INDIA captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni insists he never doubted firebrand England batsman Kevin Pietersen would be part of the squad for the Test series that starts today in Ahmedabad.
Pietersen was dropped in the summer after a breakdown in relations with England chiefs and only recalled after apologising for sending text messages disparaging team-mates to opponents.
But he is poised to line up for the tourists this morning and resume his friendly rivalry with recalled India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, whose spin bowling he famously once derided as “pie-chucking”.
“I never doubted he would be part of the squad,” said Dhoni. “He’s a great batsman, an aggressive batsman who loves to play his shots. We’ll enjoy the contest between him and the ‘pie-chucker’.”
While opposite number Alastair Cook has sought to ramp up the pressure on the home side, Dhoni is relishing the chance to avenge his side’s 4-0 whitewash in England last year on more familiar pitches.
“Whichever country you are from, 60 or 70 per cent of your cricket will be played at home, so you’re supposed to be good there,” he added. “When you go to a different part of the world, it’s a fresh challenge for you. When we go to a different place, it’s the same for us. I think it will be the same for the English side here.”
Fast-bowler Ishant Sharma, who has a virus, is India’s only absentee for the first match at the Sardar Patel Stadium.