Kevin Pietersen acknowledges his mistakes but insists he has no regrets as he approaches the “surreal” moment of his 100th Test match.
England’s most talked-about cricketer will reach a century of caps tomorrow at the Gabba, when Alastair Cook’s tourists begin their bid for a fourth consecutive Ashes series triumph.
Pietersen will become just the 10th England player with 100 or more Tests to his name.
It all so nearly did not happen, however, for the South Africa-born batsman – because of last year’s breakdown of a working relationship with then captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.
Only a period of ‘reintegration’ ensured Pietersen’s return for last winter’s tour of India, and he has since added a historic series victory there and last summer’s Ashes success to his CV.
Pietersen addressed a media conference at the Gabba yesterday for the first time apart from in a post-match environment since Colombo 14 months ago, and did not seek to hide away from his lows as well as his highs.
The former include sending “provocative” text messages about Strauss to his compatriots in the South Africa touring team, at a time in summer 2012 when differences with his employers at the England and Wales Cricket Board had become intractable.
Pietersen said: “When you’re riding the crest of a wave and everything’s going really well for you, it’s hard to learn. But when you make mistakes in life, business, anything, that’s when you learn. I think as a person, you grow when you make mistakes.
“We’ve all made mistakes in all our lives. That’s when you learn the most, and if I hadn’t learned I wouldn’t be sitting (here) on the eve of my 100th Test match.”
The 33-year-old insists he holds no grudges against those who have chronicled his turbulent yet brilliant career, warts and all.
“I think with the way I’ve played – certainly against the norm – I was clearly going to be identified and targeted by journalists.
“I’ve clearly had to back it up on the field – and I’ve had fun. It’s been a great journey. The good has been good; the bad has been bad. Where my career is at now, I don’t think I can be any happier. I’m incredibly happy.”
As he stands on the verge of joining an elite group, Pietersen can scarcely believe the company he is about to keep.
Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement after his 200th Test three days ago, and centuries reached by England footballer Frank Lampard and New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter spring to his mind, but he is determined not to be deflected from the job he has to do over the next six weeks – and beyond.
“I’ll probably look back on it when I’ve finished my career and see it as something quite special,” he said. “But at the moment I just see it as the start of an important Ashes series. It’s one we’ve come to win.”
There are other goals too, before he retires.
“With this side, we’ve won everything. We’ve won a Twenty20 World Cup, Ashes home and away; we’ve won in India,” he added. “The World Cup 2015 is something I’d love to have a go at with England.
“So there’s that, and I’ve got home and away hundreds against each major nation – apart from South Africa.
“I think our tour to South Africa is in 2015-16. So if the old man can survive until then, I’d like to get there. I know there’s been a lot of people talking about my career, but it’s my opinion that I’ll be playing for a while yet.”
Date: Thursday, November 21 (midnight tonight GMT).
Venue: The Gabba, Brisbane.
Coverage: Live on Sky Sports 2 from 11pm tonight and on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra from 11.30pm.
Australia (from): MJ Clarke (Captain), CJL Rodgers, DA Warner, SR Watson, SPD Smith, GJ Bailey, BJ Haddin (wkt), MG Johnson, RJ Harris, PM Siddle, NM Lyon, JP Faulkner
England (from): AN Cook (Captain), MA Carberry, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, JE Root, MJ Prior (wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, CT Tremlett, JM Anderson, JM Bairstow
Umpires: A Dar (Pak) and K Dharmasena (SL).