Pietersen named England captain

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The Independent Online

England ended 24 hours of deliberations today by officially unveiling Kevin Pietersen as their new captain of the Test and one-day sides at Lord's.

The colourful 28-year-old is the man chosen to succeed Michael Vaughan as England's 74th Test captain - and he also takes over the one-day side from Paul Collingwood.

Pietersen was always regarded as favourite for the two roles after Vaughan and Collingwood stood down from their positions yesterday.

The selectors wanted one man to captain all three international sides, rather than continue with the split captaincy method they have adopted over the last year.

The Hampshire batsman, who failed to secure the one-day captaincy when the selectors chose Collingwood a year ago, fought off candidates such as Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kent captain Robert Key.

"I'm very thrilled and excited to have been given the opportunity to captain England," said Pietersen, who will lead England for the first time as Test captain in Thursday's final Test against South Africa at The Oval.

"It's a huge honour and a terrific challenge for me at this stage of my international career.

"I have learned a great deal about leadership from playing under both Michael and Paul and fully appreciate the level of responsibility that comes with the job of captaining your country.

"My immediate priority will be this week's fourth npower Test and I will be devoting all my energies to ensuring that the team are properly prepared and play to their full potential, starting on Thursday."

National selector Geoff Miller, who heads the selection panel which chose Pietersen, confirmed his role as an established member of all three international teams was a key factor.

Miller explained: "In choosing a new captain, we were keen to identify a player who could lead the team in all three forms of cricket and bring fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the role of captain.

"Kevin is a world-class player who will command the respect of the dressing room and I am sure he will be looking to lead from the front and work closely with both the players and the coaching staff to bring England success in the future."

Pietersen will lead a squad showing just one change from the one which slumped to a five-wicket defeat at Edgbaston to secure South Africa's series win - with Essex's Ravi Bopara replacing Vaughan, who has chosen to take a break from the game.

But the squad for the NatWest Twenty20 international and five-match one-day international series shows several changes with key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff coming in to replace Hampshire's Dimitri Mascarenhas.

Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior has earned a recall as a replacement for Tim Ambrose, who scored just 10 runs in five innings in the recent series defeat by New Zealand, while uncapped Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel is included for the first time.

Left-arm spinner Patel is also included in the England Lions squad to face the tourists in Leicester on August 14, while Simon Jones is included for that 50-over match - the first time he has been included in an international squad since 2005.

Emerging Kent opener Joe Denly will also report for the Leicester match while the England selectors have given recognition to Middlesex's Twenty20 Cup triumph by including three players - Owais Shah, Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan - in the Lions squad to face South Africa at Derby in a one-day match on 16 August.

Pietersen started his tenure with a glowing testimonial to the outgoing skipper, whose advice he sought yesterday.

"First of all, I'd like to say Michael Vaughan...what a great man he was as a skipper.

"They are huge boots to fill and I'll try to give it the best possible go I can.

"He was a great leader, he brought me into the side and I always tried to the best I could for a great man.

"When I heard there was a big announcement today I was straight on the blower to Mike and he gave me advice."

Pietersen also opened the door to a return for Vaughan the batsman in the new England regime.

"I love Michael and I respect that he did wonders for me," said the new captain.

"I respect his decision to have a few weeks off. The man, I believe, is still a fantastic batter and one of the best in the country.

"He'll go now and score as many runs as he can for Yorskshire and I'm confident he'll be back in this England team."

Some observers have openly questioned whether Pietersen's flamboyant batting style would be curbed by the added responsibility of leadership, but that is not something the Hampshire batsman is worried about.

"Time will tell, but I hope not," he said.

"I hope it won't restrict the way I play. It would be silly to think it would affect the way I play because the way I play has been a big factor in the success I have had in my career."

Pietersen insisted he would seek counsel from the established members of both teams but was clear that he is eager to stamp his own imprint on the national team.

He continued at the press conference, televised by Sky Sports News: "This was an emotional decision and it was right to speak to my wife Jessica, my mum and dad and my brothers.

"I then went to see the coach (Peter Moores) and we had a really good meeting. It's all about looking forward now and making sure we achieve what we want to achieve.

"I will always respect what has happened in the past and I will always repsect what Michael did and what my predecessors did," he added.

"I will always look for advice because I'm new in this job and I've had calls and messages from the senior players in the squad. Once you have the support of the lads around you, you can't ask for any more.

"But I'll have my own ways and it's very exciting. It's a brand new test and a bright new challenge for me.

"I've gained a good cricket brain in terms of what I think about. The way I play, I'm very gut-instinct orientated and I like to do what I feel is right instinctively.

"My gut instinct in my batting has assisted me in my first five years with England."

He added: "Everything has happened so quickly but I believe everything happens for a reason. This is a wonderful opportunity and I'll grab it with both hands.

"If this works out, which hopefully it will, it will be great but I'm man enough to say if it doesn't.

"But I wasn't going to be a wimp and say 'I'm not going to take this on'. I'm going to give it a real good go."

National selector Geoff Miller welcomed the unification of the England captaincy and is looking forward to Pietersen's new approach.

"We had discussed it being unified and decided that Kevin would be the person to take the game on.

"Kevin will take it his own way and he has his own ideas on captaincy. We're looking for a fresh approach and he will take us forward in an exciting manner. He will take advice from players but he has his own slant on it."

He conceded that the selectors had considered the potential effect the job may have on Pietersen's batting but, like the player himself, believes such concerns will prove unfounded.

"We did discuss that but it was a very short discussion. We will wait and see but I don't foresee any difficulties with that."

Asked about whether he was happy with Pietersen's appointment, Miller said: "I'm very happy about the decision we have made. Now we need to look forward.

"Michael Vaughan will go back to Yorkshire and get runs and put himself back in the picture.

Pietersen continued: "My main priority now is how we can salvage pride from this series. The next five to seven days will be big for me and the England team.

"When I go out to bat next time I am going to bat the same way I did last week. How I and Paul Collingwood batted (on Friday) was exactly the way you need to play against South Africa and Australia, be aggressive."

On the job he has accepted, he added: "You always have to weigh up pros and cons but the plusses were much more entertaining than the minuses.

"I think I'm more of a rounded player now and i have plenty of support. It was my gut instinct to take it."

Miller said he thought the ECB had now got the perfect partnership in place between Moores and Pietersen.

He explained: "Leadership is all about challenging people and I believe in the partnership between Peter and Kevin.

"We don't want a comfort zone and Kevin and Peter are the right partnership."

England test squad: Kevin Pietersen (captain), Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar, Ryan Sidebottom, Andrew Strauss

England one-day squad: Kevin Pietersen (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Luke Wright.