa as a young man, convinced that the transformation policies would stymie his progress, the general response was ‘Good riddance’. You heard the same thing from his teammates at Nottinghamshire, where he made all the runs that got him into the England reckoning.
Some though would argue that the abrasiveness was a self-protective shell. Michael Vaughan, his captain during that famous Ashes summer of 2005 when he made both his debut and his name, certainly thought so. In an interview with The Guardian after the urn had been won back, Vaughan said: “KP is not a confident person. He obviously has great belief in his ability, but that's not quite the same thing. I know KP wants to be loved. I try to text him and talk to him as often as I can because I know he is insecure.”
With Pietersen, what you saw was seldom what you got. He was a master at saying the right things to the right people. In December 2008, a few weeks after terror attacks in Mumbai left hundreds dead and wounded, India chased down 387 in Chennai against an England side led by him. At the press conference, Pietersen was charm personified, calling Sachin Tendulkar "Superman" and making all the right noises about India and its people.
A few months later, he went for $1.55 million at the IPL auction. But in nearly a decade, he played just 36 IPL games, and none at all after 2016. The franchises thought him box-office, and he played the odd innings that proved as much, but you could never escape the impression that he hated the goldfish-bowl atmosphere of the IPL.
The last four years have been a blur of Twenty20 games across continents, most of the innings forgotten by the next morning. But what will endure, despite all the controversy, is his body of work with England. Just think back to that Lord’s debut — the six over long-off against Glenn McGrath, the soaring clip over midwicket off Shane Warne, and the Brett Lee short ball that landed up on a balcony.
He may not have been everyone’s cup of Tetley tea, but Pietersen could play. Like few others ever have.


Kariman Abuljadayel has sights set on more Olympic glory and inspiring a nation

Updated 20 July 2018
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Kariman Abuljadayel has sights set on more Olympic glory and inspiring a nation

  • Saudi sprinter made history at Rio Olympics becoming the first woman from the Kingdom to run in the 100m
  • Abuljadayel hopes to inspire more women into taking up sport in Saudi Arabia

Kariman Abuljadayel has not finished making history. The Saudi Arabian sprinter made a name for herself as the first woman from the Kingdom to run in the 100 meters at the Olympics. That race in Rio de Janeiro two years ago did much to change the perception of female athletes in Saudi Arabia, coming four years after Sarah Attar became the first Saudi Arabian woman to take part in the global games.
What could prove to be more of a boon for women in the Kingdom than even Abuljadayel’s and Attar’s remarkable runs are the changes currently taking place in the country. Last month the ban on women driving was lifted, just a few months after females were allowed in sports stadiums and the inaugural all-women’s run took place in Riyadh in March.
Abuljadayel said she hopes that these moves will prove to be game-changers, not just in terms of equality, but that they will also be a springboard to success for aspiring Saudi Arabian sportswomen.
“I feel like the idea of allowing Saudi girls to drive is giving them independence, empowering them to dream and (helping them) achieve that dream,” she told Arab News.
“It will facilitate them getting to sports events and help in many areas. And will being able to attend sports events boost women’s sport? Definitely.
“I want girls to appreciate the opportunities that Saudi Arabia is creating and not take them for granted. They need to take these opportunities and experiences to help them grow.
“I believe it is only a matter of time before we will be a society fully promoting sport.”
If the latter goal is embraced with the zeal with which the 24-year-old Abuljadayel exudes and attacks every training session, she believes great things beckon for Saudi Arabian sport, despite the country’s unremarkable Olympic track record. The Kingdom has claimed only three medals — one silver and two bronze — in 10 appearances at the Olympics. Saudi Arabian women were first allowed to compete at the Games at London 2012 following pressure from the International Olympic Committee.
Abuljadayel said: “Gold is not impossible. We’ve seen many countries winning gold. But in order to win gold, you need to go the extra mile.
“It’s (about) hard work, dedication and patience for years. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
“Eventually if you really want to be the best in the world, of course you can be the best in the world. I live in a society right now that provides other Saudi girls with these kinds of opportunities.
“It’s up to them to take them and take (sport) to the next level.”
Abuljadayel lamented the fact she was denied such opportunities, and described being unable to attend sports events in her homeland as “a huge miss.”
Yet even so, the 24-year-old would not be deterred from pursuing her passion for sport.
“Along with my friends I was part of a football team and we organized matches in our school in Riyadh. All proceeds from the matches went to the workers in our school,” she said.
Abuljadayel never dreamed of participating in the Olympics. But then came the watershed moment in the summer of 2012 when the ban on Saudi Arabian women taking part was lifted, shortly before the London Games and 800 meter runner Attar joined judo player Wojdan Shaherkani to make history.
Attar provided one of the stand-out images of the those Olympics when, resplendent in a white hijab and vibrant green, long-sleeved jacket, she became the first woman from the Kingdom to compete at the Games. The then 19-year-old received a standing ovation and worldwide acclaim for her landmark achievement, despite finishing last in her qualifying heat by some distance.
Abuljadayel was so inspired that she joined the track team of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where she studied architecture. Just four years later she was one of four females competing for Saudi Arabia at the Rio Olympics.
She finished seventh in her 100 meter heat, but she was also widely lauded for her pioneering feat.
Now Abuljadayel hopes to enhance her reputation by qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. And, if she does, she will not just be content to take part like she did when she was in Rio.
Abuljadayel, who just months before her Olympic debut set a national record in the 60 meters at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, said: “It was a milestone that I reached Rio, but I feel like it’s just the beginning of the road. It gave me experience to prepare me for the next step. For me, that’s qualifying for the upcoming rounds. That’s definitely my goal.
“If I go to the next Olympics, I will definitely know what to expect and how to react and the amount of work to put in.”
Before then, however, she has her work cut out adapting to a change of discipline after switching from the 100 meters to the 400 meters. Her coach felt that the statuesque six-footer’s stride pattern would better suit longer distances.
The doughty Abuljadayel seems equipped for any challenge she faces on and off the track, though, including that of being a role model in her homeland and the Middle East in general. Eloquent and animated, she has also excelled academically, becoming an
accredited architect, after being awarded her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“I feel like my experience can help motivate others. Before me there was no one. No one had run the 100 meters,” she said.
“So, if a girl thought: ‘I want to run the 100 meters’ before I did it in Rio, she would think: ‘But no one did it before, why would I?’. But after I ran the race, she would think: ‘Oh, she did it, so can I.’ That’s actually great. I hope I can be a role model.
“But that’s up to people, not me. What I can deliver is results and hope those results inspire people. If it’s in Saudi Arabia, great. If it’s outside of (the country) even better.
“At the end of the day, I am a proud Saudi citizen and I hope my community is proud of me.”
Abuljadayel, who has trained in the US and Berlin, said that her own role model is someone outside of sport — her mother Suraya.
Of her galvanizing impact, she said: “She’s the one that I go to, she’s the one I call. She’s a huge factor in my success. She was there in Rio, at the World (Indoors) Championships and all my competitions. Having this unconditional support for me means the world.”
Abuljadayel, who is currently taking a break from training, enjoyed watching the Green Falcons play at the recent World Cup. She even traveled to Switzerland last month to attend the inaugural Julius Baer Zurich E-Prix, the penultimate race of the 2017/18 all-electric ABB FIA Formula E Championship season, describing it as “inspiring” and “a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Her visit was also symbolic because the championship — which was launched in 2014 — will make its Middle East debut in Riyadh on Dec. 15, the 10-team discipline’s 2018/19 season-opener.
Abuljadayel is “really excited” about the race, particularly because it is set to include activities for women just months after they were first allowed behind the wheel in the country.
“I feel it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity to inspire the millennials and other people in Riyadh to witness such a new and innovative sport that can give you entertainment but with sustainable solutions,” she said.
“The Riyadh race agreement is for 10 years, so this will really accelerate the development of the sport in the Kingdom. It’s held in cities like New York, Berlin and Shanghai and the advent of hosting this in Riyadh opens up lots of opportunities for driving enthusiasts in the country, including women.”

SAUDI ARABIAN GAME CHANGERS 

SARAH ATTAR: Attar was the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete at the Olympics. She came last in her 800 meter heat in London but won the hearts of fans around the world. The photo of her crossing the finish line in 2012 is one of the truly iconic sporting images of the past decade. She followed up her London run by moving up to the marathon in Rio four years later. 

WOJDAN SHAHERKANI: Shaherkani took up judo thanks to her father being a judo referee. It was a decision she would not regret as she became the second woman from Saudi Arabia to take part at the Olympics. The 22-year-old was a blue belt when she competed in the London Games and she said: “In the future we will and I will be a star for women’s participation.”

ASEEL AL-HAMAD: Al-Hamad is the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and is also on the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. She drove a lap of the French Grand Prix’s Le Castellet circuit in a Formula One car on the day the ban on women driving on the Kingdom’s roads was lifted. “Today is the birth of women in motorsport,” she said.