Kevin Pietersen insists he is happy to have been the trailblazer for English players wanting to play franchise cricket – even if it saw him painted as the “bad guy”.
The 36-year-old has not played for England in the last three-and-a-half years after being exiled in early 2014.
While Pietersen was always keen on a return to international cricket, he has made a name for himself playing Twenty20 cricket around the globe.
He turned out for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural Indian Premier League and has gone on to play T20 cricket in the Caribbean, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan.
Now Pietersen has been announced as one of eight marquee players for South Africa’s T20 Global League.
The England and Wales Cricket Board previously took a hard line with individuals who wanted to play in the lucrative IPL, with former coach Andy Flower citing Pietersen’s desire to participate as the catalyst for his acrimonious fall-out in 2012.
Times have changed and England’s centrally-contracted players are free to play, with Ben Stokes named player of the series in the recent tournament.
Speaking at the launch event for the new franchise competition, which is due to begin later this year, Pietersen said he has no issues with being ahead of the curve and ending up at loggerheads with the ECB as it paved the way for others to follow suit.
“I’m lucky to have these T20 tournaments where I can still produce on the big stages. This is the environment I have been in since 2008,” he said.
“It is the environment that got me in trouble with all the big bosses, this is the environment where it is now being applauded and they are willing to risk injuries for players to participate for the experience.
“This got me in a lot of my trouble. I was promoting it and saying we needed to get more English players into the set-up.
“I was painted as the bad guy and I’m totally cool with it because the public can see the picture that is now being rolled out.
“It is nice to see the youngsters, (Chris) Woakes going out there, Stokes going out there. I was out there commentating and it is great to see these youngsters doing what they do, it was absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t be happier.”
Having been widely vilified since he was left out of the England set-up, Pietersen received support from former international colleague Steve Harmison – who claimed the ex-captain was “hung out to dry” by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
They were words that did not go unnoticed by Pietersen: “I spoke to him after and said ‘that is really kind, thank you’ and he said it was just a pity no one else has come out and said it.
“But it is water under the bridge, it was a long time ago. It was a nice thing to see but it doesn’t affect me, I’m very happy nowadays – on the golf course or playing in leagues throughout the world.”
Pietersen has also played for Surrey in recent years but revealed this summer could be his last in England as he looks to focus on things away from the cricket pitch.
He said: “Next year I’m building a house in the Kruger national park so all of next summer I will be at my house in South Africa – so I won’t be playing in England. I think this will be my last stint in England.
“Surrey have been so good to me, I was in there the other day doing a photo-shoot with someone and it felt like I hadn’t left the dressing room but I hadn’t been there in 18 months.
“I go back training in a couple of weeks time and I can’t wait, it is something I’m looking forward to, it is not a schlep, it is something I am really excited about.”
Pietersen also backed Joe Root to be a success as England’s new Test captain, heading into this summer’s series against South Africa.
“He is the only man to take England forward,” he said.
“I don’t see anyone else doing it. Everything Joe has done so far in his career has been A-grade, absolutely A-grade.
“I love him as a guy and as a player, his captaincy is going to be tested because South Africa is a tough place to start. They are really tough to beat. There is a lot of energy and excitement around South Africa.”
Pietersen will be joined by current England players Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan as one of the marquee Global League players who will turn out for the eight franchises announced on Monday.
Durban, Benoni, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth have been selected as the eight cities to participate in the competition.