Kevin Pietersen admitted that he has struggled to cope with the weight of expectation placed on his shoulders this summer following his dramatic introduction to international cricket. The Hampshire star scored three thrilling centuries for England during their one-day tour of South Africa in February and many felt he would be an automatic choice in Michael Vaughan's side for the two-Test series against Bangladesh.
But England's selected opted for Warwickshire's Ian Bell, who guaranteed his selection for the first Test against Australia by posting unbeaten scores of 65 and 162 against Bangladesh at Lord's and Durham. Pietersen's only chance of playing against the Aussies at Lord's on 21 July now comes through one of England's batsmen picking up an injury during the next six weeks.
But the NatWest series and NatWest Challenge, where England will play up to seven 50-over matches against Ricky Ponting's side, offer the 24-year-old the chance to show that he is the man to pick should any vacancies appear.
"It has been difficult for me this season," said Pietersen. "I've handled the extra attention because I have had a lot of that already, simply because I was here from South Africa trying to qualify for England.
"The attention has not really bothered me, but the expectations that have come with it have been difficult. People were expecting me and wanting me to score 100 every time I went out to bat. They were expecting me to go out there and score quickly as well instead of trying to defend a few. It took me time to come to terms with that and get to know my own game again, my own way of playing and how to build an innings." Pietersen had a disappointing start to the season, with a string of low scores allowing Bell to jump ahead of him in the queue for Test places. But the form has returned and the right-hander has scored two centuries in his last four games and averages a respectable 39 in first-class cricket.
"It took me about three weeks to come to terms with it all," he explained. "I am happy with my form, and I'm now getting my fair share of runs."
He also has an admirer in the opposition camp. Simon Katich, the Australian batsman, has been playing alongside him for Hampshire. "Kevin Pietersen is a fantastic guy to play with," said Katich. "I've really enjoyed playing with him and his enthusiasm for the game rubbed off on all the young guys at Hampshire. From an ability point of view I've been very impressed about the way he went about his training, and what he did in South Africa was a real sign of his strong character. "
The left-hander also had encouraging things to say about another Hampshire colleague - Chris Tremlett. Tremlett has had an excellent start to the season and is one of the country's leading wicket-takers.
"He definitely has the potential to to be an international bowler," said Katich. "Over the last three years I have seen an enormous amount of improvement. He has been through some bad injuries in the last couple of years but he has soldiered on and I'm sure he has a good future in front of him. If he can't get in the England side, the others in the team must be doing a very good job."Reuse content