Published as part of the slew of post 2005 Ashes cash-in literature, Crossing the Boundary is a curious mixture: part ghosted autobiography, part exercise in brand building, part self-justification, and part chance to settle old scores.
Clearly the Kevin Pietersen of 2006 - when this book first appeared - had a number of ‘issues’ he wanted to clarify. As a cricketer who has had many accusations hurled in his direction: traitor to his country, troublemaker, show pony, opportunist, someone who is not a team player; it’s no wonder that a large part of Crossing the Boundary is taken up with him putting the record straight, as he sees it.
Some of this, almost three years down the line in late 2008, has dated and seems unnecessary. High profile commercial deals are now common place for England’s international cricketers, the kiss-and-tell stories have faded from memory to be replaced by a happily married man, and the accusation that off-field activities would detract from on-field performances have been proven incorrect. All we’re really left with is Pieterson trying to justify a rather stupid haircut on the basis that working-class kids will find it cool. If you want to look cool, Kevin, stick to the basics: wear black and move slowly.
Other issues, however, continue to dog him; in particular the rights and wrongs of the journey that took Pietersen from his native South Africa to England. Here a concerted effort is made to state his case, but it’s one unlikely to change minds already made, as the facts remain the same: Pieterson has an English mother and an Afrikaner father, he was born and bred in South Africa, but after finding his career held back by that countries racial quota system in cricket, came to England and played through a four-year qualification period before making his international debut. You either believe that his treatment in South Africa explains a change of loyalty to the land of his mother, or you think he’s a South African who has made a career decision to play for England. There is little in this book that will alter your initial feelings.
Elsewhere the journey through his career is used to settle old scores, as difficult periods of his life are revisited. Most of this is fair enough, as these are experiences that have helped form his character and career, and have been used by others as a stick to beat him with. The problem is that Pietersen has an occasional tendency to go beyond setting the record straight.
A perfect example is a story from his childhood, of being overlooked for selection in a school side in favour of another boy he believed to be of lesser talent. It’s an anecdote that mirrors his later experiences with the quota system; so it’s inclusion in the book makes perfect sense. But why did he need to name the boy, and label him a teacher’s pet? What purpose did that serve? It was the coach who was responsible for the decision. The impression left is not that Pieterson has suffered the vagaries of selection throughout his life, but that he can at times, be a rather petty man, immature, and unable to let go of the perceived injustices of the past.
There are also a number of examples scattered throughout the book, of figures from Pietersen’s past, with whom he had some kind of disagreement, coming forward since his elevation to sporting fame, asking for signed memorabilia for benefits, club auctions etc. This is mentioned to highlight their hypocrisy. Quite possibly it does. It also might indicate that they’ve moved on from the past and harbour no grudge. Pietersen it seems, feels differently. For a man who comes from a religious family, the Christian virtue of forgiveness appears to hold less sway over his present day emotions than the childhood vice of being a bad loser.
The overall picture painted is of a highly talented man, driven by an intense desire to reach the very top, but one who has difficulty relating to those who fall short of the same standards – it’s noticeable that very few of the numerous players Pietersen cites as close friends, are journeymen pros. What that says about Pietersens’s current relationship with Peter Moores, is up for debate.
Indeed, Crossing the Boundary makes interesting reading in the light of his appointment to England captaincy. You can only hope that the 2008 Kevin Pietersen spends less time fighting the battles of the past and saves his energy for fighting the ones of the present.
Verdict: Written with one eye on the long term cricket enthusiast and one eye on the ‘new breed of fan’ that had discovered the game during the summer of 2005, the resultant balancing act is another curious mix; veering as it does from the technicalities of shot selection based on field settings, to a broad brush explanation of Shane Warne’s stature within the game, for the uninitiated.
The writing style is conversational, and not a particularly highbrow conversation at that - a chapter about his wife, lurches very close to Katie Price territory.
Insight is given to Pietersen’s personality, but it may not be the entirely positive image that was intended. Pietersen is a man who can illicit strong opinion; too strong perhaps, to be swayed by the contents of this particular book.
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