Pietersen: England's next generation of stars can score with The Hundred
Kevin Pietersen believes The Hundred can be the breeding ground for the next generation of England stars.
Ahead of the new tournament’s launch on Wednesday, Pietersen revealed to LiveScore exactly why he thinks it is such an important step for English cricket.
Towards the end of his glittering career, KP played in franchise tournaments all around the world — much to the dismay of the ECB.
But the country’s best Twenty20 players are now encouraged to compete in the Indian Premier League, Pakistan Super League, Big Bash League and Caribbean Premier League.
It has helped transform England into one of the world's dominant white-ball sides — and Pietersen believes younger cricketers will thrive from playing in The Hundred.
The former England star said: "Franchise cricket is the greatest academy for learning — for experienced players, for young players, for developing players, for squad players, for coaches, for assistant coaches.
"It is because they get to fraternise with the best of the best over a four to six-week period. And when you get that opportunity to learn from the best, if you’re a good player or a great player, you watch how the other great players do it.
"If you’re not so good a player or a fringe player, you sit, you watch and you idolise these guys and then ask yourself how you can improve.
“I’ve seen it with the IPL. You look at the strength and depth of Indian cricket. I’ve seen it in the Big Bash — although not anymore because they don’t have any good players who play it anymore.
"I’ve seen it in all of the domestic tournaments where young players absolutely love the fact they have got international superstars that share the dressing room with them. It’s the greatest academy for learning."
Pietersen is quick to highlight it will not be handed on a plate to the county players experiencing this level of cricket for the first time.
But he believes the prospect of earning large pay cheques around the world as a result of good performances will mean they do not waste the opportunity.
Pietersen, 41, added: “Youngsters have got to take the opportunity. You can lead the horse to water but you can’t force it to drink.
"It’s up to the individuals now to use that opportunity when they do share dressing rooms with these players. Some guys have had a little taste of the IPL, so they’ll get it there.
"They play franchise cricket all around the world, so it’s not particularly about the English guys who do play franchise cricket.
"It’s about the fringe players, the county players. Where we sit at the moment in county cricket, there is such a huge gap between it and international cricket.
"The reason for that is franchise cricket is leading the way in taking the best players away from what used to be the county game.
"When I started you had Allan Donald, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Murali, Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock, Wasim Akram, Greg Blewett, Chris Cairns, Stephen Fleming… you had all the best players in the world playing county cricket.
"They were making the league and players so much better. They were developing the youngsters.
"But since franchise cricket has come along, why would a guy want to navigate the M1, M5, M6, M4 and M40 for six months of the year for £150k? Not when he can go and play the PSL, the IPL and the Caribbean League and earn 10 times more money for less work.
"The opportunity for the domestic game and the youngsters here is huge."
While Pietersen is confident a franchise competition can be a roaring success in England, he knows it all depends on the format.
On the subject of whether The Hundred could rival the more established leagues, he said: "Potentially. I’d love to sit here and say it is but potentially.
"This is going to be a complete trial on a brand new format. So hopefully yes but it’s going to be a trial.
"Nobody has seen this format yet. The players haven’t played it. We’ve never called the games, I never played this. We’ll all be learning. The first year will prove if it is to be successful.
"Also there is a big issue with T20 cricket about the pace of play. T20 now is going way too late into the night.
"We used to be on a clock when we started in 2005. We saw that clock and if you hadn’t bowled your overs, you’re done. But the players always made sure we bowled our overs.
"One of the most important things around The Hundred is that these guys get through their overs and get these games done.
"That’ll really keep that young audience — that new audience they’re looking to entertain — engrossed in the game."
Pietersen will be commentating on The Hundred for Sky Sports as full crowds return to English cricket grounds for the first time in nearly two years.
Always a player to rise to the big occasion, it is no surprise he is just as excited to work in packed grounds again.
He added; "I was calling games in the IPL this year, in Ahmedabad — a 100,000-seater stadium — and you’re calling it without fans. It’s really hard.
"Calling all these games over the past 12 months has been very hard. But you could just see the emotion at the Euro 2020 final on people's faces.
"And you can tell stories off the faces of spectators. I’m buzzing, like I know the players will be buzzing, to share this experience with fans."
Kevin Pietersen is part of the Sky Sports team for The Hundred this summer. Watch every ball of the competition live on Sky Sports The Hundred.