London, Nov.16 (ANI): Former South African cricketer Clive Rice has claimed that England's best batsman Kevin Pietersen almost gave up playing cricket for surfing.
Rice claims he more than anyone persuaded KP to cut his ties with South Africa and opt for England while in county cricket at Nottinghamshire.
Rice was cricket manager at Notts in2000 and had seen enough of Pietersen to know that a special talent was in danger of being wasted, reports The Mirror.
The tabloid quoted Rice, as saying: "I'd seen him playing and knew that he was a huge talent. I said, 'KP, pack your bags. I'm sending you a contract and in four years' time I'll have you playing for England'. That's exactly what happened."
Before the switch, Pietersen had found himself struggling to make a name in South African cricket due to a quota system designed to encourage black cricketers.
Rice believes Pietersen's life could have taken a very different course had he been left to fester in the country of his birth.
Rice said: "If he had stayed he would probably be a surfer in Durban. He was being sidelined by Natal because of the quotas in South African cricket. He wasn't being given a chance.
"It wouldn't have taken much longer for him to say, 'To hell with this, I would rather go and surf and do something I enjoy' - I've no doubt that is the way he would have headed," he added.
"His ability and the way he played made me think that if I could coach him for a bit I could put him on the right path and get him going. I knew that if I could get him focused in the right direction, then there was no limit to what he could achieve in cricket."
The last nine years have shown that Rice was right to act on a hunch.
Rice said Pietersen would be looking to prove a point again during the England team's current tour of South Africa, having already done so on an earlier tour.
Despite being one of the top all-rounders in world cricket for the best part of two decades, Rice never got the chance to perform on the top stage due to South Africa's 21-year absence from Test cricket.
And he understands why the likes of Trott and Kieswetter are grabbing international opportunities in England.
He said: "I don't blame them one bit - in fact I encourage them. Every sportsman wants to see how good he is and you can't have anything holding you back from doing it." (ANI)