He impressed members of Nasser Hussain's England side when playing for KwaZulu Natal in 1999; he took four top-order wickets and, despite batting at number nine, scored 61 not out from 57 balls, hitting four sixes. Hussain then recommended that Pietersen secure a contract with an English county side.
Despite the praise from the England side, Pietersen claimed he was dropped from the Natal first team. Pietersen felt that this was due to the country's racial quota system, in which provincial sides were required to have at least four non-white players. Pietersen's view was that players should be judged on merit, and described it as "heartbreaking" when he was left out of the side, although he later reflected "it turned out it was the best thing that could have happened". Pietersen has since firmly criticised the quota system, which he feels forced him out of the country of his birth. He has also criticised Graeme Smith, who became captain of the South African side in 2003, calling him "an absolute muppet, childish and strange" and that his behaviour "leaves a lot to be desired". Smith opposed this, saying, "I'm patriotic about my country, and that's why I don't like Kevin Pietersen. The only reason that Kevin and I have never had a relationship is because he slated South Africa". Pietersen's outspoken views published in his autobiography, Crossing the Boundary, in September 2006, and in an interview for South African magazine GQ, led to unsuccessful calls for an ICC investigation regarding bringing the game into disrepute.]
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