T20 not so 'silly' any more, says Pietersen
England's best batsman changes his philosophy on shortest form of the game
Things you might wish you had never said. Before it conquered the world, Kevin Pietersen said of an innings in the inaugural World Twenty20 that he had played silly shots for a silly game. Silly boy.
It is certain that should he reprise that 79 from 2007, still his only half-century in T20, he will not also be reprising his previous statement. Matters have moved on apace, not least of course because at $1.55m a year (£958,000) he is the Indian Premier League's highest paid player.
"During that World Cup my view changed," he said yesterday. "I think I said that during our first game, but the realisation that you are playing for a massive trophy and in a World tournament against the best means my philosophy about Twenty20 became a lot more serious. If you're playing for England in a world tournament that means something. Every time I play for England it is really really important, so this is huge and it is definitely not a silly game anymore."
Pietersen, of course, was not alone in his thoughts but he was the only one bold enough to express them. England wanted to win the last World Twenty20 in South Africa, they picked a team specifically for the purpose but they proved to be hopeless. Nor have England caught up as Pietersen candidly conceded.
"We are playing here to win a World Cup – we have never won a world tournament so this is of the utmost importance," he said. "But I think a lot of us are behind the Indian players and the South Africans because we haven't played as much." Not half.
England begin their quest to put right what went wrong two years ago today. They will play Scotland in the first of two warm-up games before the tournament opens on Friday. It is one they should win with ease although the opposition will be deadly earnest.
Gavin Hamilton, Scotland's captain, who played one Test for England 10 years ago, said: "It's as big as it gets, any Scotland-England game, no matter what sport it is. The Scotland boys are very excited about it. We don't get that many opportunities and when it comes along the performance levels and the work ethic go up."
Scotland's main difficulty will be that of part-timers everywhere. "Working Monday to Friday, playing a bit of club cricket on a Saturday against 70mph bowlers and then turning up for a World Cup the following week is not ideal preparation," he said.
Although Hamilton said they had learned more in the last two days than in the previous two years, his side's preparation might have been disturbed by his reported bust-up with fast bowler John Blain, who has walked out on the squad. It reduces their bowling options which may not be ideal since Pietersen will be desperate to make an impression upon his return after injury.
The strain in his right Achilles tendon is not fully repaired but Pietersen said it was now precluding his long training runs and nothing else.
"Last year in India I played with a broken rib in the Test matches, I played in Sri Lanka with broken fingers, I have played with a sore back," he said. "International sportsmen play with aches and pains throughout their whole career, that is a fact."
Pietersen has been treated partly by England's new head physiotherapist, Mark Young, who has previously worked in athletics with stars like Usain Bolt and Asafa Bolt, which has clearly impressed Pietersen.
"Athletes know their feet like people know their hands," he said. "Like I know how to put my hand down and pick something up, athletes know their feet like that.
"When I first went on the balancing board I was all over the place like a clown but I'm not too bad now, I can balance for 30 seconds with my eyes closed."
If he can score runs with his eyes closed in the next few months, starting in the Twenty20, England will be boundlessly grateful.
English hearts on sleeves
In a gesture to show that they know about life beyond cricket, England are using their shirt sleeves to draw attention to global hunger during the World Twenty20. The space was freed because of a sponsorship conflict and England's senior players were eager to use it for a humanitarian purpose which is too often overlooked. They have been working with the UN's World Food Programme and will carry a logo saying: "Cricket Against Hunger." England's coach, Andy Flower said: "We as cricketers live very privileged lives and I'm very proud of the fact we have taken this opportunity to do something good."
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