INSIDE STORY: Pietersen’s worthy cause

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Stepping up: England star’s KP Foundation’s first project in UAE.

With more than 25,000 runs in all formats, Kevin Pietersen has been fortunate to enjoy a professional career which has seen him travel around the world.

While time in the international game appears to be over, the 35-year-old continues to play T20 tournaments in the Big Bash, Indian Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League.

Known for his flamboyant strokeplay at the crease, it is no surprise he is considered as an idol by many children. 

Wherever he travels, Pietersen has a huge following. And having seen a passion for the game among children in all corners of the world, some from underprivileged backgrounds, he has always wanted to give something back.

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“There wasn’t really an exact moment where I realised this was something I wanted to do,” Pietersen told Sport360.

“But it was more the effect of seeing and meeting these children over a number of years and realising I really needed to give something back.

“I’ve had some of the toughest net sessions I had in places like India where local kids have bowled using incredible wrist technique and I’ve improved my spin as a result.

“Unfortunately, I’ve never given the time they deserved due to match commitments  or moving to the next place.

“From then I’ve been determined to do something and launch the KP24 Foundation.”

Launched  in a glittering ceremony in Dubai last November, the foundation has the aim of providing life-changing opportunities for those most in need and least financially able.

Fast forward to today and after months of hard work, the foundation is already into its first project. Nearly 10 months of planning and after £100,000 was raised through donations and masterclasses delivered by Pietersen in the UK, the Sprite 24/7 Project, is already underway in Dubai. 

Sixty children, aged between 15 and 18, from Kenya, India, Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka have been flown into the UAE for this all-expenses paid 10-day initiative.

Given Pietersen’s lofty profile and contacts in the game, it was not difficult gaining interest for children.

“Pietersen has a strong connection to some of the countries,” said Richard Logan, director of the KP24 Foundation and a former first-class cricketer for Hampshire and Nottinghamshire.

“Kumar Sangakkara put us in touch with someone in Sri Lanka and Pietersen has a high-profile in India so that was no problem.

“In Australia, Melbourne Stars were happy to help out, while Mushtaq Ahmed knows KP very well and happily helped out.

“We took adva-ntage of ICC Academy’s contacts with Kenya Cricket Association and managed to get a team for them to take part.”

The participating countries have been formed by organisations who specifically chose their 12 players.

“We wanted to ensure we got the right players,” said Logan.

“We went through a criteria and gave them a list of what we wanted. For example, we wanted them to choose children who never had this opportunity and are talented.”

The project has so far seen the youngsters take part in a fitness challenge, meet England international Jason Roy as well as watching the second T20 between England and Pakistan on Friday in Dubai.

Also on the agenda, are training sessions with Pietersen as well as an enterprise class with Intercoil International, a multinational company which specialises in sleep products.

This all builds up to the Sprite 24/7 Project tournament that will see the children showcase their talent in a T20 competition at Ajman, Sharjah before the finale at Abu Dhabi this Friday. But it’s more than just a cricket tournament.

“We want to develop the children as a better person individually,” said Logan. “We want them to give them something that when they go back to their respective countries they will teach people of what they learned or improve themselves.

“It’s an integral part and they have had an experience of doing media interviews, plus they will tour the Intercoil offices in an ent-erprise session and get a chance to do Powerpoint presentations.”

He added: “The finals of the tournament will be held in Sheikh Zayed Stadium and with Sprite also hosting their regional final at the same in front of 10,000 people, it will be a great chance for them to play in an international stadium in front of so many people.”

So far, the players have embraced the opportunity and spoke glowingly of the initiative.

“It’s a really good project and not just to play cricket but an opportunity to meet new people from other countries,” said Rhys, 18, from Australia.

“Foremost it will enhance our cricket abilities but we will also learn something new and teach people when we go back in whatever walks of life we go into.”

Besides their involvement in Dubai, the coaching staff will select one person from each country who will receive a scholarship.

“It might be financially or be given a kit. It all depends,” said Logan. “They may not be the best player but the one who has developed the most and put in a lot of hard work.”

Maybe in a few years time one of these 60 children could follow into Pietersen’s footsteps and become an international star. A dream that Pietersen and his team hopes to achieve. 

“I just want them to have fun and come away with a goal of life skill that they can improve their life with,” said Pietersen.

“There is a huge desire from myself and the team to make it as big as it possibly can be. It is a project for life,” he added.

Logan has confirmed the UK will host next year’s programme and there are plans to make it an annual event. 

“The UK will be a much longer tour and could start at the beginning of the summer while we could also roll out  the programme to South Africa and Australia.”

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Out of action: Mitchell Starc.

Australia’s pace spearhead Mitchell Starc said it could be up to four weeks before he knows when he can bowl again after another injury setback in the Adelaide day-night Test.

Starc bowled only nine overs in New Zealand’s first innings before he heard a crack in his right foot and left the field for treatment.

Scans revealed a stress fracture and he is wearing a protective boot so the foot can heal.

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The country’s premier fast bowler following the recent retirement of Mitchell Johnson said he was unsure when he would be back.

“It’s about recovery now and healing and getting back on the horse and I guess working back on my bowling and hopefully being back sooner rather later,” he said before returning home after Australia’s three-wicket win over the Kiwis on Sunday.

“I honestly don’t know,” he added when asked when he would be back.

“Once I get home I can talk to the medical staff a bit more and map it out and see what it looks like, but at the moment it’s trying to let the bone heal for now.

“I’ll be in this (protective) boot for another three to four weeks depending on how it’s going and then reassess it.

“There’s no point putting a time on it yet until the bone heals.” But he added that the foot injury “is not something that will rule me out of the entire summer season”.

Starc has been managing a troublesome right ankle since the Ashes series in England this year, and said that it wasn’t causing him any great bother against New Zealand.

“Obviously, my ankle has been a bit of an issue in the last six to nine months and it’s actually been going OK, so it’s frustrating that the foot injury has come up and I felt it crack that last ball,” Starc said.

“It is something we’ve been managing for a while and I had a couple more cortisone (injections) after the Perth Test so it’s something that has been managed quite well.”

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Waqar Younis credits Sania Mirza for Shoaib Malik’s turnaround

Emmad Hameed 30/11/2015
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Pakistan's Shoaib Malik was instrumental during the series against England.

Shoaib Malik’s return to the Pakistan team has been one of the highlights of the year for cricket fans.

Coach Waqar Younis is greatly impressed by his transformation and feels that his wife tennis star Sania Mirza must be lauded for the ‘new Malik’.

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“Credit must be given to his wife, she’s a top level sports star herself so she knows how to deal with the demands and pressures of the game. I find Malik a lot more humble and understanding than before and his game has gone up a notch too,” Waqar told Sport360.

Malik was in instrumental form against England in Abu Dhabi last month, scoring 245 in his first Test appearance in over five years.

He returned his best Test figures of 4 for 33 in 9.5 overs as the tourists were bowled out for 306 in the first innings.

Meanwhile, Waqar is yet to confirm whether he will extend his coaching contract as Pakistan coach.

“I am not sure if I’ll be around for the England tour or not, but the fact is that we need rigorous preparations for the Test series. We need to prepare practice wickets that offer seam and bounce; perhaps we need to use English balls to fine tune.

“We might have an experienced batting line-up in Tests but that alone is not going to help there. England are very good at home and they will be gunning to avenge the Test defeat here,” Waqar said.

The former Test captain, who enjoyed an illustrious career as one of the most feared fast bowlers during the 90s, made an impassioned commitment to Pakistan cricket.

“Cricket is my bread and butter; ask my wife how much I am committed to the cause of Pakistan cricket. I so want them at the top of the world. I can tell you I won’t give up; I am a fighter and have always tried to come through tough times in my life.”

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