India is England's biggest challenge - Prior
Matt Prior, the England wicketkeeper, believes that winning a Test series against India in India equates to a bigger task than beating Australia away, which England did for the first time in 24 years in 2010-11.
Later this week England depart for a training camp in Dubai before the four-Test tour of India, where they will be seeking a first series win since 1984. In the latest edition of Alison's Tea Break, Prior describes winning on the subcontinent as "the final frontier" for a team who are determined to climb the Test rankings again after losing their No. 1 status to South Africa at home earlier this year.
Prior's contention is perhaps one of the reasons why he was central in attempting to smooth Kevin Pietersen's return to the England set-up ahead of the India series. Prior was one of the senior England players to meet with Pietersen ahead of his return to the Test squad. He was also quick to pick up the phone to Pietersen in the aftermath of the batsman's extraordinary press conference at Headingley when he stated "it's tough being me" in the England dressing room.
"I've seen Kev, we had a good chat or meeting, whatever you want to call it," Prior says. "Obviously I don't want to go into too much detail about what went on in the meeting but the important thing about it is KP playing for England will make England a better team. He is a phenomenal player, we all know that.
"The really important thing is that we are all pulling and moving in the same direction, and whether it be KP, or myself - if one person steps out of line in the other direction, it's tough. Our team ethic and team ethos has been the most important thing in our success over the last couple of years and we want to make sure we look after that and make sure we can get it back to where it was."
Prior explains why he felt compelled to speak to Pietersen after the second Test against South Africa, what he felt it achieved and the extent to which he believes England can recapture the dressing room ethos that he feels has been central to the team's success over the last couple of years.
"To be honest, all the time it was KP having an issue with the ECB, IPL, etc, but the minute he said he had an issue with the dressing room, it suddenly became the players' problem," he says. "I felt the only thing to do was to say 'Right, what are your issues?' Kev will probably admit he did a few things wrong but if one of our senior players is saying he's struggling in the dressing room then it would be wrong of us not to look at it and say, 'Okay what are we doing that's making him feel that way?' So it works a bit both ways."
In the interview, Prior also discusses what makes for a successful and happy dressing room and the importance of trust and respect in a team game, as well as reiterating his desire to get back in the one-day and Twenty20 squads once again for England.