Ashes: Pietersen says he means business

Batsman dedicates 100th Test to late \'brother\' and insists team spirit is strong despite newspaper jibes

Published: 20th November 2013 06:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th November 2013 06:21 PM   |  A+A-

On the eve of his 100th Test, Kevin Pietersen has spoken of the profound effect the recent death of his closest school friend had on him, and said that anything he achieved at the Gabba this week would be in memory of his late "brother".

Pietersen diverted his journey to Australia via South Africa to deliver a eulogy at the funeral of Jon Cole-Edwardes, who died in September from a rare form of skin cancer.

Pietersen said: "I grew up with this guy since I was a baby and every single holiday we went on together, literally he is like my brother and saying goodbye to him 18 hours beforehand was just so tough. He left his wife and twins behind. I will be thinking about him if I get a big one here. I've been thinking about black armbands and stuff, but I don't want to get the violin out and all that. I'd rather just concentrate on things.

"I've been speaking with his mum and yesterday she said, 'Jon will be watching'. I had to go and do a eulogy at his funeral on the Saturday when the guys were already here. This cricket malarkey is simple. I was a shambles there."

Pietersen, who spoke with candour during a rare appearance at press conference for cricket writers, also admitted he feared his England career was over when he was dropped for disciplinary reasons last year.

Pietersen conceded there were times he thought he would not play another Test match after it emerged that he had sent derogatory messages about his captain Andrew Strauss to South African opponents.

But, contrary to claims made by Australian newspapers this week, Pietersen said he and his team-mates had emerged stronger from a crisis which nearly ripped them apart.

When asked if he thought he would never reach his Test centenary, he replied: "Probably a few occasions, yeah. Emails were flying around and telephone conversations were being had. I think this stuff is for when I f-inish my career. I will give a very good explanation as to how things were and how things weren't when I'm done."

But he did elaborate a little. "I think the key to a good relationship is communication. I think the communication wasn't there last year or it wasn't as much as it is now. The guys now get on and talk, and if there's an issue we talk about the issue and if there is good stuff then we talk about the good stuff.

"Last year there was a bit of treading on eggshells and pussy-footing around, whereas now the boys have acknowledged that it is time to do some business as an England team and that is what we are here to do.

"I think I've seen comments from the players that we all made mistakes last year. And we've all grown up and actually grown a lot tighter. If you look at the environment now it's absolutely fantastic."

The 33-year-old scotched suggestions he was planning to retire after this series, instead setting the targets of 10,000 Test runs, the 2015 World Cup and the tour to South Africa a year later. He also appears determined to forge friendships with his team-mates that endure beyond his cricket career, a riposte to the headline on the front page of Brisbane's Courier-Mail on Monday which claimed "even his own team-mates don't like him".

He said: "I think that [friendships] is the key and that is what I want to do. I want to enjoy the next two or three years for England because last year wasn't fun. We're all having so much fun and that front page was so funny because 10 hours before that we'd all had an amazing team dinner. We all had such a great time in Sydney, such a great time together, that when you see a front page like that it just makes me laugh."

This was an opportune moment for Pietersen to give his first open media conference outside of a match since the text scandal blew up in August 2012. He knows the significance of playing his 100th Test, has learnt to temper his disdain for the media and enjoyed jousting with Australian television journalists keen to pin him down over his suggestion that Brisbane was a city with no resonance for anyone outside Australia.

"I actually respect the Australian journalists for the way they come at the opposition," he said. "I think it's fantastic. I've had it for however many years, and I know when I walk out to bat the Gabba's going to clout me.

"It's actually something I laugh about, that's why I responded the way I responded yesterday, I would have preferred front page in Sydney. It was tongue in cheek, just a laugh, a joke. I respect the journalists in Australia for having a go at the English and certainly trying to club me, it's brilliant. That's what Ashes cricket is about."

When asked if it was good for his ego he replied: "It was for the journalist. I hopefully got him a few [T-witter] followers. Well done. I've forgotten [his] name."

It could just be that by trying to unsettle England's best player, -Australia have done the opposite.


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