England news May 3, 2009

Pietersen switches opinion of 'superstar' Flower

Cricinfo staff

Kevin Pietersen has backed Andy Flower as England coach and is confident he has the necessary attributes to lead England through a hugely busy summer of international cricket, despite earlier this year calling for his sacking.

Pietersen and Flower's relationship has been turbulent ever since Pietersen's brief foray into captaincy. In January, an ECB board official revealed that Pietersen "wanted half of them out and certainly Andy Flower" while Flower was batting coach and the favourite to replace Peter Moores. Now, however, Pietersen has come out in support of the man.

"My opinion of Andy has shifted hugely over the past few months," he told the News of the World. "On the West Indies tour he was an absolute superstar. I loved working with him. He's been able to be his own man and give his own thoughts. He's done it his way and he's got his message across to the players about the direction he wants the team to go in.

"I know I made some comments about him when I was captain but it hasn't surprised me how my opinion of him has changed." The pair's relationship, Pietersen says, is now stronger than ever. "Sometimes people make comments they shouldn't do," he said. "We were man enough to sit down and talk over a few of the issues and I think our relationship is really, really good. We felt we made a lot of progress under Andy during the winter and now we've got a massive summer."

With the Ashes just two months away, Pietersen also took the opportunity to fire the opening verbal salvo to Australia whose famed sledging, he feels, only spurs him on as a cricketer.

"They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I know the experiences I've had in Australia and South Africa over the years have made me a far tougher person," he told the newspaper. "I have never heard abuse like the last time we were in Australia playing in the Ashes.

"My first England tour to South Africa in 2005 was probably the worst I have ever got, personally, but I expected that because I was playing against the country of my birth. However, Australia took me by surprise with the sheer levels of stick we got as a team. It was pretty relentless.

"Everywhere you go, you are going to get a small minority of a crowd who will come to the ground to heckle and chuck abuse. Australian crowds are really bad, though. Unfortunately it is there in sport and I can't see it going away. So long as it doesn't get racial or personal, then you have just got to deal with it as a sportsman. You have to accept that abuse from the terraces is an occupational hazard.

"In Australia, even some of their former players get involved with the abuse. I remember in 2007 when I'd broken my rib and had to fly home, Allan Border accused me of getting out of the country too quickly. He inferred I wasn't badly hurt and I considered that a massive insult. It was a cheap shot.

"But fans are passionate about their sport, it means a hell of a lot to people and they pay good money to come and watch."