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My Mentor: Kevin Pietersen

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The England legend explains how cricket coach Graham Ford transformed his game

I’ve known Graham Ford since I was five.

He was one of the coaches at my first school in South Africa. He brought me through the ranks, he watched me as a kid, he believed in me and guided me. He helped me through the academy in Natal [in SA], and used to work with me away from the game, too. He built up my confidence.

He’s got absolutely no sense of ego.

He’s one of the most humble, helpful people I’ve ever come across – he was brilliant for me technically. He treats everyone exactly the same – it doesn’t matter if you’ve never played a first-class cricket match or played 150 Test matches, he’ll treat you exactly the same. He’s just a great role model as to how one should be. He’s there just to give, give, give.

There’s one piece of advice he gave me that sticks out…

He once told me, “Be yourself, be the person you are, don’t live somebody else’s life through yourself. Be you.” I’d speak to him on the phone fairly often or I’d message him. We would talk cricketing stuff. He was the coach of the Sri Lankan side for a few years, the coach of the South African side before that, he was the director of Natal Cricket before that, too. So I’d speak to him more on the phone than I’d see him because our itineraries would clash. But now he is my coach at Surrey, so we speak to each other regularly.

He turned my game around.

When I was really struggling with my game in England about three years ago, I flew to South Africa to work with him, and he really helped me. Within 10 minutes of working with him, he identified an issue – a technical hitch I had got myself into – which he corrected. You’ve got to have somebody you can call up in times of trouble, and also in the good times. Someone who can keep you grounded and also build you up when you’re not feeling so good.

Wherever he goes, the players always love him.

You just have to look at the transformation at Surrey Cricket this year. We’ve looked after some of the youngsters and brought them through, but we’ve also looked after the older guys. Graham’s work ethic is something to be admired, and he’ll work hours and hours and hours. He is a giver, a doer and a winner.

Sign up to join ShortList's project to mentor young men in need

KP: The Autobiography by Kevin Pietersen is out now, published by Sphere (£20)

(Image: James Eckersley)

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