Pietersen geared up for Sri Lanka challenge

Pietersen’s commitment was questioned following an early exit from England’s World Cup campaign AFP

By Julian Guyer

Cardiff: May 25, 2011

Kevin Pietersen insisted Tuesday he was fully prepared for England’s home series against Sri Lanka, saying “the bug is back”. Pietersen’s commitment was questioned following an early exit from England’s World Cup campaign with a hernia injury, for which the South Africa-born batsman has since had an operation.

And after his relatively lean start to the domestic season with Surrey, the likes of England captain Andrew Strauss found themselves having to answer the question of whether he would ‘dare’ tell Pietersen he’d been dropped.

But given he is still averaging over 48 in Test cricket – 50 is considered to be a benchmark for an all-time great — there never seemed much chance of Pietersen being left out for the first of a three-Test series against Sri Lanka starting here on Thursday.

“The bug is back,” Pietersen told reporters here on Tuesday. “At the end of last (English) summer I went away to South Africa and did some work with (coach) Graham Ford because I knew I needed to get back on the wagon and get the bug back and I got it back. It’s not a case of putting pressure on myself and saying I need to get runs: I know I’ll get runs when I feel the way I’m feeling at the moment,” the former England captain added.

England coach Andy Flower suggested during the World Cup that Pietersen could have played through the pain barrier. However, Pietersen insisted on Tuesday he had no choice but to leave England’s squad when he did.

“If people could feel the pain I was in they’d understand it. The World Cup comes round every four years and the IPL (Indian Premier League) was straight after it — why would I want to come home when I was missing out on all that amazing cricket?”

Thursday’s match will be England’s first Test since they secured a 3-1 Ashes win in Australia in January. That series saw Pietersen score a Test-best 227 in an innings victory in the second Test in Adelaide and that knock meant he was bemused by suggestions he might have been dropped for the Sri Lanka opener.

“Hopefully not. I scored a double-hundred against Australia three Tests ago so I would’ve been disappointed. But there’s pressure for places in all departments and that’s great. No-one has a God-given right to play in any team. I’m happy to be here with the team, all the boys are together and we’ve got a very successful team we’re growing and we’re building together,” he said.

Meanwhile Pietersen again insisted he had no regrets about his part in the row with Peter Moores that saw the then England coach sacked in January 2008 while he himself was stripped of the captaincy.

Out of the turmoil came the successful alliance between Strauss and Flower and Pietersen said: “I stick by what I did, I was doing things for English cricket. It will be a very interesting read when I’m finished! I’m quite proud and I did it for the right reasons, for the English cricket team. I wanted us to win, to have a happier dressing room and be the best team in world.

“Probably politically I didn’t do it the right way, and when I was on holiday in South Africa it got leaked to the media and it went all pear-shaped for me. I was supposed to have a meeting on January 8 with the board but as soon as it was leaked on New Year’s Day I was a goner.”