Monday, November 9, 2009

"Pietersen's place is not assured"

Kevin Pietersen may be on his way to South Africa but England's star batsman is by no means assured of a place in the team.

Pietersen has been recuperating from surgery to his right Achilles tendon - an injury that forced him to miss the last three Tests of this summer's Ashes - but will arrive in his country of birth tomorrow before linking up with his team on Wednesday.

His arrival is set to further strengthen his side's resources a week into a tough two-and-a-half-month trip, which has already begun so promisingly with comprehensive victories in their opening two games.

The selectors are likely to face some tough decisions ahead, especially with the line-up taking good shape on the back of an encouraging Champions Trophy display in which England reached the semi-final.

Pietersen was not part of that squad and neither was another South African-born player, Jonathan Trott, but while the former has been recovering over the past three months, the latter has been shining with the bat - he delivered a telling performance on his Test debut in the Ashes decider.

Trott has also made a flying start to the tour, scoring 85 in a man-of-the-match display against the Diamond Eagles to stake his claim for a place in the team, and Swann admits it will not be easy for Pietersen to walk straight back in. He said: "I don't know what the situation is with Kevin and how close he is to being fit but I think it's exciting for us to know that he's going to come back in.

"He's a massive personality and a massive player. It's going to be good for the team from a playing perspective because he's one of the best players in the world.
"I don't think it's a squad that's sitting there desperately hoping that other people turn up because I think we're all getting on well, we've got a very positive outlook and we've had some good performances.

"So Kev's just going to add to that, I don't think he's going to change it. You never know, he might even have to fight for his place when he gets here."

England play their final warm-up match against a strong South Africa 'A' side in Bloemfontein tomorrow ahead of two Twenty20 internationals against the Proteas at the weekend.

Although it is unlikely, Pietersen could taste his first action in one of those games - but, with or without him, Swann insists that the team can cope.

He pointed to the final Ashes Test as the perfect example, saying: "Whenever you lose one or two of your big players, everyone else has got to step up to the plate and perform.

"Last summer they did, that last Test match everyone was saying that it had to be Andrew Flintoff's massive last game and it was Stuart Broad who took the limelight - he stepped up to the plate.

"We can't be reliant on one or two players, that's unhealthy for the team and unhealthy for English cricket. Thankfully at the minute, everyone's chipping in in their own respective areas, which is a more healthy state to be in."

As the focus shifts to strictly Twenty20 cricket over the next six days, Swann is determined for England to continue learning about cricket's youngest format.
He added: "You can tell it's the future of cricket, more people watch it, the sponsors love it and the IPL is probably the biggest thing that's happened to cricket in a long while.

"So everyone's playing it and I play it just as much. We'll just be trying to beat South Africa. We need to get one foot on the ladder, so to speak, in terms of results on this trip.

"From a confidence perspective and a results perspective, winning the first game is vitally important, so we'll be just looking to go out and win those games."

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