New Delhi: As the fog cleared from stage, the 6 foot 4 inch frame of Kevin Pietersen became clearer as the audience applause grew louder. In Delhi on Friday for a media interaction as the face of a leading watch manufacturer, Pietersen - dressed in black - was an eager speaker regarding his England future, his injury, the Champions Trophy and more.
"My aim is to score 10,000 Test runs," said the England batsman in a signal of intent to those who questioned his commitment to the national cause.
Former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff had recently suggested that KP may quit England after back-to-back Ashes series to focus solely on Twenty20 cricket. "Listen I have 7,500 Test runs at the moment and I plan on scoring another 2,500 at least," said the 32-year-old.
Pietersen was at the venue for a fleeting period of time - what he termed as a "flying two-hour visit". But like his persona, KP's words were unreserved and meaningful.
The past year has been a tumultuous one for Kevin Pietersen. In May 2012, he announced his retirement from One Day International cricket -- citing fatigue -- and was thereby rendered unavailable for Twenty20 internationals as well. After the 2nd Test of the 3-match series against the Proteas, KP was accused of sending text messages to his South African counterparts, which were derogatory towards his then skipper Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.
Pietersen has since apologized and following a successful Test tour of India, his re-integration in to the England squad is seemingly complete. With his wide smile, casual demeanor and immense talent, England have more to lose than gain without Pietersen in their ranks.
"I love playing for England and have no problems with anyone within the squad. Alastair Cook is a great captain and it is completely wrong to suggest that I have any sort of rivalry with him," added Pietersen.
Cook has an England-record 24 Test centuries while Pietersen is second on the list with 22- that puts him level with Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott.
The South Africa-born Pietersen is currently recovering from a knee injury that has ruled him out of the on-going Indian Premier League, New Zealand's tour of England and the ICC Champions Trophy.
"I'm mending at the moment," said KP, neither showing signs of injury nor pain. "I will not be taking any risks with my knee before the Ashes. I will be fully fit by June and that gives me enough time to practice before the Ashes start in July."
A large number of former players have suggested that this will be the 'weakest' Australian squad to contest the Ashes, but Pietersen is far from convinced by the old enemy's apparent demise. "Look, Australia have a young squad but are far from being a weak one. They are desperate to regain the Ashes so it should be a fascinating contest."
Prior to the Ashes, England will host the final edition of the ICC Champions Trophy, an event which Pietersen will miss.
"Batsmen will find the conditions tough in England. The team with the best swing bowlers should win. India stand a very good chance if they include Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav in their squad," said KP with his recipe for Champions Trophy success.
KP's love-affair with India and Delhi in particular is a mutual one.
"Delhi is my second home. I love this city and this country," he added, in tribute to a city that houses his IPL franchise and a country that celebrates flamboyance and swagger - qualities Pietersen possesses in abundance.
Story first published on: Friday, 03 May 2013 17:01 IST