(Picture: Getty Images)
Kevin Pietersen has rejoined Surrey for this season’s T20 Blast and it’s great to see the big man back playing cricket in this country.
I was messaging him this week and we had a bit of good banter. I’m delighted that he wants to play in England.
Kevin wants to be involved and it’s also great for our game to have him back playing here. He’s one of the world’s great players and we have to respect that. His preparation, visualisation, fitness levels are all second to none.
He has elite standards and KP will inspire our kids. He’s a showman who loves the big game and performs more often than not.
His professionalism will rub off on that Surrey dressing room and with a potential top four in the batting line up of Jason Roy, Aaron Finch, Kumar Sangakkara and Kevin there is some serious power there.
I’d recommend wearing your hard hats in the crowd even with the new bat size laws that have been confirmed this week. That will not change a thing, the strength and timing these guys have will still see the ball sailing for six.
Surrey will obviously now be one of the favourites, and Warwickshire will be strong, too.
They’ll miss Chris Woakes with the England players generally not playing many T20s but they will still be a force.
The Blast has had it’s critics but the signing of KP shows that it’s still attracting the big players. People want to put their names in the hat for any potential franchise tournament, which would be a big payday.
So, if you can get a good reputation over here and are able to show that you can play in English conditions then that’s going to help.
KP lives in Surrey so it all works out ideally for him, but it’ll be a different dressing room he comes into at the Oval to the one he left a couple of years back. It’s great when you go back home, though.
I did it with Leicestershire, having spent a few years at Kent before going back to Grace Road.
There were a few familiar faces and you just slot straight back into your old routine.
We all know of the problems that KP, allegedly, causes but that’s obviously not the case at Surrey and that is why he’s been welcomed back with open arms.
It’s about individual needs and you have to manage the big characters carefully and Surrey are able to do just that.
It’s why all the big players have no problem with playing with each other – they’re all managed really well.
Kev has pulled out of this year’s IPL and Caribbean Premier League and, maybe, it’s a sign of the times.
The Big Bash in Australia feels like it was only yesterday and they’ve just had the PSL. Now there’s a tournament in Hong Kong and it won’t be long the IPL is back.
But, sometimes, less is more and the powers-that-be have got to be careful that the market is not becoming saturated with T20 competitions.
With Australia now struggling in India, as England did, a lot of focus is on the upcoming Ashes series. There’ll be a number of key battles with Joe Root and Steve Smith facing off, while the James Anderson-Mitchell Starc clash will also be interesting.
But the wicketkeeping battle will be key, too. If England stick with Jonny Bairstow and Matthew Wade stays behind the stumps for Australia, it should be advantage England.
I believe Bairstow is a better batsman and keeper than Wade. I think Australia are still undecided on him despite playing a number of games.
Australia is the easiest place in the world to keep wicket. The bounce is true and there’s always good carry so Jonny won’t have a problem over there. The only time it’s difficult to keep there is when the pitches crack, but that’s difficult no matter where you are!
It’s one of the best places to bat in the middle order, too. You tend to come in against an older ball but you can still trust the bounce. Jonny is the better batsman, and that could prove a key difference between the sides.
*This column originally featured in The Cricket Paper on Friday 10th March.