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‘For us, the World Cup begins now’

Pietersen says, for England the WC starts against Lanka since they didn't earn two points in the group stage, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Apr 04, 2007 06:57 IST

When it comes to England, in the World Cup of a sport they invented, their team is expected to generate interest, irrespective of what they can achieve. Media attention to the team's first practice session on Monday was lukewarm, though, with just a handful of newsmen turning up at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

Not surprising, given the billing Michael Vaughan's team has, despite beating Australia in January. In this island where gambling is a popular pastime, the odds are low for his men ahead of Wednesday's Super Eights match against Sri Lanka.

And the man who stood out at the nets, by going after everything and sending the ball a long way on many occasions, was the one taking questions later; Kevin Pietersen hardly needed a reminder to admit his team “had not hit full gear yet”.

Excerpts from his press conference:

How important is this game for England's future in the competition?

It's a huge game and this is when the World Cup starts for us because we have not got through the group stage with two points (having lost to fellow Group C qualifiers New Zealand). We can't afford to lose focus for even five overs against teams like Sri Lanka and Australia (whom they play on Sunday). It's a question of maintaining the intensity for 100 overs.

What was the idea behind going all out, even at the nets?

I had a real positive session at the nets. Over the last month, I had been concentrating on batting slowly and building my innings, so I felt I deserved a free flowing slog. I needed to know if I could still do it because I have not done it in recent times. Though I have scored runs, I haven't been able to stay till the end. So I figured I needed a 10-over slog and you can't just go out there and think you are going to express yourself if you don't practice.

How difficult is it against Murali? Is he tougher to play than Shane Warne?

With Warne, you can launch some sort of counterattack. It's just a case of watching the ball, trying to pick him, trying to hit through the right areas and not getting overconfident. Murali is harder to face, definitely much harder than Warne. Playing him is a mental thing. He spins the ball both ways, all day, every day, so it’s a case of making just one mistake. He doesn’t talk much, just sets you up. He smiles and is just a nice, happy guy. A silent assassin, he doesn’t need to say much. He just has so much talk on the cricket ball.

What makes you play the way you do and has being responsible changed you as a batsman?

I like to express myself on the field. My statistics speak for myself; they can get better and that’s a little bit of pressure I put on myself but, other than that, it’s just a case of going out there and expressing myself. I think cricket should be a lot simpler than it is now. People talk about actions, about this and that, but the key to batting is to watch the ball, pick the delivery and play it to your own strong areas.

There is a lot of responsibility, but it’s nice to have that. As you progress as a player, you gain experience and take responsibility. Most of our one-day batting is built around my position and I like that. I always wanted to challenge myself and enjoy myself and am doing just that.

How was the experience of facing a hostile crowd in South Africa in 2005?

It was great, helped me build a lot of character, I enjoyed it. It was fun playing in South Africa, where I have my family and friends, whom I don’t get anywhere else in the world. Although the support wasn’t fantastic, there were lots of people I care about.