'Refreshed' Pietersen refuses war of words

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen yesterday insisted he would not be dragged into criticising the Australians before the Ashes series begins. The hosts captain, Ricky Ponting, has already pointed to Pietersen's lack of form being a concern for England going into the eagerly anticipated series.

But Pietersen said: "This is my fourth series against Australia. Every single time I have played against Australia, for the months leading up to it a lot of things are said which have absolutely no bearing after the first ball is bowled.

"I am not prepared to get involved, to add any fuel to any fire that they might have started. I just want to go out and play some really tough, hard cricket and challenge myself against the Australians in Australia. I know that all the English players are quietly confident that we will do a lot better than we did last time."

Before joining up with the England party in Perth this weekend, Pietersen spent four weeks in South Africa attempting to regain his form, while working with his close friend and cricket coach Graham Ford, whom he has known since he was seven years old. They identified a technical problem in his batting as well as working on "mental things".

Pietersen added on Radio Five Live's Sportsweek: "I've had a lovely little break from the international circuit which has been very, very refreshing. I took my family down to South Africa for a couple of weeks. I'm really, really excited about what could be one hell of an interesting and positive winter ahead. Fordy's been somebody I have worked with throughout my life, so it was amazing that I could go and spend two weeks with him and gather back that confidence and that free spirit. He knows me as a person. I haven't given a lot away about me as a person here, especially playing for England, but Fordy knows where I'm from, knows everything about me so he can talk to me in a very different way, more than anyone in this country probably apart from my brothers and my parents.

"He picked out one little thing that I haven't been doing in the last six months, since the Caribbean in the World Twenty20, and we worked on that little thing in particular.

"I feel fantastic now. I put myself under a lot of pressure by going to South Africa knowing that every practice session and every hit I had would make headlines in the cricketing world, but that's what I wanted to do because I know it's going to benefit me in the long run."

Having enjoyed his time in his native land with his family, Pietersen is understood to be unhappy with England coach Andy Flower's decision to restrict the players' access to their families in Australia. Wives, girlfriends and children will not be allowed to meet up with squad members until six weeks into the Ashes tour.

Pietersen was quoted yesterday as saying: "It's not something I'm looking forward to [being apart from my family]. I didn't react well when I heard, but it's not something I'm prepared to get involved in. I respect Andy Flower's decision."

24 days to the Ashes

Andrew Strauss could average only 24.70 the last time an Ashes series was held in Australia in 2006-07. The current England captain hit just 247 runs in the five Tests as the Australians emphatically reclaimed the urn with a 5-0 whitewash series victory.