ENGLAND coach Andy Flower says his side are united in their quest to retain the Ashes – and that includes Kevin Pietersen.
South African-born Pietersen, who yesterday signed a one-year deal with Surrey, has been labelled an “outcast” by legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne.
The form of England’s stellar batsman has tailed off since he lost the captaincy in controversial circumstances last year, but Flower insists that is purely coincidental and that Pietersen remains an important figure in the dressing room.
“He’s anything but an outcast,” said Flower, whose team will face Australia at the Gabba in the first Test from Thursday.
“He’s a good guy to have in the dressing room, a great player to have on your side – a very dangerous player that the opposition worry about.
“We expect great things from him and [also] that he takes part in team dynamics like everyone else does – and that is what he does.”
Flower concedes the mercurial Pietersen has a compulsion to take the starring role, but reasons that is no bad thing for someone so talented.
“We have very good team unity, and that is one of our strengths. But Kevin does like the big stage, and that’s a great thing about him.
“He enjoys the pressure situations; he enjoys the chance to bat brilliantly while everyone’s watching. It’s part of what makes a very fine competitor.”
Meanwhile, Australia have called up Usman Khawaja as cover for vice-captain Michael Clarke who is struggling with a long standing back injury.
BREAKDOWN | KP’S TEST RECORD
PRE-CAPTAINCY: 42 Tests; 3,777 Runs; 50.36 Ave.
AS CAPTAIN: 3 Tests; 262 Runs; 52.40 Ave.
POST CAPTAINCY: 21 Tests; 2,267 runs; 42.23 Average.