England coach Peter Moores wants Kevin Pietersen to be himself when he takes charge of the England cricket team against South Africa tomorrow morning. Moores and Pietersen are not natural bedfellows – one revels in the limelight whilst the other is at his happiest away from its glare – and neither party has denied that they have held contrasting views on the cricket England play.
But Moores yesterday played down the level of disquiet that exists between the pair. It was widely assumed that Pietersen instigated Sunday's clear the air meeting with Moores at a hotel near Northampton, but it was the England coach who contacted the proposed captain to find out whether he could work with him.
"I have always found Kevin fine," said Moores on the eve of the fourth Test. "What I like about Kevin is that he has got a view, and I think that is going to be important in his captaincy. He is passionate and committed in the way he goes about his cricket. He has got lots of the traits I really like in a player. He is positive and he is prepared to work extremely hard to get what he wants from the game.
"Kevin will be different to Michael Vaughan because he is a different man. Michael had a style and it was very successful. Kevin will bring Kevin Pietersen, which I think is crucial. He will be his own man and that will be really important.
"Coaches and captains will always have different views because we see the game from different places. Coaches watch from the side, captains are in with everyone in the trenches, doing the work and sweating. It is crucial that the two views are shared, looked at and used to dictate the direction in which the team moves.
"My job is to support Kevin a lot and help him. Kevin has views that are pretty forthright and right and we have to talk through them. We then have to work out how we implement them and make them part of the fabric of the team. And that will take place over the coming months.
"When we [the selectors] decided to offer Kevin the captaincy the first thing I wanted to do was to sit down and talk to him about where he was coming from and what his views were on where the side should go, and would they match with mine. I phoned Kevin up and we met half way, and we sat down and talked for a good hour or so.
"We talked openly and we were coming from the same place. There is lots of work to do to achieve some of those things. Kevin will need support from me at times and I will need support from him, and that is the way the coach-player relationship should work. By the end of it we felt very confident that we were coming from the same place, which was exciting. So I drove away, and I think Kevin was the same, quite buoyant and excited over what the future might hold."
Pietersen's reign as England captain began in earnest yesterday lunchtime at a wet Oval when he addressed his team for the first time. Pietersen would have previously spoken in front of the England players at team building sessions but never with the group paying so much attention to what he is saying. First impressions are vital and Pietersen needed to convince the players that he is a man they can follow.
Pietersen's time in the ranks has not been without incident and he needed to show humility as he spoke to the team, accepting that there had indeed been the odd occasion when he got things wrong. The last thing he needed was the players getting together in little groups at the end of the meeting and pulling what he said apart.
The comparisons with Vaughan will be inevitable and the fact that he is no longer captain took Moores completely by surprise. "Nobody could have predicted that we would be where we are now a week ago," said Moores. "When I first came in to the job I envisaged Michael taking England through to the 2009 Ashes. But you have to respect the decision of someone who has played for and captained England as long as he has, and I do totally.
"I had no idea Michael was about to stand down at the weekend. Earlier in the year he had discussed with me the challenges of captaining the side and keeping your own game in order because it is difficult. We sat down at the end of the game to discuss the best way forward and he told me that it was time to stand down. He had done it for long enough and it was time for a new man to come in and have a go.
"I did not try to talk him out of it. I listened. I was keen to make sure that he was happy that he had made the right decisions because it was a big decision. I wanted to respect his decision and in some ways he was relieved that he had made it. It was clear that he had done his work, he'd done a great job and it was time for someone else to have a go. He is passionate about going away, working at his own game and getting back in the England team as a batsman.
"I respect the way he went about it, the key now for me is to look forward to getting Kevin established and moving the team forward. It is a different but exciting time."
* South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs has been included in the 15-man squad for the one-day series and Twenty20 international against England. Gibbs expressed doubts over his international future after being left out of the Test side for the tour, but has been named in the limited-overs squad along with Dale Steyn, who is out of the fourth Test with a thumb injury.
Peter Moores' England record
West Indies, May/June 07 (Home): Won 3-0
India, July/August 2007 (Home): Lost 1-0
Sri Lanka, December 2007 (Away): Lost 1-0
New Zealand: February/March 2008 (Away): Won 2-1
New Zealand: May/June 2008 (Home): Won 2-0
South Africa: July/August 2008 (Home) Lost 2-0 (1 match to play)
Total test record