Flintoff backs Pietersen to perform in India
Former England captain Andrew Flintoff has predicted a successful reintegration into the team for Kevin Pietersen, saying the batsman will draw strength from recent adversity when England tour India in November. Flintoff said Pietersen had a track record of responding to strife with good performances, and expected him to turn the misgivings from his exile from the team into runs for England.
"When people get on Kevin's case he comes out swinging and scores runs," Flintoff told BBC Sport. "I think Alastair Cook might benefit from this. He might get KP at his best."
Pietersen was added to the squad to India, having missed the final Test and limited-overs leg of South Africa's tour of England, as well as the World Twenty20, because of text messages he had sent to South Africa players criticising Andrew Strauss, who was captain at the time. Pietersen has since been accepted back into the team, after he, the ECB and England's team leadership discussed their concerns behind closed doors.
Pietersen first showed a tendency to be steeled rather than weakened by adversity in an ODI series in South Africa in 2005, when he made three hundreds and a 75 despite crowds in his former nation treating him with hostility. In August this year, he made 149 against South Africa at Headingley, just as his deteriorating relationship with the England team began to play out in the media.
"When Kevin's got a point to prove, he usually proves it with the bat," Flintoff said. "We saw that when he came into the international game in South Africa and he just kept scoring hundreds. In his last innings, he got a hundred at Headingley and saved England."
Flintoff also said Pietersen was invaluable to England's cause, and that efforts needed to be made to smooth over differences given his considerable ability. In April this year, Pietersen made 151 in Colombo to help end a five-Test away losing streak for England.
"I think his qualities as a player outweigh everything. Like everyone else he needs a bit of encouragement," Flintoff said. "When you are as good as he is, you need an arm round the shoulder and you need the backing of the team. He is different, but if you want Kevin the player, you have Kevin [the person as well]. If he starts scoring runs and England win, it will quickly be forgotten."
Flintoff expected Pietersen's reintegration into the team to be more difficult for some of his team-mates. Graeme Swann and James Anderson were thought to have had issues with Pietersen, with Swann having criticised Pietersen's captaincy in a book released last year. Swann, Anderson and Stuart Broad all denied being party to a parody Twitter account making fun of Pietersen.
"I think Kev will be fine," Flintoff said. "It might be a bit more uncomfortable for some of the others who have not been too kind in books, in paper reports and in interviews. Everyone's got an ego. Maybe there are a few clashing in that dressing-room at the minute and they just need to put them to one side and carry on."