Pietersen: 'This has been the toughest period of my career, a great challenge'

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen last night admitted that the last two months had been the toughest of his cricketing life. The England captain made the comments after watching his side draw the second Test in Mohali, an outcome that resulted in England losing their first Test series under his leadership.

"This has probably been the toughest six to eight weeks of my career so far," he said. "In fact, it has been a tough two months for English cricket – the Stanford week, coming here and losing 5-0 in the one-dayers, the Mumbai attacks and then being pipped at the post last week in the first Test.

"But I think the guys have shown a lot of character. They have played with smiles on their faces, trained and prepared hard, and they deserve a good break over Christmas. Results have not gone our way but it has not been through lack of effort.

"We have competed well against a great side that are at the top of their game. I think our guys can be really proud of themselves. We came close to winning in Chennai but Sachin Tendulkar took the game away from us.

"In this fixture we have fallen a bit short but we have still played some very good cricket. I do not take many negatives from what has taken place in the past two weeks. We have loved being back in India.

"I never thought the captaincy would be easy, I don't think the captaincy job is easy in any sport," Pietersen added. "You acknowledge when you take on the job that it will be difficult. You know that it will be very hard at times, but when the good times come back again it makes you enjoy them a bit more."

England may have lost the series 1-0 but there has been far more at stake in the past fortnight than lifting a trophy and collecting a bit of prize money.

The Mumbai terrorist attacks, and the fact that the events made England contemplate not returning to India on grounds of safety and security, threatened the existence of international cricket as we know it.

If India had become a "no go" destination, as Pakistan currently is, the finances of cricket would have taken a huge hit. India supplies the game with more than 70 per cent of its money. But it was assurances on safety and security, not money, that convinced England to return for the Test series, a decision that ultimately proved to be the correct one.

"I feel really proud to be the captain of the bunch of guys we brought out here," said Pietersen. "It was great that everyone we picked came out here. The team have been great ambassadors out here and the Indian people have been magnificent towards us.

"I believe there are a few guys who have done exceptionally well out here. The circumstances in which we came back made it really, really tough. I have learnt a lot about the squad. It has been interesting to captain away from home. But I've enjoyed it; it has been a great challenge."