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Pietersen back in England's good books
5:07pm Wednesday 7th November 2012 in International
Kevin Pietersen has convinced England's management of his undoubted good faith and commitment to serving the tourists as well as he is able long into the future.
Former Hampshire batsman Pietersen is tomorrow expected to play his second and final warm-up match before the start of the tough four-Test series against India.
The maverick superstar's return to England colours last week, after his summer of discontent, brought 23 frenetic runs against India A.
He then sat out the tour match against Mumbai A, but will be hoping to fine-tune preparations for next week's first Test in Ahmedabad in the four-day fixture against Haryana on an adjacent ground.
England have been on message to a man about Pietersen's well-being and the harmonious atmosphere in the camp since the 32-year-old completed his 'reintegration' process to the satisfaction of coach Andy Flower and others, and was subsequently added to the squad for this tour.
Batting coach Graham Gooch was today the latest to spell out his personal belief that Pietersen's contract wrangles and breakdown of relations with senior players and management are all in the past.
"I don't think it's an issue with Kevin," he said.
"All the things have been done and dusted. My conversations with Kevin, and from what I've seen the way he is working, he's looking forward to this tour."
Former England captain Gooch doubtless remembers from his own playing days that rejoining team-mates after a break, as he had to following the rebel South Africa tour of the 1980s, is potentially a challenge in itself.
But he has no concerns about Pietersen's ability to re-establish relations on and off the pitch - because he is sure the motivation and intent is there to do so.
"He's looking forward," he said. "What's in the past is in the past.
"The only thing that counts is what's in the future - what he's going to do, how he's going to interact with the team, what sort of performances he's looking to give.
"I know he's motivated; I know he's focused; I've seen the way he's been practising.
"A fit and strong Kevin Pietersen is a player to be reckoned with."
England will need not only Pietersen but an entire team to reach and perhaps even surpass their established standards if they are to win in India, for the first time in 28 years.
Again, Gooch knows from his own experience what a tough mission it is - but it is one to relish too.
"I think coming to India is one of the greatest challenges," he said.
"It's a wonderful place to play cricket. The cricketers are treated like film-stars or gods over here."
England, Gooch reports, have started well in their two drawn tour matches so far.
"Our build-up has gone to plan. People have got runs; there's been some wickets," he added.
"Some of our players have learned a little bit in the couple of weeks we've been here."
Many observers contend the key over the next six weeks will be how England deal with the spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in such exacting conditions - with the onus on the tourists to prove more adept than they were against Pakistan when they lost 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates at the start of the year.
Gooch's advice, however, is that it is unhealthy to fixate on spin when there are other hurdles to overcome as well.
"We're not majoring on spin, as in that's the only type of bowling we're going to face," he said.
"They've got two very good opening bowlers, two out of three - either (Umesh) Yadav, Zaheer Khan, (Ishant) Sharma as well.
"It's a great challenge. What a life to come out here and put yourself up against some of the great players of world cricket - the likes of Harbhajan (Singh), (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Virender) Sehwag and (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni.
"These are household names of world cricket."
England and Pietersen may look forward to the examination ahead then, but they will certainly not under-estimate it.
"We know India are a top side in their own country," said Gooch.
"Not long ago they were rated number one, and you don't do that without putting on consistent performances."
Just last year, England went to the top of the world by beating India 4-0 - back at home, of course.
That is a recent history which has added an extra edge to this series.
To avoid payback, England need firepower - and it is therefore likely fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Steven Finn will not risk their injury niggles tomorrow, in the hope they can return to fitness next week.
Either way, England are in India with a clear brief for overdue success on the sub-Continent - from Gooch at least.
"We've come here to win the series; we've not come here to make up the numbers."
England (v Haryana at the Sardar Patel Stadium B Ground, starting at 0400 GMT tomorrow, from): AN Cook (Captain), NRD Compton, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, SR Patel, MJ Prior (wkt), TT Bresnan, GP Swann, SC Meaker, G Onions, MS Panesar, JM Bairstow, EJG Morgan
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