Kevin Pietersen believes England’s ability to play spin and take wickets in UAE conditions will be put under the microscope during the upcoming Test series against Pakistan.
The former England batsman, who last played for his country in January 2014, feels Alastair Cook’s men will arrive in the UAE next week in confident mood following their Ashes triumph on home soil but will be more than aware of the challenges ahead over the next two months.
In an exclusive interview with Sport360, England’s all-time leading run-scorer across all formats is expecting a competitive three Test matches this time around – given England’s last trip to this part of the world ended in a 3-0 series defeat in 2012.
“They’ve got momentum for sure and they’re going to need it because it’s quite difficult to play Pakistan here,” Pietersen said. “Spin’s going to be an issue for England.”
“There was also a little bit of a setback for England with the little young Surrey spinner Zafar Ansari missing out on the tour due to injury.
“Spin will be an issue for England in the bowling department and playing against spin but there are some wonderful batters in that side. We’ve got to get twenty wickets for sure but we’ve got to bat well here,” the 35-year-old said.
The inclusion of Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid in England’s 16-man squad for the tour will give the tourists more options on subcontinent style tracks, adding to the presence of all-rounder Moeen Ali – who himself is jostling for the opening batting berth alongside Test new recruit Alex Hales.
“He’s going to have to (Rashid have a role to play) – England are going to have to play two to three spinners out here so he’ll definitely have to come and deliver because it’s going to be tough going. The Pakistanis play spin incredibly well so it’s going to be an interesting series, a very interesting one.
“He (Hales) is a positive player. I don’t know who’s going to open with Cook in the first Test match so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
And Pietersen also singled out Ashes Player of the Series, Joe Root, as one man who could thrive this winter and has all the attributes to captain England sooner rather than later.
“I mean people talk about it. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. I think you wouldn’t want to burden him with it right now but for sure in the future.”
Having recently admitted England director of cricket and former team-mate Andrew Strauss made the right decision not to recall him to the international fold, it came as no surprise to Pietersen that England won back the coveted Ashes Urn.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know how much talent there is in that dressing room. When you put all that talent together good things will happen. I was very, very happy to see the youngsters play well and good to see them win.”
Meanwhile, now that Pietersen’s England return ambitions are all but over, the explosive batsman has a busy few months ahead as a freelance Twenty20 cricketer.
The four-time Ashes winner will play for the Durban-based Dolphins in South Africa next month as part of their T20 offering before travelling to UAE to play in the inaugural Pakistan Super League next February as well as the Big Bash in Australia.
Pietersen still relishes the opportunity to compete at the highest level and is particularly excited by Pakistan’s first instalment of a short-form extravaganza.
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“T20 leagues are emerging all over the world,” he said. “It’s quite good to see Pakistan put a window together where they are going to have all their players perform.
“It grows and develops the players in that country, that’s what the Indian Premier League (IPL) did, the Big Bash has obviously cottoned on and it will be good for the Pakistani youngsters to play with foreigners and play with some good players because that’s how you learn.”
Although he has not played a competitive innings since mid-July, KP insists he is still hungry to keep on playing so long as he still loves batting out in the middle.
“You’re a long time retired. I’m 35-years of age now. In all the tournaments I’ve played over the past couple of years I’ve been one of the top run-scorers and while I enjoy my batting and enjoy practising I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.
“It’s all systems go – I’m all over the world at the minute which is quite frustrating because I just want to get in and stay at home for a while but it’s all good fun. I’ll continue to ply my trade while I love my batting.”
Pietersen also told Sport360 he is back in Dubai in October for more work and is excited by the rapid growth and popularity of cricket in the UAE.
“I love Dubai, there’s such a good energy here. I think it’s an untouched gem in the cricketing circuit. I’ve played Test matches here, one-day internationals and obviously the IPL here – there’s such a following and fascination with the great game I’ve been lucky enough to play for such a long time.
“I want to try and develop the game here and that’s why I spend quite a bit of time here.”