Kieswetter shocked by speedy call-up
England's newest recruit, Craig Kieswetter, will play his first match for his adopted nation on Tuesday, exactly a week after completing his residency qualification, when he takes on a BCB XI at Fatullah in England's first warm-up match of their tour of Bangladesh.
Kieswetter, 22, was not originally selected for the Bangladesh tour, but earned a late call-up to the one-day party after impressing for the England Lions during their recent series in the UAE, not least with a hardhitting 81 that secured a five-wicket win over the senior side in Abu Dhabi.
"The call-up definitely came out of the blue for me, I wasn't expecting it at all," Kieswetter told reporters at the team hotel in Dhaka. "I found out on the bus on the way back from training and felt really ecstatic about it, and chuffed, but there are butterflies and nerves going around. But I'll be trying to do the best that I can in training and hopefully in the matches too."
Andy Flower, England's head coach, confirmed that Kieswetter had been chosen with a view to playing in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean at the end of April, and he is likely to open the batting in the first warm-up, alongside the new captain, Alastair Cook, with Matt Prior retaining his role behind the stumps.
"It's obviously a nice challenge opening with only two men out and a new pill," said Kieswetter. "On these wickets it's probably the best time to bat, so I'm chuffed about that. I'll maybe bring a new dynamic to opening up, a hard-hitting, aggressive role, and hopefully be able to adapt in the middle period and manipulate the ball about. It's been a bit meteoric, but for me it's really exciting."
Although Kieswetter's inclusion is a concern for the current wicketkeeper Prior, who has yet to cement a role in one-day cricket in the same way that he has done in Tests, the new man claims he is not looking to undermine his team-mate's position in the side.
"I think Matt Prior is doing a great job at the moment, he's really taking England keeping up a level," said Kieswetter."But we're just trying to raise the intensity and raise the bar to a new level so that other international teams don't know what has hit them. Competition can be seen as a positive thing for English cricket. Maybe it's a good thing for a younger player to be coming through and putting pressure on the guys. That helps English cricket."
Kieswetter's primary talent, however, is as a hard-hitting batsman, a trait that has been honed with guidance from his Somerset opening partner, Marcus Trescothick, who is arguably England's finest one-day batsman of the past decade. He has yet to be adequately replaced since his last appearance in 2006, but if his elevation goes to plan, Kieswetter could yet prove to be a natural fit at the top of the order.
"Tres hits the ball pretty hard, I can tell you that," said Kieswetter. "He's pretty keen on keeping things simple, by always backing your ability and taking the attack to the bowler, and keeping the pressure on them. He had his era when he was a ferocious batsmen and I see this as an opportunity, of course.
"I will be in contact with him to find out some bits and bobs," he added. "He's always helpful. He loves the game of cricket, and loves to see youngsters coming through and performing. He's been a massive influence and a massive help, and I've been in contact regularly while I've been out here. He's saying to enjoy it, to have fun and he's looking forward to seeing me back at Taunton."
Trescothick will be one source of invaluable guidance, but another will be Kevin Pietersen, whose own elevation to the England team followed a remarkably similar path. Having completed his qualification in the summer of 2004, Pietersen was belatedly added to the one-day party for the tour of South Africa in January 2005, and went on to score three centuries in five innings. He can offer plenty first-hand experience of coping with the brickbats that come with being a South African "import".
"I had a nice chat with KP over breakfast, about what he did, what I've done," said Kieswetter. "It was quite a nice chilled-out chat. But [the South African connection] is something I'll have to be prepared for, for probably my whole career. Everyone's entitled to their opinions, rightly so, and I'll take them on board, but I'm proud to be an English person and here as part of the England side."
With a Scottish mother and an Edinburgh childhood providing him with a stronger British link than either Pietersen or Jonathan Trott could lay claim to, Kieswetter is unfazed about the step-up he's about to take. "Being born with both passports put me in a fortunate position," he said. "I lived a couple of months every year in Britain with my mother's side of the family, and I've always loved the country, the culture, the people."
It also, he added, turned South Africa's half-hearted attempts to lure him back during the recent England series into a bit of a non-starter. "They didn't get very far at all," he said. "It's never been a concern for me at all. I moved over four years ago and it's never been a concern of mine to move back.
"It's never been a political thing or a quota thing for me. It's about the fact that I lived for a couple of months in the UK every year, I loved the place growing up and when I became 18 - a legal adult in the world - I decided this is where I want to live, to make my career. I wanted to make my future in the country, and I have."
Kieswetter's first opponents in full England colours will include the allrounder Naeem Islam and the batsman Roqibul Hassan, after the BCB XI's Alok Kopali pulled himself out from the match due to medical reasons. The match starts at 9am Bangladesh Standard Time.
"Touring anywhere is a challenge and I think it would be silly for us to take Bangladesh as an easy game or an easy series," he said. "They are preparing well and they're coming back from a pretty good tour of New Zealand. At the end of the day it's a cricket ball, and we've got to hit it no matter who is bowling it."
BCB XI Shahriar Nafees (capt), Imtiaz Hossain, Nasir Uddin Faruque, Roqibul Hassan, Shahin Hossain (Wicketkeeper), Naeem Islam, Mahmudul Hasan, Shafaq Al Zabir, Tanvir Haider, Ariful Hoque, Alauddin Babu, Tapash Baishya, Shamsur Rahman, Md. Sharifullah.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo