KEVIN PIETERSEN’S first task on arriving in South Africa? Offering a little advice to the other bloke in the England squad with that dodgy aksent, Jonathan Trott.
KP, off the crutches he used for weeks after the mid-Ashes operation on his right ankle, flew in late to join the tour in Johannesburg and said: “I’ve just caught up with Trottie and asked how everything’s been so far — he said it had been great.
“I had a long chat with Jonathan in the dressing room after the Ashes, talking about the little things I didn’t do when I first came into the England side that perhaps he could do — to try to stop him making the mistakes I made.”
Pietersen, 29, doesn’t like to be reminded of his attitude when he first appeared for England against his former homeland in a stormy series in 2005.
The unrepentant manner and the multi-coloured “skunk” hairstyle didn’t go down to well with the old guard at the ECB — and South African fans were only too happy to jump on the bandwagon, heckling the Pietermaritzburg-born batsman with some relish.
Both the hair and the mood are much quieter now as Pietersen recalls: “Don’t remind me. I was 24, still growing up and I was having a great time, fresh and buzzing. I hadn’t had many knocks along the way. In the last few years I’ve grown up, got married and am a lot more mature. This year has been like never before but it’s all part of development and learning.
“It’s been a fantastic ride and I want to jump back on now. I have identified the next four or five years to get back on that treadmill again.
“It’s been a horrible year but I can turn that around by playing some great cricket against South Africa. I love playing here. The wickets are good and it’s a fantastic country. It’s a recipe to make runs.”
And old foe Trott? “I’ve heard he’s been fantastic in the dressing room and there will be no problems between us.
“Yes, we were opponents growing up in South Africa but that’s because he played for Western Province and I played for Natal — they were big rivals.”
That rivalry will pale into insignificance at the Wanderers’ bull-ring on Friday night, venue of the first Twenty-20 international — and the opening clash of a battle between England and South Africa which will run until the end of the fourth Test, back in Johannesburg, in mid-January next year.
Pietersen won’t play on Friday “unless the injuries pile up” but he adds: “It was pretty hostile five years ago, but I’ve been back for the Twenty20 World Cup and the IPL and had fantastic receptions. Hopefully they respect the cricket I’ve played in the last five years.
“What happened to me at the Wanderers in 2005 will come up over the next couple of days and if Trotty wants to talk about it I’ll help in any way I can.
“But I won’t force myself on him. I’ve thought about how the crowds will be this time over here.
“All our efforts have to go on beating South Africa, not worrying what anyone else says. It doesn’t bother me how the South African crowds react.”
What might bother him is mischievous spinner Graeme Swann’s suggestion earlier in the week that Pietersen may struggle to break into a side which blasted through their opening games in some style.
But after the crashing defeat against South Africa A in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night, Pietersen grins: “I think the team looks like they’re really on fire out here.
“I’m very encouraged.”
NEAL COLLINS will be joining the England tour next month. Read his daily blog from South Africa and express your views on the tour simply by logging on to www.nealcollins.co.uk.