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December 9, 2008
Kevin Pietersen, the England captain, has insisted his team cannot use the difficult situation they find themselves in, after resuming their tour of India, as an excuse for failing to deliver when the first Test starts in Chennai on Thursday.
England only arrived from Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, where they spent three days practising while the final decision was made to travel back to India, and have just two days in the build-up to Test. The first of those has already been disrupted by rain, and with more forecast England are going into the match severely undercooked.
The squad has been widely applauded for resuming the tour - and have said they will give half their match fees to help the Mumbai victims - leading to the suggestion that the result of the series doesn't matter. That doesn't stand with Pietersen, though, who said that once play starts his team need to be fully focused on beating India.
"You could say we can't lose in this situation, but that's also a way of looking at things negatively and finding excuses - I don't want any excuses about what has happened," Pietersen told the Press Association. "There is to be no nonsense said about what has happened. I told the boys this morning that it's a case of coming to this Test match series like it would be in England.
"What has happened has happened and we can't control it, but we're in a very privileged position to be playing Test match cricket in India and we've got to deal with it in a professional manner."
After having such a positive start to his captaincy career against South Africa, Pietersen's record has come crashing down. First there was the Stanford Super Series where England were thrashed in the final, and off-field events made more news than the cricket, then the one-day side was beaten 5-0 before the Mumbai terror attacks turned Pietersen from a cricketer into a diplomat. At least now he can get back to his main job.
"The main focus now is definitely on the Test series," Pietersen said. "It hasn't been a great start to the winter, there's been so much that's happened in the last six weeks and it's now a case of getting on and concentrating on the cricket.
"We need to chuck everything away that's happened in that six weeks to make sure that now our primary goal and focus is to try and win this Test match series."
The first of Pietersen's major decisions will be the composition of the final XI in Chennai. Before the team returned the prospect of fielding two spinners - and handing a debut to Graeme Swann - was gathering speed, but with the damp weather around Chennai the temptation will be there to field an extra fast bowler.
Amjad Khan, the Kent fast bowler, is part of the squad in place of the injured Ryan Sidebottom and would be in line for a Test debut as Stuart Broad is ruled out by a hamstring strain.
"There are a lot of cricket issues to think through," Pietersen said. "My head has been given a full working over during the last few days. It's been emotional trying to work out what players are going to do and what team we were going to bring and now we've got a full squad it means we can choose from that. The cricket brain has switched on and decisions have to be made."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.