Pietersen has no fear of 'weakened' Australians

England's explosive batsman, and hero of the 2005 Ashes, tells Stephen Brenkley why he's feeling no pressure as a fresh battle to regain the urn approaches

As Ashes fever raged yesterday Kevin Pietersen dashed in with a sedative. With only a day to go before the action begins, England's most thrilling batsman, on whom so much of their ambition depends, said it was only another game of cricket.

He also suggested that he was no more than bit-part player in the proceedings and expected nothing of himself in the next few weeks. Until Pietersen spoke many observers had wondered if the World Health Organisation was considering according pandemic status to the series between England and Australia which begins in Cardiff tomorrow.

"There is a tension in the rivalry between the two countries," said the South African-born Pietersen, who has already scored two hundreds against Australia, the first of which, at The Oval in 2005, was career-defining. "As a cricketer you obviously know what's going on and you understand the rivalry. But to try to make it out as something that's bigger than it is, you can hurt yourself and get yourself into a bit of a tizz, you can add too much pressure to yourself.

"You can definitely turn it into something it's not. At the end of the day it's a game of cricket between two teams who want to win – the same as if we play South Africa or India. The simpler you try to keep each game, each session, each ball, the more equipped you are."

Barely had his audience in the indoor cricket school at the Swalec Stadium taken this in than Pietersen took a wet sponge to his own role. To the outsider, if Pietersen fires at No 4, the home side have a chance of reclaiming the Ashes at the first time of the asking, if not they may as well all whistle "Dixie".

"I think you guys make the weight of expectation a lot greater than it actually is," he told his audience of reporters, cameramen, hangers-on and the Australians who were practising on the other side of the drapes. "In the dressing room I'm looking forward to it as much as anyone else. There's no great expectation on me in the England dressing room. I know and we all know that if you look at the stats from the last 12 months, we've all got runs, so I don't think that it's as big an issue as everyone says. I have confidence that the guys in the dressing room will perform. If you get me out cheaply or if I have a bad series, England can still win."

Ho hum. All of that had an element of truth, of course, but since the start of the last English season only the reborn Andrew Strauss has made more runs than Pietersen (84 more in three more innings) at a slightly higher average.

If Pietersen was being uncharacteristically cautious it is hard to think that he was not merely disguising the symptoms. It has been a tumultuous few months for him and since he lost the England captaincy in January he has been at pains to be one of the boys again.

By and large, he has succeeded but he has been around long enough to know that whatever he says is seized upon. It is part of what makes him so compelling a player.

Naturally, he could hardly avoid offering just a hint of the genuine expectation he feels against a side that has been transformed beyond measure by the loss of a host of iconic players.

"I wouldn't say I'm confident because of that, but certainly a team that loses Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn are not going to be as strong because those guys are as close to legends of the game as you can possibly get," he said. "Some of them are legends."

The fact that he listed them, more or less in order of iconic status, seemed to reinforce his point. But this was not a day for making tall claims, this was a day for being measured.

Pietersen warmed to his theme: "Yes, the Australian team is going to be weakened, but the Australian way is to come out and be fierce and competitive and be dominant in what they do, be forceful in their approach and throw a lot of punches early in the series. It doesn't matter who they put out, it's going to be tough for us to go out there and do the business.

"We can't talk about who they've got and who they haven't got, because when those guys go out and put on the baggy green cap, which is so historic to them, they're a fierce side. Three months ago they beat South Africa in South Africa. This team's a good team."

It was against Australia on a balmy late summer day in September 2005 that Pietersen created his legend. His blazing 158 at The Oval ensured that England regained the Ashes and as a result he will always be burdened with expectation. Nobody will let him escape it but yesterday he was not inclined to address properly the proposition whether he is a better batsman now than he was in 2005 (he is). "We'll find out after this series," he said. "I might be worse. I don't expect anything from myself. What I expect is to prepare right, that when I turn up on the morning of a Test match I've done everything I can possibly do to be fit. Mental preparation, physical preparation, hitting enough balls, catching enough balls, and that's where I leave it."

Just as he was about to leave, Pietersen looked forward to tomorrow's first session, all important in the context of match and series. "I expect it to be aggressive because Australia come really hard at the start of a series," he said. "In the last two series I've played they've come very hard – the guy who came hard at us was McGrath. He's not there any more, so they'll have to rely on someone else to come hard at us.

"It'll be a big, big series. They've got some very good performers in their side. We expect it to be tough, but we're also going to come out hard and come out fighting, because we're not scared." That was more like it.

On fire in the Ashes: Pietersen's record

*Kevin Pietersen made his Test debut in the first Test at Lord's in 2005, becoming the 626th player to represent England.



*Pietersen was the highest scorer in the 2005 Ashes, hitting an imperious 473 runs from just 663 balls, for a batting average of 52.55.



*His highest score in an Ashes Test is 158, achieved in the crucial fifth Test at The Oval in 2005 and also in the second Test in 2006-07. The former was reached from just 187 balls, including 15 fours and seven sixes (a record for an English player in an Ashes innings). Pietersen received the man of the match award.



*In the 2006-07 series, despite England suffering a 5-0 whitewash, Pietersen hit 490 runs, the second highest total of the series.

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003